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Art Beats: Belfius presents unique show of Belgian artworks, past and present
Treasured masterpieces from Belfius bank’s astounding Belgian art collection form a unique dialogue with recent acquisitions in its new exhibition Art Beats.
Around 60 works present a dazzling display of some of the country’s finest artworks, selected from a 4,300-strong collection. It’s the largest corporate collection in the country and considered among the 100 most important in the world.
The exhibition is testimony to the bank’s adoration for Belgian artists, “a symbol of our love for the arts that beats our heart,” declares Bénédicte Bouton, who is responsible for the collection.
Alongside star names such as Rubens, Ensor, Magritte, Spillaert, Alechinsky and a roll call of current luminaries, including Tuymans, Borremans and Kuijken, there’s a surprising selection of contemporary artists.
It’s the themed juxtapositions that render the show remarkable. The aim of the exhibition is to underline how this new generation is continuing their predecessors’ rich artistic tradition. While offering a glimpse of the depth and quality of the collection, it creates some fascinating encounters.
One example is Antwerp artist Bengt Eyckermans, whose 2019 Ochtendlicht (pictured above) is among newer additions to the collection. Inspired by Belgian expressionists, the 28-year-old figurative painter’s beautifully lit and textured oil reflects the colour palette of his heroes Constant Permeke and Jean Brusselmans, hanging alongside. The over-sized rugged hands of Permeke’s The Rower (pictured below) are a further point of resonance in Eyckermans’ timeless portrait.
The crown jewels of the Belfius collection are a diptych by Pieter Paul Rubens, The Rape of the Sabine Women and The Roof of the Sabine Market, commissioned by Philip IV of Spain. They are flanked by two other works, one by affirmed artist Carlo Misteaen, the other by self-taught Sanam Khatibi. Her Venom from the Ruby of their Lips is an allegorical and primitive rendition of naïve female figures. Are they passive victims or Amazonians? Therein lies the ambiguity.
Sometimes the interaction is intriguing, as between internationally-renowned contemporary artist Rinus Van de Velde and his trademark large-scale monochrome charcoal with a minimalist water lily ceramic by Hans Op de Beeck. Further contrast is provided by a shimmering Bordeaux-coloured curtain. The mesmerising textile, Friction in Plain Sight VII, 2021, is a study in economy and tension, says Brussels artist Nadia Guerroui (pictured).
On entering the gallery, viewers are greeted a trio of music-themed works. Joris Van de Moortel’s 2019 Self Portrait with a 1 String Violin II (pictured left) is a vibrant multi-dimensional collage. An upended tuba in Magritte’s L’Histoire Centrale (pictured right) is overshadowed by the figure of a hooded woman. Concluding the ensemble is the installation Oratorio du silence by Denmark (Marc Robbroeckx), a series of music stands filled with sheet music.
But the pages are dead letters, Magritte is referencing the suicide of his mother and Van de Moortel includes Hans Holbein’s 16th-century Dance of Death among the recycled objects and relics in his work. Again, all is not what it seems.
The bank’s latest peek into its collection occupies an art space perched on the 32nd floor of the Belfius tower in Place Rogier. It’s open to the public twice a month by appointment. Porthole windows offering a glimpse of the city panorama are themselves a picture.
17 September to 24 June (two Saturdays per month)
Belfius Art Gallery
Place Rogier 11 (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode)
Photos: © Belfius/Thibaut de Lestré; Sarah Crew