I just finished a few days in Brussels and Luxembourg. I attended the Brussels Art Fair, which is a large venue that has an impressive list of emerging and mature galleries. However, I feel that there was only something there, if you did not know anything else. Otherwise, it was just gallery inventory. A few nice presentations, but gotta say, felt like the same old, same old…
Scouring the city for galleries was not on the itinerary for this trip, yet I did stop by the new Gladstone Gallery in Brussels. It is a stunning building- modern, with a great back garden. A great space. I saw their ceramic group show, which was fine. And a fantastic Andrew Lord solo sculpture show, which looked stunning in their gallery space.
Luxembourg is not the epicenter for contemporary art, yet they do have a jewel of a museum, their new MUDAM museum. IM Pei built it approximately three years ago. It is open and airy, in the middle of an enclave, with skylights that embrace the space. Sarah Sze had a beautiful show that was perfectly installed in the glass-enclosed atrium. Also there, was a Victor Mann exhibition as well as a great design show. Interesting to note, that I am noticing more design shows in museums, and starting to understand that the way we live, with what we live with, is becoming more important to what is important to us. It is as if the richer our world becomes, the more time, energy and money we have to focus on how we create our personal space. The museums are picking up on this, and organizing great exhibitions to show us these cultural visuals. Is it the chicken or the egg – are we more interested in design as the museums are showing us more design, or are we more interested in design; therefore, the museums are installing these type of shows as that is the audience’s interest?
Another element of Luxembourg is that it is fantastically geographically located in Europe so that one is able to travel an hour in each direction and will hit upon an art cultural site. For this trip, I drove an hour to Metz and went to the sister Pompidou Museum. The museum could not have been any more different than the MUDAM in that it was designed by the Italian Renzo Piano and British designer Richard Rogers, and is an archetypical postmodern museum. Crazy is putting it mildly. It made the museum visit a specific experience.
When I was there they had a great Sol LeWitt exhibition. Over 20 wall drawings and a great video showing the team of people creating the work. It showed the audience how the work is conceptual, i.e. you are going by the artist’s instructions, yet it is also a collaborative experience and is a team project with many choices and problem solving to be made amongst the team.
An interesting side story- I came across the famous statue Monument du Souvenir in Luxembourg which was once the center of controversy at MoMa in 2001. The statue is of the Gëlle Fra above a war memorial to honor those who served in WWII. The statue was supposed to represent the goddess Nike, who historically represents “victory.” Artist Sanja Ivekovic, disagreed with this symbolism. She thought the place to represent victory was not in conjoining with war, no matter how honorable the efforts and sacrifices might have been. She wanted to move the statue to be above a women’s shelter, located nearby. She made efforts to have this done, but in the end had to find another route, and she did. She created a replica of the statue, as a pregnant woman, and named her Rosa Luxemburg, after the Marxist philosopher who fought against socialist movements in Poland and Germany. This work was controversial but brought a lot of ideas and information to people who might not have thought twice about it otherwise.
After traveling to major cites in Asia and the Middle East, I cannot help but think about middle Europe as provincial, the past, and a little outdated. Don’t get me wrong; it is still beautiful, scenic, and rich with important history, yet it feels like the past. With Asia and the Middle East feeling expansive, with major budgets to invest in art & culture, it is not surprising that Europe feels in the past with Asia and the Middle East feeling like not only the present, but the future. Dovetail this with what is happening economically – the trouble with the Euro currency, countries in the EU having financial troubles, etc – and it all starts to make sense….
Below are some more photos I took on my trip:
Metz Cathedral, stain glass windows by Chagall
Sara Sze installation, Mudam Museum, Luxembourg
Pompidou Museum, Metz, France
Sol LeWitt at Pompidou Museum