With Sculpture Link, Knokke-Heist is making an exhibition of itself


The outdoor exhibition at the coast puts contemporary art works along the seafront – with mixed results

Art meets public space

When the Beaufort triennial art festival comes around, placing contemporary art works along the coast, Knokke-Heist is often one of the dissenting towns. In 2015 it complained about the art on offer and threatened to opt out next time, though it seems to have come around to the plans for Beaufort 2018.

In the meantime, it’s doing its own thing. The 24th edition of Sculpture Link places 14 contemporary art works along the seafront, from Heldenplein in Heist to De Wielingen in Het Zoute. The results show just how tricky it is to match art and public space in an effective, inspiring way.

Where the art in Beaufort tends to interact with its environment, often venturing on to the beach or up into the dunes, Sculpture Link keeps to itself. The sculptures are ranged along the promenade and few seem to have been chosen to work with their surroundings.

One exception is “Around the World” by Brussels-born artist Phil Billen, a large ring of scrap metal and wood with a boat riding around the outside (pictured). Set against a relatively clear stretch of beach, the view of the sea behind means that tankers and other boats moving off the coast often find themselves becoming part of the work.

Bigger and brasher

Elsewhere, however, the subtler or more abstract works get lost in the street furniture, or are overshadowed by the sculptures put out by the town’s galleries. There are also distractions in Knokke-Heist’s permanent collection, such as Osip Zadkine’s “The Poet” on Albertplein, or “Socorristas de Biarritz X-X” by the Spanish artist Aurora Cañero, two lifeguards in the dunes between Heist and Duinbergen.

In the end it’s the bigger, brasher figurative pieces in Sculpture Link that work the best. At the Heist end there is the bright “L’Hirondelle” (The Swallow) by Dutch artist Clemens Briels, a psychedelic merging of woman and bird that recalls Niki de Saint-Phalle or Yellow Submarine.

Then at the Zoute end, there is “Pluie de soleil” (Rain of Sunshine) by Flemish artist Dirk De Keyzer, a tall, curving female figure with a tiny parasol, which once again is fortunate to have only sand and some beach huts as a backdrop.

Sculpture Link is a prelude to the 42nd Art Nocturne Knokke, an evening art fair at the town’s Scharpoord cultural centre. It runs from 5 to 15 August, when Sculpture Link also closes.

Photo: Ian Mundell