Thursday, 18 May 2017

MAD: Brussels New Hub for Fashion and Design

Director of the new fashion and design centre in Brussels, MAD, Alexandra Lambert (at right, in white) with deputy director Dominque Junne on the terrace of the newly renovated building with its soaring, curvilinear staircase. Cover picture of landscape architect & designer Bas Smets and all photographs by Elli Ioannou.
A new hub for Brussels' fashion and design has opened in the heart of the city's Dansaert district. Called MAD, mode and design, the centre is part of revitalising this rapidly changing area. The MAD headquarters will function as a cultural space supporting the design and fashion industry. The recently completed building was launched amid contemporary art and design fairs across the city last month. The opening exhibition features six designers all showing projects made in Brussels, reports Elli Ioannou

V+ architect Jörn Aram Bihain 
TODAY, the strikingly monochrome MAD building cuts through a city block connecting two urban plazas. Designed as a centre for designers and the fashion industry, it will foster and develop new careers and businesses and show creative work. The imposing gallery evokes the centre's aim to become the key meeting place for fashion and design in Brussels. The pre-existing building was redesigned collaboratively by architecture firm V+ and design collective Rotor with most of the original form preserved. Jörn Aram Bihain from V+ says the aim was to improve the existing building, rather than make a grand architectural gesture. More importantly, the building acts as the background to what's going on inside ~ which as it turns out is a lot! Architects V+ (short for ‘Vers plus de bien-être’ ~ ‘towards greater well-being’) and Rotor worked on the conversion of the interior, the façades and the building's fixtures and fittings. White was chosen as the overall scheme in different tones in a variety of materials, textures and patterns. The space was originally conceived as a result of MAD's expanding needs and to allow it to conduct its three main areas of interest: research and development, professional support and cultural programs.

MAD's terrace & Bauhaus staircase
A not for profit organisation, MAD originally began in 2011, and is the result of close cooperation between different Belgian and European institutions such as the European Regional Development Fund, the Brussels Capital Region and the City of Brussels. With funding from the EU, MAD is also part of the debate between national and international bodies discussing design in terms of economy and industry. It aims to encourage sustainability and inclusiveness by investing in jobs and the local community. At the MAD opening, Agnes Lindemans, the head of the European Commission Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, said of the new building: “MAD is emblematic and an ambitious project however it is also a hub of connecting economic activities and development of new projects aimed at national and international levels.” In addition, MAD has been increasing the local and international profile of Brussels designers and working to develop a methodology that is unique to Europe. For example, its Incubator program supports young designers with innovative social and ecological approaches.

The new MAD building has three levels with an interior finished in white along with concrete and the original brick. The ground floor is open to the public for exhibitions, seminars and events. While the upper floors are dedicated to hosting multipurpose work spaces. The top floor has its own restaurant and function space with a glass façade overlooking a large terrace. This is where you can see the signature design feature in the form of a white Bauhaus style spiral staircase that curves out from the back wall. This creates a recognisable architectural element on the urban horizon of the Dansaert district. The original forms of the building have been kept with well-thought out changes. From its main entrance, visible from the glass façade, we are greeted with the first of three interventions by exhibiting designer and landscape architect Bas Smets: a forest of birch trees sitting in their hessian sacks of earth, above ground, the branches rising up to the first floor glass ceiling. The installation brings nature inside. “Building Landscapes” takes over three different spaces and levels of the MAD building, with the remaining five exhibitors showing on the ground floor.

 Landscape architect & designer Bas Smets amid
his small forest of birch trees
Bas Smets says each space was chosen based on its orientation of light and location, creating three different climates and atmospheres. He collaborated with scientists and other artists for all three installations. Smets says the inspiration behind "Building Landscapes" is the city as a metaphor. All of the trees used for the installation were leased, rather than purchased with the aim to make them more economically and sustainably viable. On the mezzanine level is the second intervention, a garden of Mediterranean trees. A pale pink, soft light is created with a film on the glass wall to emulate a warm, summer evening. The floor of the mezzanine is filled with round glass 'windows' ~ showing the level below as well as reflecting what is above. The third section of the project sits majestically and naturally on the far end of the terrace of the MAD building. A white ribbon binds each tree in a criss-cross design that was inspired by the building's curving staircase. Bas Smets has also worked with Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel and the Belgian designer recently created a special memorial for the victims of the Brussels attacks.

