Expand your horizons in Leuven
TEXT: MONIQUE GADELLA
Leuven in Belgium offers a new perspective on its most famous painter, Dieric Bouts (c 1414 – 1475). A threemonth-long exhibition is accompanied by an extensive festival that includes lectures, guided tours, culinary interpretations of 15th-century recipes and many other activities. It’s a great reason to visit the historic city of Leuven this winter.
Never before have so many works by the artist been brought together in an exhibition called Dieric Bouts. Creator of Images, which will run at M Leuven until 14 January 2024. Masterpieces from the National Gallery in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Prado in Madrid, the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco and from other locations have been brought together for the first time. What is different about this retrospective exhibition is that a radical confrontation with art from today will give visitors a novel perspective on Bouts’ paintings.
The mayor of Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani, says: “Dieric Bouts was a pioneer of his time as an inhabitant of Leuven and city painter. We honour him as an innovator and explorer of new horizons.” He was the first painter in the Low Countries to use a single-point perspective, which had only been used by Italian contemporaries so far. His landscape paintings drew people in like never before. His work was often fantastical, but seemed realistic. Original storyboards of the Star Wars films will be shown in the exhibition to contrast Bouts’ work with today’s landscape fantasy.
The museum is also collaborating with Adalberto Simeone, professor at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Leuven. A specialist in 3D, he zooms in on the different ways in which perspective is used in video games to create realistic, digital worlds.
Contrasting the tradition of the Madonna portraits by Bouts, are photographer and filmmaker Charlotte Abramow and stylist-fashion consultant Tom Eerebout, who curate a selection of contemporary fashion and celebrity photographs. Abromow is known for her collaboration with Belgian singer Angèle; Eerebout worked with Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue and Rita Ora, among others. These are other ways to compare contemporary imagery with Bouts’ imagination.
First and Last Supper
Bouts’ magnus opus, The Last Supper, was painted especially for the Saint Peter’s Church in Leuven and is normally still in situ, but has been transferred to the museum to be seen along with his other works. To replace this important artwork, an installation called The Migration of Wings will be on display. It’s a contemplation in image and sound on the triptych’s dismantling and forced migration by the American artist Jill Magid.
To ensure that more than your artistic buds are tickled, your taste buds will also be in for a treat with the Bouts on Your Plate programme. Local brewery Hof ten Dormaal will brew its Bouts Beer (a Leuven wheat beer, crafted after extensive research into the beers of 600 years ago). Cheese master Elsen is using this refreshing drink to brine its Bouts Cheese, giving it a unique flavour. Several restaurant serve special Bouts dishes. The original beer-food pairing ‘The First Supper’ by Brewery De Coureur is a great starter to your culinary discovery tour.
Find Dieric Bouts on foot
Swept up in Bouts’ wake, visitors are also invited to stroll the Town Hall’s historic rooms. Bouts and Beyond allows you to come closer to the painter and his unique relationship with Leuven through an audio-guided trail. Journey from 1468 to the present day as authentic archive documents and audiovisual installations immerse you in the stories, personalities and perspectives of then and now.
To experience the medieval times of Bouts even more, join a city tour, which starts at the flamboyant Town Hall. The guide takes you to the place where Bouts bought his paints, tells you about his extensive social life and makes you see the vibrant city through the painter’s eyes. Another tour shows you pioneers and visionaries who mapped the world, travelled to far-flung places and discovered new inventions.
The ‘New Horizons’ festival also offers Belgium’s first 4D music festival, groundbreaking performances, exhibitions, club nights and more. Come and expand your horizons in Leuven.
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