Antwerp Public Art Collection presents Lili Dujourie: Mimesis

Antwerp Public Art Collection presents Lili Dujourie: Mimesis

Middelheim Museum

Lili Dujourie, Mimesis, 2022. Photo: Sigrid Spinnox.

November 8, 2022
Lili Dujourie: Mimesis
Presented by Antwerp Public Art Collection
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA)
Leopold de Waelplaats 2
2000 Antwerp
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The Antwerp Public Art Collection (Kunst in de Stad—Middelheim Museum) proudly presents Mimesis, a newly commissioned artwork by visual artist Lili Dujourie (1941, Belgium). This monumental sculpture marks the first public work by Dujourie, as well as the first time she produced a work in bronze.

Mimesis is commissioned by the city of Antwerp on the occasion of the reopening of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) in the autumn of 2022. Since the original opening of the museum in 1890, the plinth that flanks the left side of the grand steps leading to the museum has remained empty. Now, it has become the site of a unique and highly site-responsive contemporary artwork.

Traditionally, pedestals serve to create a distance between a statue and the public, between the artwork and the “ordinary world”. Here, however, the sculpture—a network of roots and an abstract tree trunk—reaches down to the ground, and finds firm soil in the shared public space of the city. Dujourie thus connects the museum with the world and shortens the distance between the street and the imposing museum building.

The clean-cut line of the bronze elements refers to drawing, now set against a background of Belgian blue stone rather than paper or canvas. The colour and texture of the sculpture are nods to other artworks in the immediate vicinity: Fame by Léon Mignon on the opposite plinth (1896, collection KMSKA) and Deep Fountain by Cristina Iglesias (2006, Antwerp Public Art Collection) in front of the museum. With the latter, Mimesis also shares a reference to nature and organic forms.

Nature, together with the human form, is perhaps the most prominent motif in art history. And just as the many painted or sculpted bodies in the KMSKA collection convey an idealised body-image, nature also has long been the subject of the artistic pursuit of perfection. This tradition of representing an ideal world is termed art historically with the ancient Greek word mimesis.

Dujourie’s work refers to this tradition and is also an extension of it. She does not offer a romantic or naturalistic imitation of a tree, but rather the representation of the thought of a tree. The thought of tree roots that, whilst unseen, have been part of a millennia-old vital system. A global underground network of collaboration and healing. That which normally remains invisible now becomes the object of reflection and observation.

The roots that “grow” over the plinth carry many symbolic associations that will grow over time, and grow together with the city and the museum. Lili Dujourie shows that a museum and its building can be a source of life. The roots also refer to the past as fertile ground: just like tree roots, (art) history is erratically branched and therefore always multiple, never singular or linear. Roots are a strong symbol of origin and inspiration, of nourishment and growth. If museums are depositories of heritage, we must not forget that this heritage too has a complex and intricate history that stems from divergent roots. The motif of the tree also evokes an ecological reading of the work, in which nature is evoked as a primal force in relation to human culture.

Curator: Samuel Saelemakers, curator Antwerp Public Art Collection
Project development: Bart Spillemaeckers
Production: Art Casting

About the artist
The work of Lili Dujourie (1941, Roeselare, Belgium) mixes influences from Flemish Primitives such as Jan Van Eyck with her personal artistic approach, departing from the late 1960s. Core themes in her oeuvre are the relationship between nature and culture, the passage and weight of time and her search for an emotional understanding of space.

Dujourie was Laureate of the Flemish Culture Prize for Visual Arts in 2015. Her work is collected by leading Belgian and international museums, as well as private collections.

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