Maarten Vanden Eynde

Belgian Art – From Boch to Magritte invites you on a journey to Belgium to discover the history of Belgian art. The journey begins in the 1850s, shortly after Belgium had declared independence from the Netherlands in 1830. Located in the heart of Europe, Belgium borders on superpowers, including Germany and France. From the outset, it was vital to formulate a strong Belgian national identity that could unite the population and distinguish the country from its neighbours. In this context, art played a vital role. Today, the image of Belgian art is marked by the characteristic apples, pipes, and bowler hats of the surrealist painter René Magritte (1898-1967). The exhibition highlights both new and neglected voices in the canon of art history. For example, how does our view of Belgiums art history and self-understanding evolve if we incorporate more female artists? What impact does it make if we examine the contrasts between French Wallonia and Flemish Flanders? And what if we take a good look at the murky aspects of Belgiums colonisation of Congo? The historical art will echo in the works of leading contemporary Belgian artists. Based on the dialogue between historical art and contemporary art, the exhibition presents a colourful, nuanced image of a national identity that is still on the move. The exhibition is made in close collaboration with the Musée dIxelles in Brussels.

Participating artists: Jos Albert (1886-1981), Sammy Baloji (f. 1978), Marcel-Louis Baugniet (1896-1995), Anna Boch (1848-1936), Suzanne Bomhals (1902-2000), Andrée Bosquet (1900-80), Hippolyte Boulenger (1837-74), Marcel Broodthaers (1924-76), Jean Brusselmans (1884-1953), Louis Buisseret (1888-1956), Juliette Cambier (1879-1963), Anto Carte (1886-1954), Emile Claus (1849-1924), Suzanne Cocq (1894-1979), Hippolyte Daeye (1873-1952), Anne De Gelas (f. 1966), Gustave De Smet (1877-1943), William Degouve De Nuncques (1867-1935), Jean-Baptiste Degreef (1852-94), Edith Dekyndt (f. 1960), Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), James Ensor (1860-1949), Jane Graverol (1905-1984), Ann Veronica Janssens (F. 1956), Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), Georges Le Brun (1873-1914), René Magritte (1898-1967), Jacqueline Mesmaeker (1929-2023), Constantin Meunier (1831-1905), Georges Minne (1866-1941), Georges Morren (1868-1941), Armyde Peignier (f. 1959), Félicien Rops (1833-98), Elisabeth De Saedeleer (1902-72), Chéri Samba (f. 1956), Willy Schlobach (1864-1951), Yvonne Serruys (1873-1953), Alfred Stevens (1823-1906), Frits Van Den Berghe (1883-1939), Théo Van Rysselberghe (1862-1926), Maarten Vanden Eynde (f. 1977), Isidore Verheyden (1846-1905), Sophie Whettnall (f. 1973), Juliette Wytsman, F. Trullemans (1866-1925), Rodolphe Wytsman (1860-1927).


Maarten Vanden Eynde, Horror Vacui (2016), Meessen De Clercq, Brussels, Belgium (photo: Philippe De Gobert)

'Horror Vacui' is the follow up of 'The Invisible Hand', a rubber copy of the right hand of the equestrian statue of Leopold II made by Thomas Vinçotte in 1914 and completed in 1926 after his death the previous year, which stands facing the Regentlaan (Boulevard du Régent) in Brussels, Belgium. The mould, necessarily made at dead of night, was taken to a former rubber plantation in Kasaï Province (DR Congo), where it was filled with natural rubber. Back in Belgium again, the cast of the hand was presented at Art Brussels, the contemporary art fair, completing the problematic circle of colonial treasure hunting in relation to historical fetishisation. The mould is now displayed on an old marble butchers scale, as lumps of meat, one half not weighing the same as the other half, although they are both empty. The work holds Leopold II’s cruel regime in the Congo to account and confronts the ongoing tribute to the king, who to this day adorns the capital in everything from street names to monumental statues. In other words, the work weighs not only the colonial history of the past against the weight of morality, but also the traces of the colonial era that still characterise Belgian society today.