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Decor at Villa Empain Brussels

What is the relationship between art and decoration? Art historians agree that the two categories diverged at the dawn of modernity, around 1800, when the work of art became autonomous, containing its...
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Text by Ray Hu

What is the relationship between art and decoration? Art historians agree that the two categories diverged at the dawn of modernity, around 1800, when the work of art became autonomous, containing its own meaning instead of functioning as part of an environment. But even as art has transcended the mandate of decoration during the last two centuries, its relationship to both its architectural setting and its social significance has evolved as well. On view now at the Boghossian Foundation’s Villa Empain, the new exhibition Decor highlights how artists in the 20th and 21st centuries have revisited the historic role of art ass decoration.

Drawing on the philosophies of Hegel and Gadamer, the three curators behind Decor start with broad questions about modernity itself. Tino Sehgal, Dorothea von Hantelmann, and Asad Raza bring their collective expertise to the topic, acknowledging that the museum itself “ritualizes” the work of art. Yet they also note that “‘Decorative’ should not be taken as merely ornamental, nor, in its negative connotation, as only superficially pleasant”. The result is rather more ambiguous, as illustrated by artists including Carl Andre, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Pierre Huyghe, Jeff Koons, Philippe Parreno, Rosemarie Trockel, Andy Warhol, and many more.

Decor is on view at the Boghossian Foundation – Villa Empain until 29 January, 2017. For more information, visit the Fondation Boghossian website.

Andy Warhol - Silver Clouds (1966), installation view. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Andy Warhol - Silver Clouds (1966), installation view. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Andy Warhol - Silver Clouds (1966), installation view. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Andy Warhol - Silver Clouds (1966), installation view. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Jeff Koons - Inflatable Flower Cut-Out (2000); Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij - Bouquet II (2003). Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Jeff Koons - Inflatable Flower Cut-Out (2000); Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij - Bouquet II (2003). Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster - Chambre l'inhumaine (2016), installation in situ. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster - Chambre l'inhumaine (2016), installation in situ. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres - Untitled (1994). Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres - Untitled (1994). Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Marcel Broodthaers - Decor (1974). Estate Marcel Broodthaers, photo by Philippe de Gobert
Marcel Broodthaers - Decor (1974). Estate Marcel Broodthaers, photo by Philippe de Gobert
Daniel Buren - Entrelacer (2016), work in situ. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Daniel Buren - Entrelacer (2016), work in situ. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Villa Empain, back façade: Daniel Buren - Entrelacer (2016), work in situ. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.
Villa Empain, back façade: Daniel Buren - Entrelacer (2016), work in situ. Photo courtesy Boghossian Foundation/Villa Empain.

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