Designer Xavier Lust with his
works on show at MAD
In the ‘belly’ of the building, is an open-plan basement hosting Xavier Lust's work entitled “Nature, Symbols & Fluids”. The award-winning Belgian industrial designer and sculptor works mainly in steel and bronze and is best known for an innovative technique using metallic surfaces. The exhibition includes a bronze console with ovoid cut outs scattered beneath it, a bubble mirror sculpture and some of his more iconic works such as a steel picnic table and bench all cut in one continuous piece.

MAD's opening exhibition, "Occupation: Designer - Brussels Vision on Design" aims to change the landscape of the creative industry, working on new ways to think about design. This opening exhibition is created in conjunction with DAMNation, a communication agency with the unlikely manifesto to replace some words with other more politically correct ones ~ such as 'designer' with 'collective', 'hierarchy' with 'network',  'monologue' with 'dialogue', and 'copyright' with 'open source' and 'exclusive' with 'inclusive' and so on. MAD’s opening exhibition in the new building shows work that is all made in Brussels and includes designers: Annelys De Vet, Bas Smets, Benjamin Loyaute, Laurence Soetens, T.Lommee and C. Hogner and Xavier Lust.

“Occupation: Designer - Brussels Vision on Design” will host various workshops by the designers open to the public. The exhibition is  open till August 20th, 2017 MAD 10 Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains, 1000 Brussels:

Exhibiting designer and landscape architect Bas Smets stands under the forest of birch trees that sit in hessian sacks of earth, above ground, the branches rising up to the first floor glass ceiling. The installation brings nature inside.

The floor of the mezzanine level is filled with round glass 'windows' ~ showing the level below as well as reflecting what is above.

Mirrored wall on the third level of MAD's new headquarters

Designer and sculptor Xavier Lust's exhibition at MAD 

Detail of Xavier Lust's steel picnic table and bench all cut in one continuous piece
Detail of Xavier Lust's bronze table with deep cut outs 
Communication agency DAMNation's manifesto exhibited in conjunction with MAD
Looking up into Bas Smets leafy installation at MAD
The dynamic staircase that curves along one side of the MAD building 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Vincent Van Gogh: The Artist as Collector

The Residence with Plum Trees at Kameido, 1857 by Utagawa Hiroshige, part of Van Gogh's collection of prints that inspired his Flowering Plum Orchard (after Hiroshige) See below. All prints are courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum. Cover picture: Tree Trunks in the Grass, 1890 by Van Gogh is now on show at the NGV.
Few people know that Dutch Modern master Vincent van Gogh, was an avid collector. More than that, Melbourne academic Dr Vincent Alessi discovered that the painter learnt to draw by studying his own collection of black and white illustrations. We take a look at the  prints in the artist's collection, some of which can now be seen at the new exhibition Van Gogh and the Seasons at the National Gallery of Victoria, Geoffrey Maslen reports

“Drawing is the root of everything, and the time spent on that is actually all profit.” ~ Vincent van Gogh writing to his brother Theo van Gogh, The Hague, 3 June 3, 1883

Self-portrait, 1887, by Vincent van Gogh.
Dr Vincent Alessi was only fifteen years old when his older brother showed him a small book containing some of the hundreds of letters van Gogh wrote to Theo. The young Australian Vincent read them, became captivated by the troubled artist who so vividly described his life in the letters and, years later, is still in awe of the Dutch painter. “My brother kindly allowed me to highlight sections in the book and I’d write notes in the margin. I knew little about van Gogh and, because the book had no illustrations, I had no idea what his work was like,” Alessi says. “But the letters were so beautifully written that I began reading more about him and looking at images of his paintings. Then I started reading academic books about his practice as an artist and I became fascinated with him as a person...”

Later, as an honours student at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, this latter-day Vincent wrote a thesis on the sun’s symbolism in van Gogh’s paintings. He took this further in research for his PhD and visited the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. There he was able to study the letters and view the Japanese prints van Gogh had collected as well as 17 folios of 1400 black and white woodblock prints by English artists that had been published in newspapers such as the Illustrated London News and The Graphic in the latter half of the 19th century. Until he saw them, Alessi had not known how large van Gogh’s print collection was and, realising how influential they must have been in his development as an artist, he decided to focus on this little researched aspect of his life. Back in Melbourne, he pored over van Gogh’s letters to locate where he had mentioned hundreds of other prints that had been lost from the collection, then he began painstakingly searching for them in Melbourne’s State Library which holds copies of both newspapers from the time.

