Brussels celebrates 100 years of Surrealism with two major exhibitions

To celebrate 100 years of Surrealism, Bozar highlights the Belgian scene in "Histoire de ne pas rire" (History of Not Laughing). "Imagine" at the Royal Museums for Fine Arts brings together international surrealists.

Belgium is a surreal country in many respects, including art. Despite the worldwide fame of René Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe), the French writer André Breton initiated the movement with his first surrealist manifesto in 1924. Breton advocated art and literature without the control of reason.

A slight twist on everyday reality

Surrealism cannot be classified as a real style; it is more of a "state of mind", Ann Geeraerts, assistant curator of the Bozar exhibition, told VRT NWS. The Belgian Surrealists offered "a slight twist on everyday reality", they had humour and were very politically engaged. From a left-wing, communist perspective, they wanted to change society.

Belgian Surrealists history

With the exhibition "Histoire de ne pas rire", Bozar delves into the history of the Belgian Surrealists. The exhibition includes 260 paintings, drawings, photographs, collages, objects and numerous paper documents. They are uniquely presented on panels separated from the museum walls.

At the same time, the Royal Museums for Fine Arts in Brussels (KMSKB) are presenting a major exhibition of Surrealist art entitled "Imagine". It is "an invitation to visitors to let their imaginations run wild, just as the Surrealists did," says curator Francisca Vandepitte. It is the first in a series of international surrealist exhibitions. After Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Hamburg and Philadelphia will host similar exhibitions, each with a different approach.

Internationally renowned names

The KMSKB features internationally renowned names such as Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico. It also includes 17 works by female Surrealists such as Dorothea Tanning and Meret Oppenheim. Surprising combinations are made with paintings by Symbolists such as Fernand Khnopff, who are as mysterious as the Surrealists.

In themed rooms such as Night or Forest, visitors can observe and compare, says Francisca Vandepitte. "And sometimes you will doubt who is the symbolist or the surrealist". The exhibition at the KMSKB is also extensive, with almost 140 works.

"Histoire de ne pas rire" in Bozar from 21 February to 16 June 2024; "Imagine" at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts from 21 February to 21 July 2024.


© Hans Lucas via AFP

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