Artist Harald Thys designs a car for MANIERA

MANIERA presents a remarkable exhibition by the Belgian artist, Harald Thys, who has taken a romantic and utopian idea as the basis to design a car: the PiiP.

Harald Thys, who is mainly known from his work with the artist duo, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, has dreamed of designing a car from an early age. Today he is developing the PiiP, a simple electric car designed to provide a means of transport for the people, without too many frills, and far removed from the marketing-driven spirit of the (expensive) car business. The car has an almost naive and ‘sweet’ look, setting out from an emotional-artistic concept and producing a result as absurd as it is serious. The design, like the artist’s entire oeuvre, is characterised by a burlesque cheerfulness and an almost childlike simplicity, with humorous effects. Yet it also embodies an element of paradoxical emotions and critical reflections. ​

The PiiP is a perfect fit for MANIERA, a design company and gallery that invites architects and artists to develop functional objects – from small utensils to furniture, and now, from a bar to a car. The gallery offers a platform for transverse designs – colouring outside the lines of the designers’ regular work and outside the lines of design itself.

Harald Thys is developing the car with the help of Belgian car designer and mobility expert, Lowie Vermeersch. Vermeersch has been working in the automotive sector for years, first at the Pininfarina studios in Turin, and since 2011, at the head of his own established design agency Granstudio, which designs cars and mobility systems. Vermeersch quickly became fascinated by Thys’s PiiP. Because the artist is so far removed from the ‘automotive world’ in his daily practice, he approaches car design from an unbiased, non-marketing point of view. Lowie Vermeersch describes Harald Thys’s design as “a modestly sweet design, far from all the evil and malicious car designs of the last decade”.

MANIERA is hosting the launch of the PiiP from 8 September. The gallery will be transformed into a car showroom for the occasion, and in addition to sketches and a presentation leaflet, the PiiP will be presented through the use of 3D-printed models and an accompanying virtual-reality experience.



Lowie Vermeersch on Harald Thys' design: 

"For me, the appeal of the PiiP is in its character. What he or she expresses is something that cannot exist today in the ‘automotive reality’ (where everything is subject to mass sales, and so also to the taste of the masses). PiiP is different. Introverted, just being itself, free of fashions, humane, unruly, but also proud in a way. Quiet and happy to drive and to exist. I see the real value of PiiP, therefore, in its ‘becoming real’, being what can’t yet actually be, without losing its character, but also – and this is very important to me – without being put away as ‘not serious’, ‘not functional’, ‘not working’, ‘not well done’. PiiP, in other words, must penetrate reality without being ‘barred’”.

Harald Thys: PiiP
from September 8 until November 13 2022
Gerechtsplein 27 – 28
1000 Brussels

Support: Flanders Department of Culture, Youth and Media

About Harald Thys

Harald Thys has been working with Jos De Gruyter since the second half of the 1980s, on visual work, works on paper, videos and sound art. Their work casts a merciless eye over reality. By means of videos, installations, drawings, sculptures, performances, and photography, the artists give shape to their imagination of the parallel world, how it lives in the contemporary human psyche and how it manifests itself in the everyday and in social conformism. Stories about work, leisure, family, social class, masculinity and marginalisation are depicted by a cast of non-professional actors, family members, friends, beards, objects and dolls – often in banal interiors, and charged with deranged power relationships. 

Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys represented Belgium at the 2019 Venice Biennale, where, with the exhibition MONDO CANE, they transformed the Belgian Pavilion into a folklore museum displaying the human figure.

Thys has been fascinated by the automobile since childhood, an almost compulsive passion that he shares with his brother Erik, who is also a psychiatrist, composer and writer. Since the Berlin Biennale in 2008, they have been giving so-called “car lectures” together, where they subject a whole series of cars to psychoanalysis, based on the language of form that springs from the designer’s brain.

About Lowie Vermeersch

Lowie Vermeersch studied Industrial Design at Delft University of Technology. After his studies he started working at the Pininfarina studios in Turin, where he was part of the design team that produced, among others, the city car the Nido, the Birdcage 75, the Pininfarina Sintesi, and the Ferrari California. From 2007, he led a team of 100 designers and computer technicians, modelers and engineers at Pininfarina. Vermeersch left the company in 2011 to start his own design agency: Granstudio. In addition to designing cars, Granstudio focuses on inventing new forms of mobility. So it does not only work for well-known brands like Maserati, but also designed the first family car with solar panels for the Dutch company Lightyear a few years ago. For the 80th birthday of the renowned Italian racing-car builder, Gian Paolo Dallara, Granstudio designed the Dallara Stradale sports car.



- Support: Flanders Department of Culture, Youth and Media



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