Panamarenko (pseudonym of Henri Van Herwegen) was born on February 5, 1940 in Antwerp. His pseudonym was inspired by the former US airline “Pan American Airlines”. Panamarenko studied at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp (1955 – 1960) and at the National Hoger Instituut (1962 – 1964). Initially, Panamarenko worked as a performance artist and arranged ‘happenings’ on the streets of Antwerp. Through these early activities Panamarenko rapidly earned local fame as an artist and acquaintance with the established older generation. In common with Joseph Beuys and Marcel Broodthaers, Panamarenko wished to create works that offer more than just aesthetic elegance, but that open up paths to a new kind of experience.
Throughout his 40 – year career, Panamarenko’ artistic activity has always been inexorably linked to his preoccupation with science and technology. Although his sculptures are works of art conjured up by his imagination, they are nonetheless based on his interpretations of laws of physics, biology, aerodynamics and technology. Starting in 1970, Panamarenko developed his first models of imaginary vehicles, planes, balloons or helicopters, in original and surprising appearances. All his attempts to get his home-made machines into the air ended, however, in failure.
To become involved in Panamarenko’s work is to become involved in a fantasy that wishes to be taken seriously. Our ability to understand these machines depends entirely on our capacity to believe that they really do work and thereby transport us into a different – better world.
In 2005 Panamarenko announced to retire as an artist and started to promote his own coffee brand PanamaJumbo, together with his wife Eveline Horens.
Over a 40 year period Panamarenko created an extensive number of prints and editions. A full overview can be found in a 3 part catalogue:
Panamarenko Multiples Part 1 covering the period 1966 – 1994 with text by Hans Theys and published by Galerie Jamar in 1995.
Panamarenko Multiples Part 2 covering the period 1995 – 2002 with text by Hans Theys and published by Galerie Jamar in 2002.
Panamarenko Multiples Part 3 covering the period 2003 – 2007 with text by Paul Morrens and Hans Willemse and published by Galerie Jamar in 2008.