Belgian Art & Diplomacy
The photos Bright Future and Memory of a Trip to Nowhere by Tom Woestenborghs returned from the Belgian embassy in Washington in 2020 and have been on the wall in the Belgian Permanent Representation to NATO ever since. The photos could not find a better spot. Why? Because:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO for short, was established on 4 April 1949 by 'The Washington Treaty'.
NATO is a political-military alliance based on the collective defence of the allies, aimed at preventing conflicts and maintaining peace and security. The Alliance continuously adapts to the changing international security context and threats. In addition to military deterrence and defence, non-military instruments are part of its toolkit.
Since 2017, NATO has been housed in a new headquarters in Brussels, located on the site of the former Haren airport. The building is conceived as a folded hand, as a sign of cooperation. One of the fingers houses the Belgian Permanent Representation, next to the American one.
Weapons, heroic tributes and heroic portraits in the work of Tom Woestenborghs refer to the fact that for 4000 years, men have been programmed to be conquerors or soldiers. According to him, weapons are tools that provide an illusion of power. He considers himself a spectator and creates his images as reflections on the world that he presents to others, he invades their territory, as it were. ‘Art is a matter of life and death. This may be melodramatic, but it is also true.’ This statement by Bruce Neuman, in the context of NATO, invites discussion.
By placing the Bright Future photo on the cover of the publication about the Belgian Permanent Representation to NATO, we invite curiosity, openness and dialogue. The expected date of publication is 11 October, the day on which, in 1967, NATO headquarters came to Brussels, after passing through London and Paris.
On International Women's Day, we highlight the Embrace by Elke Andreas Boon. Boon created this work in 2014, in which identical twins embrace each other. In 2021, this comforting gesture comes across as rather threatening. This picture expresses hope for a future in which we may embrace each other again. And it is also a beautiful image of sisterhood and human solidarity. The work will be displayed in the new VIP dining room in the main building in Brussels and will, just like the artwork by Charlotte Beaudry, be included in the publication Invisible, about female artists of the XXIst century in the art collection of the FPS, expected to appear on 11 November 2021, Belgian Women's Day.
#Showcase1 - Warre Mulder
Two showcases were recently installed in the main entrance of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brussels. Works of art will be displayed here. The first sculptures are by Warre Mulder.
This figure is dressed in a blue robe. In the place of the face, there is a dark void, which makes the figure look like a ghost. The robe refers to a spiritual tradition of concealing oneself in a robe. The bowl above the hollow face gives the impression that the figure is going to drink. As if drinking some sort of magic potion will fill the emptiness the figure is experiencing.
Take another round
The second sculpture is inspired by one by Pablo Picasso, Little girl skipping rope. Several references to cyclical movement are present: the skipping rope, the loops on the pedestal, the girl's feet in charcoal. Through this cyclical movement, the sculpture symbolises a new generation, going for another round.
At the nearby consular counters are two more sculptures by this artist, visible from the street and illuminated at night.
It takes spirit to know how to dance, it takes a monkey to get into trance
Lamassu, the melody continues
These sculptures are in a completely different style. Mulder's figures are often colourful and constructed from a playful combination of all sorts of shapes, materials and techniques. They have something recognisable and also something absurd. He draws inspiration from many sources in different cultures, from prehistoric rock paintings to geometric motifs from African cultures and even children's toys. The works give the impression they could have been created anywhere in the world. Mulder himself operates from his studios in Zeeland and Antwerp. He was born in 1984 and graduated at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
Symposium Belgian and Dutch Embassy buildings: Multi-layered projects of Representation
Due to the pandemic, this symposium has been postponed for a second time.
A new date will be announced a.s.a.p.
Belgian Art & Diplomacy
Art and diplomacy are not immediately connected in people’s minds. The world of diplomacy is one of consensus and compromise, of protocol rules and legislative frameworks, of smoothing things over and acting discreetly. Art and artists, on the other hand, have a rather rebellious or contrary image or are at least seen as critical and questioning. They do not shy away from challenging authority and do not care about labels. Yet one does not have to hold on to clichéd representations of both worlds. After all, wasn't Rubens also known for his diplomatic talents?
The works of art in the public areas of the diplomatic missions and the Central Administration support a core task of the FPS, i.e. the representation of Belgium. They create an image of Belgium and encourage cultural dialogue. They contribute to a dynamic working atmosphere, sharpen the critical spirit and create opportunities for spiritual expansion. They offer a reflection on the ever-changing world. They help promote the values of Foreign Affairs, such as respect, communication, transparency, professionalism and sustainability. By offering a diverse, contemporary palette of artistic talent that extends beyond national borders and national identity, the art collection connects to the real world. Foreign Affairs wants to score well on the core tasks of collection management and a place in the global artistic landscape, as a reliable, professional partner with a sharp profile and its collection as a strong brand.
Positioning, collection profile and collaboration
The art collection of the FPS Foreign Affairs can be described as a semi-public corporate collection open to everyone. It is a collection that is part of the Belgian State. The collection belongs alongside the collections of other federal ministries and federal scientific institutions, collection managing institutions (Parliaments, Universities, Royal Palace, etc.), corporate collections (financial institutions), museums and art centers. The management of the collection is most comparable to that of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of other countries. Here are a few examples: Ireland; Italy; the Netherlands; United Kingdom; US State Department.
