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Two special summer exhibitions at Château de Seneffe

00:45 01/06/2017
Visit one of Wallonia's most grand châteaux, set in 55 acres of beech forest and gardens

Why is The Thinker by Rodin upside down with his head buried in the earth of the Château de Seneffe's beautiful 18th century gardens?

What is that enormous sink plug doing on the banks of the château's river? What does an infinite fishing pole look like? What is the special ingredient that makes this 18th century hot chocolate so delicious?

For the answers to these questions one must take a day trip to one of Wallonia's most grand châteaux. The Domaine de Seneffe is 55 acres of beech forest, rectilinear French-style gardens, picturesque English-style gardens, elaborate waterworks, an orangerie, aviary, chapel and free standing theatre, all surrounding an impressive and beautifully restored château.

This summer there are two special exhibitions to entice you, one outdoors and one indoors. The outdoor exhibition is called Parcours d'eau and features the work of eight artists.

Curator Baudouin Oosterlynck explains: "The artists are all very different in their disciplines and approach but there is an underlying thread as each artist is able through their art to reveal something about the place. I asked them not to use a lot of color but other than that they were free to do as they pleased."

The result is a series of works which are often in opposition to their setting, sometimes literally as in Benoît Félix's piece which physically fights the grandest fountain in the garden (many of the works are kinetic).

Inside the château, the exhibition is entitled Curiosity in the 18th Century and brings us a world in which Europeans wore stupendous party wigs, got firsthand looks at living exotic animals, had their portraits made with scissors and paper, revelled in the newly discovered cultures of the Middle and the Far East, started to think revolutionary thoughts and fled boredom with the earliest moving picture technologies, all cultural byproducts of The Enlightenment.

Curator and director of the Domaine Marjolaine Hanssens tells us why she chose curiosity as her theme. "Unlike 20th-century curiosity which often includes a certain voyeurism, the curiosity of the 18th century was intelligent and progressive and it is one of the core attitudes of the Age of Enlightenment, it is part of its mobility and its increasingly rapid and ultimately violent social changes."

On permanent display is one of the most extensive collections of fine silver objects in Europe.

Parcours d'eau until 12 November. Curiosity until 13 May 2018.
Hot chocolate and other 18th century drinks Sundays only from 14.00 to 18.00 (or on special order)

Written by Richard Harris