Where’s that Rauschenberg? The paintings are on the move! “Répétition” at Villa Empain (Brussels)
That first view was rather disconcerting. A guy was walking away carrying a canvas. Other paintings stood on the floor, rather randomly, backs against the wall. Did I arrive too late? Was the exhibition already over? But then the guy came back and introduced himself. “I will be your host today. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate.” Euhm, yes: the paintings? “I’m moving them around”, he said, smilingly. “It’s all part of the exhibition. If you’re unable to locate a specific work of art: just ask.” And off he went. Suddenly I noticed that one of the other visitors had begun to move rather strangely, in the hall of that ever so grand Villa Empain (Brussels). You’re in for a few surprises, if you visit Répétition uninformed (through August 21).
If you want your works of art neatly hanging on museum walls, with identification cards next to them, Répétion is bound to give you a headache. Yes, you’ll receive a brochure at the entrance, with a list of all the works on display, but it will be up to you to find them, in the many rooms of the majestic Villa Empain, that “centre of art and dialogue between cultures of the East and the West”, established by the Boghossian Foundation in 2010. Or you can always ask your polite host, walking around.
Not only the works of art are on the move. If you’re lucky, you’ll be seeing choreographer/dancer Andros Zins-Browne working on his piece Already Unmade, in the entrance hall. It all sort of breathes life into what might otherwise be a rather formal affair, in this building that will always exude a sense of old-time splendor. Is this the touch of artist/curator Asad Raza, the new artistic director? For his next exhibition he’s succeeded in enlisting the help of none other than art world darling Tino Sehgal. (And Répétition comprises a new work, created for the exhibition, by another art darling, Rirkrit Tiravanija.)
But anyway: inspired by an old Robert Rauschenberg print gone wrong, Répétition is “conceived as a circulatory system by which images, objects and bodies move through the Villa Empain”. The exhibition comprises Rauschenberg’s lithograph, next to many other works from the historic collection Accident (1963) is part of: from the Ljubljana International Center of Graphic Arts. Several other works of art are added as well, by for instance, Otobong Nkanga and Zin Taylor. And there are a few new commissions too: display units by Giles Round (who also selected the works from the Ljubljana Collection) and a monumental chandelier by Mariana Telleria in the entrance hall.
All together it makes for an interesting visit. The “work-in-progress” atmosphere might not appeal to more traditional art lovers, but a younger audience will certainly be charmed by the dynamics. And as always: if you don’t like the art, there’s still the building (and the swimming pool) to admire. It did make me curious to see what other tricks Raza has up his sleeve.
“Répétition”, through August 21, Villa Empain/Boghossian Foundation, Brussels. Summer party on the last day (11am-9pm), with Andros Zins-Browne (2pm-6pm) and a dj set by Darko (4pm-9pm).
“Decor”, curated by Tino Sehgal, Dorothea von Hantelmann & Asad Raza, opens September 8.