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Middelheim Museum unveils a new addition to its permanent collection by Antony Gormley
Antony Gormley, Firmament III 2009. Installation view Frac Lorraine 2010. ©Rémi Villaggi.

ANTWERP.- British artist Antony Gormley is the second guest artist to come and display his work in the renovated Middelheim Museum. The Firmament and Other Forms exhibition, a series of sculptures that have never been shown together to the public before, is open until 5 May in Het Huis (The House) at the Hortiflora. This exhibition was put together following the gift of the major work Firmament III by the artist’s gallery, Xavier Hufkens. The collection presentation 1+1=33, with works by Vic Gentils and Rezsö Berczeller, is also being presented and can be viewed in the Braempaviljoen (Braem Pavilion).

Antony Gormley (1950, United Kingdom) follows Thomas Schütte as guest exhibitor in the new semi-open exhibition pavilion Het Huis (The House), built by Robbrecht and Daem for the renovated Middelheim Museum. The open-air museum is now organising three exhibitions each year. The Braempaviljoen (Braem Pavilion) will feature two collection presentations each year.

Firmament III
Antony Gormley’s pieces are on display in many prestigious galleries and museums around the world. Now the artist’s gallery, the Brussels-based Xavier Hufkens, has made possible an important donation: Firmament III.

The work is displayed at a unique location in the oldest section of the Middelheim Museum next to the main entrance. The work can now be seen on a permanent basis.

Firmament III (2009) is an irregular three dimensional net surrounding a human-shaped void approximately ten times life-size. At the open-air museum this work will pick up the light of the changing seasons and be a constant invitation to the visitor to consider his or her place in the order of things.

Exhibition Firmament and Other Forms in Het Huis
To highlight this extraordinary acquisition, a series of Gormley’s ‘polyhedra’ sculptures – never before exhibited as a collection – are on display in Het Huis (The House), the new exhibition pavilion designed by Robbrecht and Daem, also until 5 May 2013. In the words of the artist: ”This exhibition questions the human body’s attachment to architecture and investigates the place of the human body within the wider frame of things and worlds. All the works are based on the ‘bubble-matrix’; a random, but consistent geometry found in nature which also forms the structural syntax of Firmament III.”

For almost forty years Antony Gormley has been exploring the relationship between the body and the space that surrounds it. Sometimes the interaction between the two is clear, as in Another Place or Inside Australia, in which figurative works are placed within a vast landscape. But sometimes the link is less obvious. Sculptures such as Clearing or Blind Light create a framework within which the viewer becomes the focus of attention.

Antony Gormley always uses his own body as a test site. This can be taken literally: he frequently casts his sculptures from his own body. What interests the artist is not only the aesthetic, but also the human aspect of the form: the person as an individual, as a member of the collective and as an object in relation to space and the natural world. Antony Gormley often engages in public art as well. A well-known example of such a participative work is One & Other, his interpretation of the Fourth Plinth art project in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Collection presentation 1+1=33 in the Braempaviljoen.-
Since May, it has been possible to (re)discover internationally important pieces from the Middelheim collection in the Braempaviljoen (Braem Pavilion). A collection is presented twice a year; sometimes this is done in association with a guest curator who makes his or her own quirky selection and sometimes the museum itself selects exceptional pieces to place in the spotlight. These are works that have been acquired specially for the Braempaviljoen or which are too fragile to be displayed outdoors. The Middelheim Museum storage, designed by Stéphane Beel, houses many gems of modern and contemporary sculpture.

Fashion designers Bernhard Willhelm (1972, Germany) and Jutta Kraus (1972, Germany) made an initial selection that produced a surprising arrangement. For the second collection, the Middelheim Museum presents Chess Set by Vic Gentils (1919-1997, Belgium). This monumental installation with thirty-two exceptional pieces represents a turning point in Gentils’ oeuvre. With this piece, he verges extremely closely on the boundary between the non-figurative and the figurative, a boundary that he transcended shortly thereafter. The scenography reinforces the concept of a battle or game of chess, but also offers the physical possibility of viewing the installation from different perspectives, for a longer period and in total comfort.

Along with this piece, Impaled by Rezsö Berczeller (1912-1992, Hungary) is also on display. This artist, who is not as familiar to us, worked on the other side of Europe at the same time as Gentils, on a piece that at first glance appears to have a strong connection to that of the Belgian artist. The Hungarian’s oeuvre is actually influenced by the Second World War and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and is almost entirely devoted to the downfall of man. The Middelheim Museum is working on a new version of the collection catalogue for summer 2013, which will also include this piece.

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