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A slice of Belgian life in 30 artworks at L’Expo Nationale

04:00 22/12/2021

Do you ever go to an art exhibition and think you could do just as well? Belgians got the chance to prove that when Museum Pass put out a call last September for anyone who wanted to send them a photo of a work they had made themselves.

Museum Pass is the initiative whereby Belgians residents can buy a card that gives them access to 200 museums across Belgium for free. One of the phenomena to come out of the various lockdowns and social distancing mandates was people taking to painting, drawing or other creative outlets to pass the time alone at home.

The people of Museum Pass wondered: What were all those people making? So they launched a competition. They invited members of the public to load a photo of their two-dimensional work – paintings, drawings and photographs, for instance – and promised to exhibit the winners in an exhibition.

‘L’univers se cassant la gueule’ by Francesco D’alessandro‘L’univers se cassant la gueule’ by Francesco D’alessandro

The result is called L’Expo Nationale, and it is being staged in 15 museums all across the country. “During Covid, we heard that a lot of people had taken up art as a hobby or had gotten back to practicing something they had done before,” says Erika T’Jaeckx, director of Museum Pass. “So we realised that art was essential for people and that there was a lot of hidden talent out there. We wanted to get in touch with people and find that.”

To ensure that this was not another exhibition solely staged by museum curators, they put the whopping 2,000 entries they received to a public vote. And the public responded: 64,000 people cast a vote.

“We couldn’t believe it!” exclaims T’Jaeckx. “Even we were surprised by the response.”

‘Esprit de Cel’, a linoleum engraving by Nicolas Piret‘Esprit de Cel’, a linoleum engraving by Nicolas Piret

In the end, 30 works were chosen to present at museums – the 15 with the most votes and 15 chosen by museum curators from the top 200. Because there was no restriction on who could send in an entry, some of the works are by actual artists, some by aspiring artists and some by people whose work will probaly never again be seen beyond their own homes.

L’Expo Nationale is spread around 15 museums, with two works in each museum. For anyone who wants to see them all, this might seem inconvenient, but, as Museum Pass represents so many museums in Belgium, it didn’t want to single out just one to host the exhibition.

“Also we wanted to make sure that someone’s work could be in a museum not too far away from them,” explains T’Jaeckx. “And we wanted it to be easy for their family and friends to find it, too, and not have to travel from West Flanders to Brussels, for instance.”

‘Anamorphose’ by Tiline Courcelles got the most public votes ‘Anamorphose’ by Tiline Courcelles got the most public votes

Those friends and family – and everyone else – can see the works for free as they are all staged somewhere in the museum that is freely accessible. So while Museum Pass hopes that people who visit L’Expo Nationale will also visit the museum, they certainly don’t have to.

All the works can also be seen on the L’Expo Nationale website. Which got the most votes? A painting by Tiline Courcelles of Linkebeek called ‘Anamorphose’ (pictured above). It is one of a series she has created to represent the passing of time, “like a heartbeat in a thousand colours,” she says.

L’Expo Nationale, 22 December to 9 January, across Belgium

Photo top: ‘Reflectie’, a self-portrait by Bart Galle


Written by Lisa Bradshaw