The management of the art collection focuses on four core tasks: inventory & documentation, collecting, conservation and restoration and finally presentation. Brussels, and more specifically the art heritage department, defines the policy.
The collection has been organically building up since the creation of the Belgian State in 1830. Since then, and especially after the Second World War, diplomatic missions abroad have been opened. Nowadays, some 240 buildings are scattered around the world.
The art heritage includes at least 4500 works, some 600 paintings, some 500 tapestries, some 3000 works on paper and some 200 sculptures, from the 16th century to the present day. More recently, other media have been added, such as photography, mixed media, installations and videos and in situ works. Almost all works of art are on permanent display. Sometimes they temporarily come to Brussels for restoration or for shipment to another destination. New acquisitions focus on contemporary art, mainly Belgian art as well as - after prospection - local artists. They work on a project basis. The external art purchasing and advisory committee, with external experts and internal members of the organisation, plays a role in both the prospection and validation phase. The final results are the "curated embassies and residences". To get an idea of the collection, the names of 100 contemporary artists whose work is included in the collection of the FPS Foreign Affairs follow:
Francis Alÿs - Nobuyoshi Araki - Carla Arocha-Abel Auer - Virginie Bailly - Sammy Baloji - Charlotte Beaudry - Charif Benhelima - Marcel Berlanger - Lieve Blancquaert - Guy Bleus - Delphine Boël - Sébastien Bonin - Mon Colonel & Spit - Berlinde De Bruyckere - Celine Butaye - Patrick Van Caeckenbergh - Sarah Carlier - Fia Cielen - David Claerbout - Sara Conti - Delphine Deguislage - Carl De Keyzer - Edith Dekyndt - Colin Delfosse - Ronny Delrue - Wim Delvoye - Alfred d’Ursel - Fred Eerdekens - Hadassah Emmerich - Thierry Falisse - Michel François - Lara Gasparotto - Kaif Ghaznavi -Tina Gillen - Shilpa Gupta - Mona Hatoum - Kati Heck - Ann Veronica Janssens - Viviane Joakim - Reina Saina Kallat - Nikita Kadan - Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga - Anish Kapoor -Marin Kasimir - Jean Katambayi Mukendi - Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven - An-Sofie Kesteleyn - Aglaia Konrad - Sophie Kuijken - Marie-Jo Lafontaine - Sophie Langhor - Corinne Lecot - Elisabeth Lecourt - Namsa Leuba - Emilio Lopez Menchereo - Mark Luyten - Sarah Van Marcke - Cécile Massart - Michäel Matthys - Marcelo Moscheta - Aimé Mpane - Johan Muyle - Maryam Najd - Otobong Nkanga - Aimé Ntakayica - Sophie Nys - Hans Op de Beeck - Goedele Peeters - Max Pinckers - Marina Pinsky - Tinka Pittoors - Benoît Platéus - Marie-Françoise Plissart - Bernard Queeckers - Kelly Schacht - Georges Senga - Stefan Serneels - Helmut Stallaerts - Bart Stolle - Elly Strik - Walter Swennen - Johan Tahon - Pascale Marthine Tayou - Ana Torfs - Luc Tuymans - Sarah Vanagt - Koen van den Broek - Maarten vanden Eynde - Carole Vanderlinden - Catherina Van Eetvelde - Rinus Van De Velde - Yves Velter - Angel Vergara - Pieter Vermeersch - Katrien Vermeire - Ana Vester - Leen Voet - Jeff Wall - Sophie Whettnall
The Egmont Palace is still an unknown gem in the cultural heart of the Belgian capital, a stone's throw from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Bozar, the Royal Palace and the Little Sablon.
Since 2012, on the occasion of the Belgian National Day on 21 July, summer exhibitions have been organized in this palace. These exhibitions are freely accessible to the general public and have a very diverse range. Each time they attract around 5,000 visitors, in 2015 even up to 12,000, including heritage enthusiasts, art lovers, Brussels enthusiasts, tourists as well as casual, curious passers-by.
These exhibitions are realized by the internal art committee, the “kunstcomitéd’art”, and thanks to the help of various services and volunteers.
Last summer exhibitions Egmont Palace:
- 2019: Art & diplomacy (PDF, 315.35 KB) - Poster (PDF, 2.05 MB)
- 2018: AfricaMuseum@EgmontPalace (PDF, 85.52 KB) - video
- 2017: Daniël Ost (PDF, 54.67 KB) - Video
- 2016: Belgian Crew (PDF, 62.2 KB) - Videos: Film - Xpo Street Art (teaser) - Promo
- 2015: @yourservice (PDF, 2.97 MB)
- 2014: “Text-île” (PDF, 1.64 MB)
- 2013: Fashion@EgmontPalace (PDF, 1.52 MB)
- 2012: Isabelle de Borchgrave (JPG, 42.39 KB)
- Art and Diplomacy Hart 205 (PDF, 1.22 MB)
- Art & Diplomacy Expo Egmont Palace (PDF, 315.35 KB)
- Art in the Belgian Embassies OKV (PDF, 4.35 MB)
- Chairwoman a.i. of the Management committee (PDF, 2.32 MB)
- Kinshasa (PDF, 4.35 MB)
- New Delhi (PDF, 6 MB)