Groeninge Museum, Bruges, Belgium
October 1, 2014 – May 20, 2015
There are stories we love and stories that we don’t. The unloved are always the most interesting. Ellen Harvey
Ellen Harvey’s new commission for the Groeninge Museum juxtaposes Bruges’s fraught connection to the sea with an alternative view of the Museum’s collection.
Harvey’s installation spans an enfilade of five rooms in which she has replaced the temporary walls that usually conceal the Museum’s art depot with 2.7 m high by 5.2 m wide black mirrors pierced with salon-style openings through which the works in storage can be viewed. The works exhibited are seldom if ever shown. The paintings are organized by subject matter, starting with views of Bruges, then views of the canals linking Bruges to the sea, views of the harbor of Bruges and finally seascapes.
Opposite the mirror in each room save the last, Harvey has hung a painting identical in dimension to the mirror, based on satellite images of Bruges and its connection to its contemporary port of Zeebrugge. As the exhibitions behind the mirrors progress from Bruges to the ocean, so do the paintings, contrasting historical views of Bruges’ ultimately doomed attempts to maintain the silted Zwin canal link to the ocean with a contemporary view of the city that focuses on its connection to its port rather than on the medieval charms for which it is known. Waterways in the painting have been inlaid with mirrors so that as viewer’s walk from Bruges to the ocean, they see themselves and the paintings endlessly multiplied, much as the installation itself offers a multiplicity of views both of the Museum’s collection and of Bruges itself, both challenging and validating Bruges’ status as a work of art in of itself.