Most people equate Brussels with chocolate, the Grand-Place square, grey skies and of course, the Manneken Pis statue. Time to open the aperture.
Belgium’s capital recently rewarded me yet again with a truly outstanding contemporary art experience with a visit to Maison Particulière, off one of Brussels’ main arteries, Avenue Louise.
A bit of background is in order. This unique exhibition space is actually a private home. Nothing is for sale. Each exhibition revolves around a particular theme inspired by the work of one selected guest artist. The curators then complete the exhibition with relevant works loaned by private collectors around the world.
To enter the Maison Particulière is to enter a world where all of your senses are engaged at the very highest level of refinement. As soon as I step into the sleek space, my olfactory senses are delightfully assaulted by a musky, mysterious scent that is quite irresistible. I learn that a master perfumer is tasked with creating a unique fragrance for every exhibition. In this case the perfume is Oud Shamash by Luc Gabriel. Heavenly, with a hint of danger…
The fragrance sets the scene for the current exhibition From here to eternity featuring Angelo Musco as the guest artist. The theme takes as its literary inspiration Divine Comedy, Dante’s masterpiece describing his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. As Maison Particulière is built on three levels, the curators have very cleverly dedicated one floor to each of these separate realms, beginning with Hell on the ground floor.
A dimly lit room off the main lobby gallery is as close to Hell as I want to get. The walls are covered in one of Angelo Musco’s photographic installations. Musco uses the human body as a tool, creating elaborate photographic panels picturing thousands of nude bodies submerged in surreal landscapes. Some of his works take years to complete and they are disturbing and beautiful at the same time.
On three pedestals, artist Rachel Kneebone’s porcelain assemblages reflect the precariousness of existence and perfectly mirror Musco’s sea of entangled human forms.
Hell continues on into the library with Jaume Plensa’s striking marble bust ‘Carmela’ whose compressed face symbolizes compressed memories.
‘Hollow Figure’ by Daniel Arsham continues the feeling of walking through a hellish nightmare.
On the second floor Angelo Musco greets the visitor in Purgatory with his epic biblical work Sanctuary (below) based on the story of the Tower of Babel. The artist traveled the world to ensure that people from different cultures and nations were represented. The work took four years to complete and contains 500,000 individual figures.
From a distance the photographic images appear to represent fantastical undersea towers, perhaps Atlantis, but they are shockingly surprising when viewed up close.
Another haunting work in Purgatory is Chiharu Shiota’s State of Being (chair and paper). The artist creates room-filling installations out of found objects. He enmesshes them in webs of wool thread in an attempt to connect the memories of strangers.
It was all powerful, heady stuff. I was ready to get to Paradise on the third floor. Here I discovered a video work that was the source of the faint music that had followed me on my journey through Hell and Purgatory. The music wafted around the beautifully contemplative works displayed on the third floor, such as a Bodhisattva Buddha and ancient twisted trunks of petrified trees. In Paradise’s last room I felt like I had entered God’s inner sanctum – Charles Sandison’s First Breath sent chills up my spine. It is a computer-generated hologram projection that uses software based on the sequencing of human DNA to create images of newborn faces…
This blog post only skims the surface of this outstanding exhibition and its uber chic venue. You have to experience this exhibition for yourself to really feel its impact. Even the restroom was unforgettable!
From here to eternity will be exhibited through April 30, 2017 at Maison Particulière, rue du Chatelain 49, Brussels, Belgium.