 The Potato Harvest, 1885 Clement Edouard Bellenger.
“Using his letters I was able to identify the prints by either the title or van Gogh’s descriptions. It meant flipping through 10 years of the newspapers to match the images with the text in the letters and, even though the search was really tedious, it was fascinating to read so much of Victorian England, a period I knew very little about.” Dr Alessi is now a senior lecturer, Creative Arts at La Trobe University and was formerly curatorial manager Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne University and artistic director at LUMA, La Trobe University Museum of Art. He believes van Gogh collected 2,000 or more of the English illustrations and his search in the State Library identified nearly 600 that museum curators had not known existed. Van Gogh obtained a complete set of The Graphic and the Illustrated London News published in the mid-1860s and continued to buy later ones from a local bookseller. He kept them in folios and this suggested to Alessi they had been used as a teaching aid.

The Sower, 1885 Clement Edouard
Bellenger. Wood-engraving 
“They were filed under workers, farmers, people employed in factories and were stored that way, I think, so when he was doing his own painting, he could refer to them and see how an illustrator might have shown the way someone was working in a field or a factory. He probably started collecting the prints in the early 1880s but, after 1884, there are no further references in his letters to him acquiring anything new. It was no coincidence that this happened at the time he became more confident as an artist and no longer needed the prints.” Alessi says one of the little-known events in van Gogh’s life was that he had not set out to become a great artist but was pressured by his well-to-do family to find a job `so he wouldn’t slip any further down the social scale’. Theo proposed he find work as an illustrator and he studied the woodblock prints to learn how to draw with the idea of going to London and becoming an illustrator himself. It was four years before he picked up a paintbrush and began his short but enormously prolific life as a painter.

Sudden Evening Shower on the Great Bridge,
 1857, Utagawa Hiroshige. Colour wood-cut
“From an aesthetic point of view, the Japanese prints are more beautiful to look at than the English black and white ones but they both had an equal amount of influence on him. He didn’t copy directly from the English prints but I argue his painting style was a result of them,” Alessi says. Another astonishing aspect about the English prints is the fact they survived. Van Gogh left them with his mother when he went to live in Paris and she kept them even after he died. As Alessi says, she must have been a great hoarder because she never thought of him as a great artist and nor did many of those who knew him, yet she kept his prints. They and his Japanese print collection, along with his tool box and his painting box, are still held in the Van Gogh Museum. “I can’t think of too many artists where we’ve had such first-hand knowledge of them as we do of van Gogh,” Alessi says. “Through his letters and what he collected we can piece together almost his whole life. The prints held by the Van Gogh Museum are in storage and they don’t get seen very often because they are fragile but also not very exciting to look at. Yet they are really important and underpin almost everything the artist did. He said himself that the really great artists were the English black and white illustrators.”

New Print of Insects & Small Creatures
 1883, Utagawa Yoshimara. Wood-cut
The new Van Gogh and the Seasons exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, curated by Sjraar van Heugten, former Head of Collections at theVan Gogh Museum, has the first two rooms of the show devoted to the artist's collection of prints and works of Japanese artists that inspired him such as Utagawa Hiroshige. Speaking about Van Gogh's collection, Sjraar van Heugten says the prints from illustrated magazines were a continuous source of inspiration for the artist. "Scenes from daily life, a great variety of them. What you will see [at the NGV] is a selection of motifs about the landscapes and seasons. The first room has some sixteen prints from his own collection.

"The second room is devoted to Japanese prints ~ these were a huge influence on Van Gogh while he was in Paris. Van Gogh adored Japanese works because of their use of colour and also because of the serenity and harmony he found in them. Of course seasons are important for Japanese artists ~ and you will see in the exhibition a selection of works that are kept at the National Gallery of Victoria."

