Contemporary Baroque in AMUZ

TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | MAIN PHOTO BY JOHAN BECKERS

Since it is settled in a former Baroque church, Antwerp’s unique concert hall AMUZ, which focuses exclusively on historically informed performances, has always been easy on the eye. Yet, its latest additions, three emerald artworks by the city’s most famous artist, Jan Fabre, add a 21st-century touch to its elaborate décor.

Sint-Augustinuskerk, Photo by Koen Van Damme

PHOTO: KOEN VAN DAMME

When the Saint Augustine Church (where AMUZ, a concert hall for classical music, is housed today) was sanctified four centuries ago, paintings by Antwerp’s Baroque grandmasters – Peter Paul Rubens, Antoon Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens – adorned the three altars. In the late 1950s, however, these panels were in a bad shape and had to be moved to the Museum of Fine Arts for restoration. The empty spots were filled by three replicas. “Last year, in the light of the Antwerp Baroque festival, the city of Antwerp decided to replace these copies with more contemporary art,” says Julie Hendrickx, public relations manager at AMUZ. “They asked Jan Fabre – Antwerp’s most famous artist – to reinterpret these three paintings as a salute to the Baroque masters and as a celebration of the church’s 400th birthday.”

AMUZ | Photo by Attilio Maranzano

PHOTO: ATTILIO MARANZANO

This resulted in three regally green tableaus. The central one, replacing the painting by Rubens, illustrates a mighty Lamb of God and a gigantic diamond, referring to Antwerp, the link between Fabre and Rubens. Although from a distance, the masterpieces look like paintings, they are, in fact, made from thousands of shields from real jewel beetles. In the past, Fabre also decorated a ceiling of the Belgian royal palace with these little animals. “These emerald shields fit the baroque atmosphere of AMUZ like a glove. They cause an explosion of colours and a fascinating play of light, just as vivid as the way Rubens used to capture the world.”

Witness the artworks in AMUZ every day from 2pm to 5pm, from 14 July until 14 August, or during one of the many concerts which take place there.

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