These paintings are not to be trusted: new work by Michaël Borremans at Zeno X (Antwerp)


Why does it have to be this large? That’s the question you’ll be asking yourself, when you’re standing in front of The Angel, one of the new paintings by Michaël Borremans, at Zeno X Gallery (Antwerp; through October 12). One thing is for sure though: this mysterious looking canvas is bound to become another iconic one in the oeuvre of the revered Belgian painter, as supermodel Hannelore Knuts recently revealed that she’s stood model for it. The large canvas (3x2m) is part of a show presenting ten paintings by Borremans, who will be getting a retrospective at Bozar (Brussels), opening February 22, 2014. Ten pieces of sheer beauty? As always with Borremans: I wouldn’t be so sure of that.

When you turn around, in that first room, you’ll be looking at another huge painting, and you’ll be asking yourself yet another question: why’s that Nude with Cheese holding a… chunk of cheese? But a few moments later, when that first feeling of awkwardness has subsided, the warm colours will draw you in – yellow, brown, even a warm grey. You feel at ease. A sense of beauty prevails in the two first rooms of that all new Zeno X exhibition space. You relax. Everything’s OK.

MichaelBorremans_TheMissile_ZenoXThen you start noticing stuff. Some things aren’t right, here. Why is that girl in The False Head wearing a mask? Why is the face of that girl in The Angel painted black? Nobody is laughing, in these paintings. And wait a minute: the magnolia is withered (Magnolias – (I) ), the chicken is dead (Dead Chicken), the beard on that guy’s face is actually excrement (Shitbeard). Every person in those paintings seems punished in one way or the other. Even the girl holding a toy or a missile isn’t all too happy or all too sure about what she’s actually doing. And just about then you notice the exhibition’s title on that leaflet you picked up at the entrance: The people from the future are not to be trusted. And you start studying the settings: as if all the people in those paintings are exhibits, standing in some prop atelier.

The more time you spend looking at these paintings, the more uneasy that feeling becomes. Until there’s only one thing you really want to do: leave. As quickly as possible.

I love it when that happens. Just two rooms and ten paintings? I suggest you take some time for this one.


You’ll find all the paintings on the Zeno X website, here. The Antwerp gallery is presenting work by Kees Goudzwaard, Bart Stolle and Jack Whitten in the other rooms.


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