Orchard in Blossom, 1887, Arles, by Vincent van Gogh 
The images that van Gogh included in his print collection were carefully chosen, Dr Alessi says, and they had a major influence in shaping his view of what it meant to be an artist. He didn’t collect illustrations of royalty but of ordinary working people, especially the poor. “If you look at the way he actually paints, there's a strong drawing quality and quite often they have really dark outlines. That, I would argue, comes from the prints. Because of the way they were made, they needed to have strong outlines and that boldness is evident in his paintings. You only have to look at his 40 or so self-portraits to see they were definitely shaped by his prints.”

Portrait of Pere Tanguy, 1887, Paris.
By Vincent van Gogh
Japanese printmaking was one of Van Gogh’s main sources of inspiration and he was an enthusiastic collector. The prints acted as a catalyst: they taught him a new way of looking at the world. He admired Japanese art and has written that it made him feel happy and cheerful. The artist's collection of prints and his Japanese paintings evoke van Gogh's search for tranquillity. In a letter to his brother Theo in September ,1888, he wrote: “We wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming much happier and more cheerful, and it makes us return to nature, despite our education and our work in a world of convention.” His Portrait of Père Tanguy, painted in 1887, is one of three paintings of sympathetic art supplier and dealer Julien Tanguy. Van Gogh's last version of the portait is full of vibrant colour and incorporates several of the Japanese prints from his collection. The seated, calm figure of Tanguy has a joyous, Zen like calm that Van Gogh sought and found in his Japanese works.

Actor in the Role of the courtesan
Takao of the Miuraya House, 1861
 by Utagawa Kunisada
Japanese ukiyo-e artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige continued to influence van Gogh in style and subject matter. He did three paintings after Japanese prints from his own collection. This gave him a chance to explore the Japanese printmakers' style and use of colour. While the print in his collection Actor in the Role of the courtesan Takao of the Miuraya House,1861, by Utagawa Kunisada (see at right) was used in the background of his Portrait of Père Tanguy, other more literal uses of the prints included one based on Hiroshige's Plum Garden in Kameido (see main picture and below). Van Gogh accurately reproduced the composition but made the colour more intense and changed the black and grey of Hiroshige's tree trunk with red and blue tones. Van Gogh liked Japanese woodcuts for their bright colours and strong compositions. Another painting Bridge in the Rain, After Hirogshige (see below), was based on a print by Hiroshige but Van Gogh again made the colours more vivid than the Japanese master's original.

Geoffrey Maslen is a Melbourne writer. His two latest books ~ An Uncertain Future: Australian birds in danger and Too Late: How we lost the battle against climate change are published by Hardie Grant Books (July 2017).

Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2017: Van Gogh and the Seasons is at the National Gallery of Victoria from 28 April until 9 July 2017.

Flowering Plum Orchard (After Hiroshige) 1887, Paris, by Vincent van Gogh. See main picture above for original print in Van Gogh's own collection.

Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige) 1887, Paris, by Vincent van Gogh. (See Hiroshige print above).

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Brussels Burgeons with New Art Museums and Exhibitions

Belgian artist Rik Wouters' painting Autumn, 1913, part of a major new retrospective of his work at Brussels' Royal Museums of Fine Arts. Photograph (above) and Cover picture of James Lee Byars' 1994 work at the Vanhaerents Art Collection by Elli Ioannou

Brussels is fast becoming an international centre for modern and contemporary art. The cultural landscape is changing the face of the city, expanding it beyond a political and institutional hub for the European Union and NATO. New museums and exhibitions are making the Belgian capital one of Europe's top destinations, including creating its first public contemporary art gallery along with shows by Belgian Modernist masters such as Rik Wouters to the iconoclastic work of Yves Klein and Pol Bury and the sculptures of Dutch street artist Boris Tellegen. Report by Elli Ioannou and Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs by Elli Ioannou

Artist Daniel Buren at Villa Empain
STANDING in the Art Deco Villa Empain, red and green light falling on herringbone wood floors, it's as if this survivor from the 1930s reflects Brussels own artistic rise in the 21st Century. Since the end of the Second World War, the Belgian capital has been an important place for international politics but today it is also developing a strong artistic heart. While the city hosts international organisations and is home to many politicians and civil servants, it has also developed some outstanding public and private museums and galleries. The rise of contemporary art in Brussels can be seen at galleries such as the new Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA), that opened last year, the Boghossian Foundation at Villa Empain and the Vanhaerents Art Collection as well as prominent annual art fairs such as the forthcoming Art Brussels from the 21st until the 23rd of April. These all sit alongside the city's more established and well-known modern art museums.

