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Inspired by Love: Belfius showcases its Belgian art collection via new artistic talents
A passion for Belgian art and emerging artists is at the heart of Belfius’s new exhibition Inspired by Love.
It features 12 new artistic talents, each showing their own contemporary creations alongside a selection of pieces from the bank’s vast collection: wide-ranging and exquisite works by artists including Ensor, Magritte, Spillaert and Borremans.
The concept of showing new artworks alongside similar, disparate or historic ones is now commonplace. When there’s a need to publicly share a treasured collection, it’s even more pertinent.
Boasting around 4,300 works – all dedicated to Belgian art – the Belfius Art Collection is the largest private one in Belgium and considered among the 100 most important in the world.
Its penchant for young talent is celebrated in this new exhibition. All of the works by the 12 participating young artists form part of the bank’s growing collection. A documentary film screened in the art space is an illuminating portrait of each one, their work and their individual selections. It reinforces the personal and human aspect behind their creativity.
Fittingly, the exhibition opens with Fernand Khnopff’s Le Jardin (1886), one of the first works to be purchased by the collection in 1956. It’s shown alongside It’s Like A Shot That Gets There, Bang! by Hilde Overbergh, the bank’s latest acquisition.
If this constant dialogue between the selected works clearly enhances the visitor’s experience, it also helps unravel some of the meaning behind the art.
Overbergh’s recent work Magritte’s ‘Aircastle’ painted blue is also on show (pictured above). It earned its title after she was struck by the resemblance between her own illusion of a landscape and the Surrealist master’s paintings.
For her selection from the bank’s collection, she chose Magritte’s L’inondation (1928), a headless portrait of a woman that echoes the floating mass in her own work, while also reflecting its colour palette (pictured below).
They are joined by Roger Raveel’s Neerhof II (1963), an artist she admires for his ability to literally integrate physical objects into his paintings and installations, in this case a birdcage. An installation by Lilie Dujourie Tussen altijd en nooit (1990) serves as an interesting counterpoint, occupying space on both the floor and the wall while creating interesting shadows.
Brussels artist Emilie Terlinden employs a singular technique centred on deconstruction and reconstruction. Images of Renaissance paintings as well as from her own daily life are scrunched into different forms and meticulously painted to create highly-charged and atmospheric compositions.
In the gallery’s black space hangs her work The farm (2023), a dark and multi-layered painting. Invited by Belfius to choose one of its Flemish primitives as inspiration, Terlinden plumped for David Rijckaert III’s Het bezoek aan de hoeve (pictured) and a still life by Jan Fyt.
Michaël Borremans’ Miranda (2017), a painting on the cusp of realism and ambiguity, was another choice. Terlinden, who is interested in pré-cinema techniques, admires his method of photographing each element of the scene he is creating.
For Tim Volckaert, the connection was personal in deciding on a series of work by Thierry De Cordier to accompany his paintings Frog Eye and Bird Eye. These two oils of tree trunks differ in offering alternative perspectives, one from each of the creatures. Also in the grouping are works by other living contemporary artists, Luc Tuymans and Jan Vercrysse.
In contrast, Cindy Wright’s grouping presents different periods and styles. Her painting Blue skies (2019) depicts a day-and-a-half of household waste, while its title refers to Ella Fitgerald’s song ‘Nothing but blue skies smiling at me’. The paradox of a beautiful moment in nature contradicting the reality of today’s environment.
Meanwhile, a 17th-century still life by Frans Snijders (pictured above with Blue skies) and Spillaert’s Autoportraite à la casquette (1915), are sublime works; the opulence of one diverging from the melancholy atmosphere and sombre palette of the self-portrait.
Each of the artists and their personal selection has a story to tell. For some, it was easier to talk about their chosen works than explain their own art, reveals Belfius’ head of culture Bénédicte Bouton.
In curating this journey into Belgian art, care was taken to not overwhelm visitors but ensure a pleasurable as well as enlightening experience, she says.
While the 12 new talents provide a discovery element, the roll call of illustrious names from the bank’s collection is a reminder of the depth of the country’s artistic talent. Berlinde De Bruyckere, Felicien Rops and Rik Wouters are among the many other national treasures selected.
Originally founded to save the nation’s art heritage from moving abroad in the economically febrile post-war period, Belfius stages a major exhibition centred on its collection each year, while also regularly loaning works to other shows.
Its own art gallery was inaugurated in 2015. Occupying the 32nd floor of the Belfius Tower in Place Rogier, the space offers a vertiginous view of Brussels and the northern quarter in particular.
The current exhibition is open to the public on Saturday’s via online reservation. For non-Belfius clients, a €5 contribution is requested to support local charities Viva for Life and JEZ!
Participating artists: Nel Aerts, Anastasia Bay, Hilde Overbergh, Sharon Van Overmeiren, Emilie Terlinden, Pascal Bernier, Romina Remmo, Tim Volckaert, Léa Belooussovitch, Cindy Wright, Lieven De Boeck and Benoit Platéus.
Inspired by Love
Until 22 June (two Saturdays per month)
Belfius Art Gallery
Place Rogier 11 (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode)
Photos: © Belfius/Thibaut de Lestré