Issue three | Souffleur

Issue three


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Like all domains, art has its own vocabulary. In ‘Souffleur', employees of M explain and give background to professional terms that may sound familiar to you, but of which you may not know, or no longer know, exactly what they mean. Three colleagues give their definition of vanitas, collection presentation and hologram.


Have you spotted an art term somewhere that you would like to see explained by one of our staff?


Peter Carpreau, head of the Ancient Art Department

“Vanitas is a Latin word. It means both ‘vanity’ and ‘transience’. It is especially in this second sense that it has become a motif in Western art. Everything that we people work so hard for – money, prestige, power – is finite, empty, insignificant. 


“The symbol of vanitas is the skull. Even if you are the richest, most powerful person in the world: this is all that will be left of you. The vanitas theme occurs in all periods, but it was especially popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is depicted in many different ways. With skulls, but also with rotting fruit, or fading smoke, or even musical instruments: once the last note has been sounded, the song is over. For good.”


“A very pessimistic view, you might say, but the artists saw it more as a moral lesson. Do not attach too much importance to earthly vanities, but turn to God. He is eternal and can save you from mortality.


Eveline De Wilde, Collection Manager Contemporary Art

“We use the term ‘exhibition’ in M when we invite an artist to show their work, or when we set up a thematic presentation that includes many external artworks.” 


“A collection presentation is a different animal. In principle, it only contains objects from M’s own collection, although loans may be included from time to time. The story behind such a presentation comes from the collection itself. The curators let themselves be led by the diversity of objects, they look for similarities, contrasts, connections... This way, we hope to arrive at an innovative view of the collection. At M, the collection is very diverse. We not only keep art, but also, for example, local history objects, archaeological finds and furniture.” 

“We always approach visual culture as something very broad. Visitors must be given the space to find their own story. So we certainly don’t say: this is exactly what this work of art represents, and it has this place in history... We do indicate the origin, but we deliberately mix genres and periods, and we invite the visitor to make connections themselves.” 


“Collection presentations are essential to M. There are of course pieces that are always on display because they are so important. But the ever-changing collection presentations are still our main way of showing what we have.”


Marieke Van Cauwenberge, responsible for reception, sales and visitor management

“A hologram is a three-dimensional photographic projection. A hologram of a chair, for example, looks exactly like a real chair: you can walk around it and look at it from all sides, only you cannot sit down on it – it is only a projection, not a tangible thing. Many people will be familiar with the concept: through science fiction and games, it has become commonplace in popular culture.”


“But we also use holograms at M. For example, there was one in the collection presentation ‘The Power of Images’, an image of a priest.” 


“M also unlocks the art treasures in St Peter’s Church. Since mid-October, we have been offering a guided tour there using the HoloLens. These are smart glasses developed by Microsoft that show you holograms that only you can see. For example, in the chapel of ‘Fiere Margriet’, you really see Margriet floating at your feet, just like in the medieval legend. And in ‘The Last Supper’ by Dieric Bouts, you are practically at the table. You can walk around the holograms, you can look at them from the back... It’s all very spectacular, and a first for Belgium too.

Have you spotted an art term somewhere that you would like to see explained by one of our staff?

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