Brussel's first public museum of contemporary art is currently being developed with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, in an Art Deco former Citroen building. The gallery is aiming for destination status such as Spain’s Bilbao or New York's Guggenheim Museum. Located northwest of the city, it is due to open in 2020, and will join the galleries housing both design and art that have taken up residence out of the historical centre. The Brussels Regional Government and Centre Pompidou have formed a partnership to transform the Citroën garage into a cultural centre of both modern and contemporary art and architecture that will add considerably to the Belgian capital's burgeoning artistic life.

Time in Motion: Pol Bury at Bozar

Time in Motion, Pol Bury at Bozar
Brussels' Centre For Fine Arts, known as Bozar, is one of the city's top museums. New exhibitions have just opened of two iconoclastic artists, Pol Bury (1922-2005) and Yves Klein (1928-1962). The exhibitions, Time in Motion and Theatre of the Void, are being held in another of the city's spectacular Art Deco buildings, designed by Belgian architect Victor Horta in 1928. Today, considered the heart of Brussels’ art precinct, Bozar hosts major art shows as well as music, theatre, dance, cinema and literature and architecture events. The latest exhibition Time in Motion looks at Belgian artist Pol Bury, one of the founders of kinetic art, best known for the fountains and sculptures he designed for public spaces in the second half of his career. This new retrospective at Bozar is an opportunity to discover Bury’s wide-ranging oeuvre.

Pol Bury's sculpture at Bozar
Paintings, sculptures, mobile works, fountains, jewellery, graphic and written creations are all on display in the biggest exhibition Belgium has dedicated to this major artist in twenty years. While Pol Bury started out as a painter, influenced by Magritte and the Jeune Peinture Belge, he decided to follow a new path. Alexander Calder's mobiles inspired him to sculpt and find ways to include motion in his work. An innovative atist, Pol Bury is considered one of surrealism's successors who made a name for himself beyond Belgium's art scene such as in Paris and New York, gaining international recognition.

Theatre of the Void: French artist Yves Klein

Bozar's other key art exhibition is Theatre of the Void  about French artist Yves Klein. Well-known for his ultramarine monochromes, Klein even licenced his own pigment called International Klein Blue. Describing his ‘IKB’works, French critic Gaston Bachelard said of Klein's blue period: "First there is nothing, then there is deep nothing, then there is a blue depth". Klein was the most influential and controversial French artist to emerge in the 1950s. He is remembered above all for this use of a single colour, the rich shade of ultramarine that he made his own. He continued to question established ideas that underpinned abstract painting that had been dominant in France since the end of the Second World War.

Yves Klein's famous monochrome blue
Some critics describe Klein as a descendant of Marcel Duchamp while others consider him a descendant of earlier avant-garde, monochromatic artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Aleksander Rodchenchko. He has also been though of as an obscurantist, yet much of his work continues to inspire and today his paintings command millions of dollars at art auctions. Klein can be compared to his contemporary Joseph Beuys, as he was also intrigued by Romanticism, mysticism and Eastern religion. Klein even went to Japan and became a master of Judo but when he began to use performance art later in his career, he went back to the tactics of earlier avant-gardes. The French artist's blurring of art and life foreshadowed movements such as pop, conceptual, installation and choreographed art while his eye-catching performances were the harbingers of the later “happening” and body art movements. The new Bozar exhibition explores this metier through unseen or rarely-exhibited visual works in the artist's short life, examining this brief yet prolific part of his career.

