The focus of this first room is to dialogue with our visitors and the experience of seeing art. We challenge your perspective with a mix of old and contemporary art. To experience it critically, to experience it profoundly, and to experience it differently.
You will immediately be struck by the mix of old and contemporary art. A 14th-century pieta is juxtaposed with a 16th-century painting of Calvary by Michiel Coxcie, and Jan Vercruysse’s conceptual work Himalaya Golf. Every artwork or object tells a story. And everyone sees from a different perspective. When you place a 14th-century statue next to a contemporary conceptual painting, the meaning of the first is irrevocably influenced by the second. Add in your own interpretation and the story goes in a completely new direction.
M is removing the classical distinctions between old and contemporary art. Because they tell us more together than they do separately. Peter Carpreau, Conservator and Head of Old Masters
We see images everywhere constantly. We read, understand and write in visual language. Just think of the emojis or selfies in our everyday communications, for example. That is why M is rewriting the language of museums. We are abandoning labels or classical wall texts as the key guides to your visit. In this exhibition, we do not tell you the title, artist, material or size of the artworks. And there is a good reason for that: what you read influences the way you look at something and distracts you from the work itself.
We are abandoning the purely art historical approach. Contemporary visual culture demands a new approach that allows the viewer to see things differently, in ways that are more closely aligned with today’s perspectives and lifestyles. Peter Carpreau, Conservator and Head of Old Masters
Instead, there will be questions, suggestions and sensory labels that encourage you to see more attentively and with greater curiosity. In other words, we are no longer telling you what to see. We want to know what the images say to you. Isabel Lowyck, Head of Public Relations: “Without actually touching a tapestry, you can still feel how hard or soft the material is.”
The Holy Family by Theodor Van Loon, the large Triptych of Calvary by Michiel Coxcie, Rogier Vander Weyden, a life-sized tapestry, an Antwerp altarpiece or contemporary work by Robert Devriendt and Marthe Wéry. You will see them all in the first room, but not in the way you might expect. There is also a beautiful 15th-century panel of scenes of the Passion of Christ. This is a typical example of a work that did not function as art in its own time, but as a support to the pastoral ministry of a priest in a church. It thus had only one interpretation and told one story. Now that it is in a museum, we call it art, and it is open to new interpretations by visitors today. This work is accompanied by a film about research into the way people look at things. The researchers tracked how people look at this work and its various scenes. The result? Everybody looks differently. Everyone has different sight-DNA. Based on the Passion scenes, we will show you how that works in this room. You can also have your own sight-DNA analysed if you want to.
Read more about the eye-tracking research