Decor @ Villa Empain

Boghossian Foundation – Villa Empain

Villa Empain

Away from the center of Brussels you can find this magnificent building, located on the grand avenue Franklin Roosevelt in Ixelles. Villa Empain was designed by the architect Michel Polak and was built in 1930. Even though it always looks sumptuous, these last months it looks even more stunning. The Boghossian Foundation currently presents an exhibition about the decorative in modern and contemporary art. For this occasion the French artist Daniel Buren decorated the windows with his familiar patterns in the primary colors green, red, yellow and blue. It creates a playground of colors, not only on the outside but also inside the building, as you will see further on.

The exhibition, called Decor, opened up for the public in September 2016. Due to the unexpected success they announced the extension until 2 April 2017. It will also be open during Museum Night Fever this month.

If you haven’t seen it yet I hope this blog post can convince you to pay a visit before it closes.


Mosaic used in the bathroom upstairs

It’s not a coincidence that the curators (Tino Sehgal, Dorothea von Hantelmann & Asad Raza) chose this location. The villa is completely constructed in Art Deco style with lots of decorative elements. Marble, mosaics, gold leaf, ornamental ironwork and polished granite are the main materials that are used here. The original decorative elements enter into dialogue with the art works chosen by the curators.

AC/DC Snake by Philippe Parreno

This work by Philippe Parreno beautifully illustrates the dialogue I was talking about. ‘Is it a functional or decorative object?’ is the first thing that comes in your mind. Parreno often creates these kind of objects that inevitably interact with the environment. It can not be disconnected from the plug or it loses its power, literally and figuratively speaking. The marble makes us wonder which one of the two is the most esthetic, the object or the environment?

Silver Clouds, 1966 by Andy Warhol

Pop artist Andy Warhol turned daily objects into art. By using mass production methods in creating his art he also criticized our consumer culture. Like these helium filled balloons that represent ordinary clouds in the sky. If you see them independently you wouldn’t see them as art. That brings us to the main questions asked in this exhibition:

  • Is it the function of art to decorate a space or room?
  • Or is art valuable enough on its own?

Or should we see it more like Marchel Duchamp? He said that an object is a piece of art because it is presented in a museum context and because the artist decided to call it ‘art’.

I think the curators show us that you shouldn’t see art as simply decoration, but you can’t ignore the environment either. The chosen art works become more powerful when presented of this environment. You pay more attention to them because they are presented in this unique location.

Sunlight reflections – ground floor
L’Appel, 2011 by Johan Baudart
Sunlight reflections – first floor

More infos?

Standard admission price: €10

During Museum Night Fever you can visit 23 museums in Brussels for €11!

Current exhibitions



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