Important retrospective by Belgian master Rik Wouters 

Exhibition of Rik Wouters at the
Royal Museum of Fine Arts
Not far from Bozar are the Royal Museums of Fine Arts where there is a new comprehensive show of Belgian Modern master Rik Wouters, who also had a very short but productive life (1882-1916). The retrospective is organised in conjunction with the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and the two museums bring together ~ for the first time in one exhibition ~ the most important collection of works by a Belgian artist of the early 20th century. Loans from private collectors and international museums make this a major exhibition. Known as a Fauvist painter, sculptor and print maker, Wouters was educated at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels yet he started life as an apprentice in the studio of his father, an ornamental sculptor. Then at fifteen he entered the Akademie van Schone Kunsten in Mechelen to study sculpture. Three years later he moved to the Belgian capital where he became a pupil of Charles Van der Stappen at the Academie des Beaux-Arts where he met Hélène Duerinckx who became his wife, model and muse. Being very poor, the young couple moved to the green outskirts of Brussels to Boitsfort where Wouters focused on painting and creating studies of light and colourful interiors and still lifes with a spatula. In 1911 he started using brushes and diluted his colours to create a more subtle palette. He finally escaped poverty a year later when he signed an exclusive contract with the Galerie Georges Giroux in Brussels. Wouters visited Paris and Cologne, studying Cézanne and Van Gogh and other impressionist painters and this influenced his own work that captured gleaming light and a luminous colour palette.

Boghossian Foundation Villa Empain: call for global dialogue

Jorge Pardo exhibition at Villa Empain
The Boghossian Foundation at Villa Empain in Avenue Franklin Roosevelt is gearing up for a new show Mondialité, that opens on April 19, with the focus on Edouard Glissant and his call for a global dialogue that does not erase local cultures. Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Asad Raza, the multi-artist show will feature artworks, documentary film and songs, and archival material. Today, exhibitions at the heritage-listed Villa Empain take into consideration the space of the building and many designs are created in situ. The centre aims to build bridges between East and West by focusing on similarities rather than differences through art. Another one of Brussels’ Art deco buildings, it was designed and built in the early 1930s by Swiss architect Michel Polak for Baron Louis Empain. From then on, the building suffered a turbulent history. Louis Empain barely inhabited the villa and after its completion in 1934, he donated the property to the Belgian state in 1937, with the intention of turning it into a museum of decorative and modern art. The foundation, known as the Le Cambre School, hosted various exhibitions in the villa until 1943.

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian at Villa Empain
During the German occupation in World War II, the property was requisitioned and served later as the Embassy of the Soviet Union. By the 1970s, the villa was used by a television station before being left unoccupied falling into ruin in the 1990s. In 2000, the villa was purchased by Belgian businessman Stéphan Jourdain who tried to modernise the building without gaining appropriate permissions, removing many of its original features. By the following year, the Brussels-based conservation organisation, Monuments et Sites rescued Villa Empain from further destruction and it was added to the architectural heritage list of Brussels. But then it lay empty and suffered from vandalism and squatters. Until in 2008, the Foundation Boghossian acquired the building and initiated an extensive renovation program. Inaugurated in 2010,  the villa is today a cultural centre hosting art exhibitions, concerts and conferences. The restoration and conservation of Villa Empain was awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in 2011.

A new museum of contemporary art opens

Artist Boris Tellegen's work at MIMA
Downtown in Brussels is the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA) that opened in April 2016. It sits along the edge of a canal with a backdrop of industrial redevelopment in the now notorious area of Molenbeek. Occupying a former brewery, MIMA's concept is the brainchild of Michel and Florence Launoit, Alice van den Abeele and Raphael Cruyt. Spread over three floors, the museum boasts a growing permanent collection including among others, Australian indigenous stencil artist Swoon, Ari Marcopoulos, Maya Hayuk and Boris Tellegen. MIMA aims to reflect on cultural and technological developments and is dedicated to show art that breaks down barriers and reaches out to the local community, attracting a broader range of people than traditional musuems. MIMA's exhibitions offer a mix of urban art that reflects subcultures in music, graphics, surfing and other sports along with fashion and design. The most recent show, A Friendly Takeover, is a retrospective of Dutch graffiti artist Boris Tellegen’s twenty year art journey from street to museum, spanning over all three floors of the museum. Boris Tellegen's career has evolved from a graffiti artist to creating three dimensional sculptural installations. Prior to his current sculptural phase his two dimensional art included musical interpretations in the form of paper collage, which then led to his album cover design period.

