Gaasbeek Castle for a Feast of Fools: Bruegel Rediscovered
6 April 2019 – 28 July 2019
Gaasbeek Castle isn’t far from the thronging city of Brussels, but it is a million miles away with its calming ambiance and leafy location. It’s a former stately home of charm and architectural beauty, and serves as a venue for the Feast of Fools: Bruegel Rediscovered exhibition.
A peaceful summer home
The original castle was built in the thirteenth century as part of the defences of Brussels. Over the following centuries it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The castle was eventually changed into a peaceful summer home and was owned by a succession of Belgium’s noble families. Lamoraal, Count of Egmond, was one of the most celebrated residents. In the late eighteenth century, the castle was sold to the wealthy Italian Arconati Visconti family.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Marchioness Arconati Visconti converted the castle into a more contemporary home, after the death of her husband. She transformed the rooms to contain her collections. Much is in the Neo-Renaissance style, which was the Marchioness’ favourite historic period. In 1921, the Marchioness gave the castle to the Belgian State. Three years later, the castle reopened as a museum but still retaining the air of a sumptuous home.
The exhibition “Feast of Fools” celebrates a large number of 20th-century artists who have been influenced by Bruegel, one of Flanders’ most famous citizens. It is a sad truth that many people would not be able to point to Flanders on a map, but most will recognise the name of this iconic artist.
Disguised and cryptic social statements
The exhibition features not only more contemporary paintings but also music, the written word and film. It’s a unique opportunity to learn more about Bruegel’s fascination of simple folk, and his disguised and cryptic social statements which would perhaps have been more readily understood in his day.
The Flemish countryside inspired Bruegel. His winter landscapes of 1565, such as The Hunters in the Snow, attest to the severity of winters during the Little Ice Age. Bruegel often painted local feasts and celebrations, as in The Peasant Wedding. He and his friends would shamelessly gate-crash such events in order to find material for future works. It is said that many of these party-goers have been faithfully represented on canvas. Now we can see following generations taking inspiration from Bruegel’s subject matter.
He often depicted people with disabilities, such as in The Blind Leading the Blind. Even the able-bodied characters are far from beautiful, and frequently drunk. His style would lend itself to being transformed into animation, in these modern times. One gazes at the work of this renowned artist and visualises the lives of the village people, their relationships and their sense of fun.
Creation by Rimini Protokoll
The Gaasbeek Castle Feast of Fools: Bruegel Rediscovered exhibition also presents a creation by Rimini Protokoll, one of Germany’s most creative theatre companies. They have developed a striking immersive Virtual Reality installation that focuses on the contemporary food industry, with the ironic title: ‘Feast of Food’. There are numerous references to food in Bruegel’s paintings, and there are other works and installations here giving a nod to Bruegel.