The Van Buuren Museum & Gardens is opening its beautiful art deco setting to wasp nests, gardening tools, tree masks, and other contemporary art in the group exhibition “Present”. A gift.
Deep in the orchard of the Van Buuren Museum & Gardens, an big shovel and spade stand carelessly against one of the trees. In the grass, a rake lies basking in the shadow. A gardener is not to be seen anywhere. And carelessness does not seem to match these surroundings. The gardening tools that lie around here belong to Stéphane Barbier Bouvet, whose A Work on Free Time delves deep into both the context of this place and into the theme of the group exhibition that is perfecting the summer here.
“Present” is a project initiated by Michel Van Dyck, the curator who in 2016 had already presented contemporary art – his “Comme si de rien n’était” – in the art deco setting of the former residence and gardens of David and Alice Van Buuren in Ukkel/Uccle. This is not an easy task in a setting that is so determining, but “Present” succeeds admirably. By creating traces almost incidentally – like Stéphane Barbier Bouvet’s gardening tools or a cardboard box by Koenraad Dedobbeleer in the office, from which sounds emerges through little holes.
But “Present” also shows work that manifests itself as very present. Nicolas Party’s painting Portrait with a Cat, for example, which draws in viewers from the dining room to the Petit Salon with its big eyes. In the adjoining Grand Salon, Gijs Milius has installed an enormous Daantje the Elder on the couch. And outside in the orchard, Tatiana Wolska’s fluid sculptures made of thermo-welded plastic tickle your imagination softly but intensely, like poetic forms of life. The Polish-born, Brussels-based artist is also exhibiting a hanging “plant” on the terrasse: her Wasp Nest is a sculpture made of nails and magnets, which blends with its surroundings very organically, but once you have spotted it, it exudes an immense power.
The doors of perception
This moment of discovery is what makes “Present” such an alluring exhibition. The works are not named in the space, and show themselves to you at their own pace and through their own power. It is a matter of keeping your eyes open and allowing them to wander where they may. You will discover Christophe Doucet’s tree masks that play hide-and-seek in the garden. Or Babel, the glasswork by Ritsue Mishima in the dining room, the piercingly present Jacobina Bienebol by Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys in the overwhelming studio, or Multiprise, the beautiful ceramic socket with a cut-off chord by Douglas Eynon, whose door wedge, also in ceramics, is featured in the Grand Salon. It is an ephemeral and fragile work, but deeply present at the same time. Like a foot between the door that connects the spaces of perception and imagination. “Present” is a gift.