 Boris Tellegan's installation at MIMA
For his sculptural installations he uses recycled materials including wood that still have the style and ethos of graffiti art. At the exhibition's entrance the viewer is greeted by a large white “cube” which in fact is a word, referring to the shadow technique to create the 3D effect in early street art. Inside the gallery, is a reproduction /representation of the artist's studio with early works on display. The exhibition ends with a monumental installation at the very top of MIMA, visible from the glass rooftop. The installation physically interacts with MIMA ~ jutting out of two windows like a ginat U shaped magnet. There are different levels where children and adults can walk along and interact and view it from a different perspective. Boris Tellegen designs gigantic sculptural installations that are both aesthetic and functional. Everything happens in the centre of the room, while the walls remain untouched, the imposing sculpture playing with space.

Inside the world of the Vanhaerents Art Collection

Inside the Vanhaerents Art Collection 
The Vanhaerents Art Collection is housed in a quadrilinear, black monolith created from a former building in the Dansaert district, a manufacturing precinct in Brussels once known as Little Manchester. Bright neon lime and orange balustrades enliven the looming, rather forbidding facade. At the gated entrance is a small name plaque inscribed with the name. A gallery of contemporary art, it is privately owned by building tycoon and collector Walter Vanhaerent. Architecture and alternative cinema inspired and influenced the creation of the collection. Mr Vanhaerent says the design of the building itself was important as he wanted to create a symbiosis between art and architecture. He believes strongly in slow art with each exhibition spanning two to three years. Since the 1990s, he has only collected art produced from the 1970s onwards. As a private collector of contemporary art he consults with artists about how their work should be shown and whether it fits in with their original intention and vision. Current exhibitions include Many Suns and Worlds, Tomás Saraceno’s first solo exhibition in Belgium. Designed especially for the project space of the Vanhaerents Art Collection, the exhibition features a site-specific installation by the artist, as a part of his ambitious Cloud Cities works.

For information on the Brussels' museums and exhibitions visit:

Tap photographs for full-screen slideshow
 The Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium:  Rik Wouters: A Retrospective. Pictured is Lady in Blue Before a Mirror, 1913.
The Vanhaerents Art Collection: Death of James Lee Byars, 1994 by James Lee Byars

The Vanhaerents Art collection: Many Suns and Worlds by Tomas Saraceno

Art installations inside the first floor of the Vanhaerents Art Collection

Inside the renovated former industrial building of the Vanhaerents Art Collection

Belgian Art Prize Finalist Maarten Vanden Eynde, The Gadget 2017  

Millennium Iconoclast Museum of  Art (MIMA): A Friendly Takeover by Boris Tellegen 
The rooftop of the former brewery at the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA)
Boris Tellegan's installation on the top floor of MIMA that "breaks" through the windows
Boris Tellegan's collage works at MIMA, part of his A Friendly Takeover exhibition
Bozar's Theatre of the Void exhibition of Yves Klein's work, including this Tree, Large Blue Sponge,1962.
Yves Klein's body art, part of the exhibition Theatre of the Void at Bozar

DAM Television ~ Brussels: Art and the City

A short film produced by DAM television and filmed in Brussels by Elli Ioannou about the city's burgeoning contemporary art, with new exhibitions at museums including Bozar, Centre for Fine Arts, the Boghossian Foundation at Villa Empain and the Vanhaerents Art Collection. Artists include Pol Bury, Maarten Vanden Eynd, James Lee Byers and Tomas Saraceno. A special thanks to Visit.Brussels. See the full story in our Art section.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Tribal and Celestial At Manish Arora

Manish Arora takes his bow after his ebullient tenth anniversary collection in Paris earlier this month. Photograph and cover picture by Elli Ioannou for DAM 
Fashion designer Manish Arora started his career in Mumbai but this season celebrated 10 years of showing his ready-to-wear collections in Paris. His latest runway show mixed the tribal with the galactic, burgeoning with coveted pieces such as form fitting, embellished denim with brilliant colours and embroidery~ key trends for the autumn/winter 2017 season. We take a look back at his career and his vivid new work that is sleeker but still has his bohemian signature, Jeanne-Marie Cilento writes. Photography by Elli Ioannou

Psychedelic tribal motifs
MARKING ten years of ready-to-wear collections in Paris, Manish Arora held his latest show in the great domed edifice of the Grand Palais, rather than at the more cramped and eccentric spaces of previous seasons. Called Cosmic Love, the new show was full of whimsical astronomical references, strong colour and rich embroidery. Considered by many as the John Galliano of India, Arora's collections are known for their palette of luminescent colours and eclectic motifs that combine traditional Indian artisan workmanship such as appliqué and beading with Western silhouettes. Arora's collection in Paris was set to tribal beats and burst with a bevy of contrasting textures, patterns and ideas. African tribal tropes mixed with celestial themes, including tall head dresses, embroidered wraps and pearls decorating models’ faces.

