May 27, 2017 - WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels - The Absent Museum
May 27, 2017

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels

Lucy McKenzie, In My Area (For Kato), 2017. Detail of the mural at Rue des Chartreux/Kartuizerstraat, Brussels. Commissioned by Ans Persoons, Deputy Mayor for Dutch-language Affairs, in charge of the Comic strip trail of the City of Brussels and WIELS. Photo: Chloë Delanghe.

The Absent Museum
Blueprint for a museum of contemporary art for the capital of Europe
April 20–August 13, 2017

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels
Avenue Van Volxemlaan 354
1190 Brussels

T +32 2 340 00 53
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The Absent Museum explores what a museum’s role today could be. Despite the fact that museums—especially those devoted to contemporary art—have never been so popular, they remain notably absent from public debate on most key current issues. In Brussels, as in many metropolitan areas, discussions around the creation of a new museum focus on a building or a collection, but avoid the fundamental question: what is to be done? What content or knowledge should a museum transmit? Which representations will be present, which issues remain absent?

Artists include: Francis Alÿs, Archives de l'Ambassade Universelle, Younes Baba-Ali, Jo Baer, Monika Baer, Sammy Baloji, Guillaume Bijl, Dirk Braeckman, Marcel Broodthaers, stanley brouwn, Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, Marlene Dumas, Jimmie Durham, Jana Euler, Olivier Foulon, Michel François, Ellen Gallagher, Mekhitar Garabedian, Isa Genzken, Jef Geys, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Thomas Hirschhorn, Carsten Höller, Cameron Jamie, Ann Veronica Janssens, Martin Kippenberger, Goshka Macuga, Mark Manders, Lucy McKenzie, Wesley Meuris, Nástio Mosquito, Jean-Luc Moulène, Le Mur, Oscar Murillo, Otobong Nkanga, Felix Nussbaum, Willem Oorebeek, Marina Pinsky, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Gerhard Richter, Walter Swennen, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rosemarie Trockel, Luc Tuymans, Peter Wächtler, Christopher Williams, Nil Yalter.

Exhibition architecture WIELS: Richard Venlet, assisted by Carlo Siegfried

The exhibition includes over 300 works by 47 artists, many of which are new productions. The exhibition takes place across three buildings—WIELS, Brass and Métropole—but also extends into public space. An important new work is made by Lucy McKenzie, a permanent, monumental mural in the centre. Titled In My Area (For Kato), it is a commission by WIELS and the City of Brussels in the context of the comics murals. McKenzie’s mural is festive and anachronistic, revealing her on going interest in the decorative as both an architectural and political element. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

This symposium, featuring a series of individual presentations followed by a panel discussion, offers a discursive platform for the questions raised by The Absent Museum. The speakers are invited to discuss their experience of elaborating different examples of museum practices. With examples from within Europe and the world at large, they all face tensions between identity and tradition, heightened by transnational displacement and technological disruption. What is to be done when long-standing polarizing and simplistic conceptions such as “the West and the rest,” centre and periphery, or high and low have proved inadequate when defining contemporary urgencies? Which institutional methodologies can be proposed to address the issues of a multiple or global modernity? How can existing art museums actively position themselves in the cultural debate and overcome a binary representation of history in favour of nuance and complexity?

In the light of recent discussions around the future foundation of an institution for modern and contemporary art in Brussels, the European capital, what is at stake is the development of tools for negotiating, translating and mediating an open, cosmopolitan and egalitarian place for art, culture and ideas. 

2–5:30pm / WIELS Auditorium
7–8:45pm / BOZAR Studio
Free entrance
In English
Free streaming on the website

2–4:30pm: Introductory notes by Dirk Snauwaert 
Director, WIELS, Brussels

2:30–3:15: Catherine David
Deputy Director, Centre Pompidou, Paris

3:30–4:15pm: Elvira Dyangani Ose
Senior Curator, Creative Time, NYC; Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London; Member of Thought Council, Fondazione Prada

4:30–5:15pm: Marta Dziewańska
Curator, Head of Research, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw & documenta 14 Curatorial Advisor 

Moderated by Zoë Gray, Senior Curator, WIELS, Brussels

5:30pm: Transfer to BOZAR 

7–8:45pm: Panel discussion at BOZAR
with Catherine David, Elvira Dyangani Ose, and Marta Dziewańska
Moderated by Dirk Snauwaert and Nicola Setari, Head of Visual Arts, LUCA School of Arts, Brussels 

This symposium is conceived by WIELS in the framework of The Absent Museum, and elaborated in conjunction with BOZAR and LUCA School of Arts. It is also supported by Kunstenpunt.


Original contributions by the participating contemporary and historical artists, divided in the two sections of the exhibition’s dual retrospective and prospective focus, feature beside curatorial entries. Two essays by museum directors, Charles Esche of Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven and Manuel Borja-Villel of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, and an introductory essay by WIELS director Dirk Snauwaert complete the discursive and theoretical framing of the current issues at stake in public art museums.

Softcover, 210 x 270 cm, 224 pages, 220 colour illustrations
Published by WIELS and Mercatorfonds/Fonds Mercator
EN (ISBN 978-94-6230-174-0
FR (ISBN 978-94-6230-173-3
NL (ISBN 978-94-6230-172-6)

To order a copy, please contact us

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels
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