Wednesday 15 July 2015

Review of Bruges Triennial 2015

Bruges Triennial 2015
Contemporary art and architecture in the historical city of Bruges
20 May – 18 October 2015

Bruges is to Belgium something like Bath is to the UK: a city steeped in history, whose inhabitants are a little sceptical when it comes to contemporary art. Or this, at least, is the comparison offered by adopted Bruggian, director of Musea Brugge and head curator of the Groeningemuseum and Arentshuis, Till-Holger Borchert, who, along with Michel Dewilde, curator of visual arts at the Cultural Centre, Bruges, has been working hard to bring back to life the Bruges Triennial for the first time since 1974. Borchert, who is better known as a Van Eyck expert and aficionado of Flemish primitivism, confidently says he sees no difference between that kind of art and the über-contemporary public sculptures that have now sprung up across the city for the five-month duration of the triennial.

The triennial’s theme is global urbanisation and the birth of the “megacity” or megalopolis. Bruges itself was preserved and restored to its medieval form in the 19th century, and is thus far from fitting such a category. A relatively small city, with 117,000 inhabitants, 22,000 of whom live in the centre, Bruges welcomes around 5.3 million tourists every year. What would happen, the curators posit, if these visitors all decided to stay? Would Bruges not then be compelled to transform into a modern megacity?

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