Called Cosmic Love, the new show was full of whimsical astronomical motifs, strong colour and rich embroidery

Shooting stars & celestial galaxies
The designer started out life in India, growing up in Mumbai and going on to study commerce at university before applying for the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi. By1994 he had graduated, winning a Best Student Award. Only three years later, Manish Arora launched his own eponymous label in India. By 2000, he was part of the first India Fashion Week held in New Delhi and then showed at the Hong Kong Fashion Week. A year later, the designer launched his second label, Fish Fry with Reebok, which has been an ongoing association. He opened his first flagship store, Manish Arora Fish Fry, in New Delhi, a second store in Mumbai with others following in Kuwait. By the time he had had another successful show at India Fashion Week in 2003, Maria Luisa in Paris began stocking his pieces and he launched his international business.

Arora has continued to be awarded, including the Best Women's Designer at the Indian Fashion Awards in 2004 held in Bombay and at Miami Fashion Week, where he was presented with the designer's choice for Best Collection Award. He expanded his label into the UK, debuting his collection at London Fashion Week in September 2005 where he received a great response from both press and buyers. Arora has exhibited some of his work, including jewellery, at the Victoria & Albert Museum for various exhibitions. Last year he received the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and wore the insignia this month as part of an Indian delegation invited to meet Queen Elizabeth II, part of the U.K India Year of Culture.

Last year Manish Arora received the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and wore the insignia this month as part of an Indian delegation invited to meet Queen Elizabeth II

Embroidered denim & velvet booties
Against the backdrop of a Europe in crisis, Manish Arora's  Cosmic Love collection in Paris celebrated a happier vision of the future, perhaps reflecting his own success and his ten years showing in the French capital. The festive aesthetic and space age references included shooting stars and sunbursts, meteors,  paisley patterns and Swarovski crystals on silk and velvet tunics. This season, Arora's usual eccentric collection of people wearing his clothes was replaced with lithe models in a more streamlined yet exotic collection. He mixed earthy tribal motifs, Aztec, Art Deco and peacock prints with spacey rockets, planets, and constellations. Apart from the embroidery and crystals mixed with digital prints, he created figure-hugging denim that was treated with appliqué, hand-cut velvet and wool patchwork. These denim pieces all looked very wearable (without the tall head pieces) as did the bomber jackets, silk trousers and velvet booties encrusted with sparkling diamante.

This season, Arora's designs had a deeper, richer palette with ochres, dark green, royal blue and burgundy ~ all enhanced by opulent fabrics like velvet, silk twill and boiled wool. The galactic leitmotifs of planets and shooting stars were printed or embroidered on to sweatshirts, coats and dresses and contrasted with the more geometric, diamond-shaped Aztec designs that had a Seventies feel. Peacock embroidery featured on lavish gowns including the paisley patterns embellished with crystals. Arora’s new sweatshirts reinterpreted the genre in magenta velvets and silk and designed with stars and space stations while intergalactic prints on colourful padded coats and moon-shaped handbags added to the picture of a contemporary, athletic collection with stylish silhouettes and a dash of whimsy enriched by the embroidery of new galaxies and stars.

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High head dresses and fringed, woven neck pieces with Seventies style patterns created Manish Arora's eclectic aesthetic

Rich velvet and embroidered capes in bright pink, red and blue

Crystal encrusted gown with sunbursts and paisley decoration with deep-red boots

Fuchsia pink, red and yellow enliven a blouson top and full skirt
 Tall head dress, digitally printed shooting stars on a tunic top, swirling zebra stripes and sparkling, embellished boots.
Fringed, knottted necklaces added to the tribal ethos 
Brilliant emerald green peacock feathers, black ruching and burgundy velvet, studded booties
Starbursts, planets and paisley on silk and velvet 
Sweatshirts with digitally printed galaxies and planets

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