Ghent makes new connections for Van Eyck year

Summary

The city is funding 31 projects that open up the world of Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece to new audiences

Jan’s the man

Next year Ghent is all about the artist Jan Van Eyck, with a series of events planned to celebrate the 15th-century painter’s association with the city, and to mark the restoration of his “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, otherwise known as the Ghent Altarpiece.

In addition, the city has released a further €500,000 in funding for more than 30 projects that will bring Van Eyck to a range of different audiences.

The focus of the official Van Eyck celebration is the ongoing restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece and the opening of a new visitor centre in Sint-Baafs Cathedral. But the city also wants to encourage other organisations to get involved, and so has set aside funds for projects that make broader connections or reach out to different communities.

“The Van Eyck year will connect organisations and associations throughout the city and the suburbs, making the theme year a project for all Ghent residents,” said Sami Souguir, city councillor responsible for culture.

The 31 projects selected include several exhibitions connecting Van Eyck to contemporary artists, or to calligraphers and designers. There will be performances that explore different aspects of the Ghent Altarpiece, with several aimed at introducing kids to the world of Van Eyck. Meanwhile musical interpretations will range from classical to experimental, and from jazz to metal.

Swim for art

One of the strangest, but most inventive, projects will take place at the city’s Van Eyck Swimming Pool. From September to December 2020, swimmers will be able to join one of two virtual teams, Team Jan or Team Hubert, the latter named after Jan’s mysterious artist brother.

The number of lengths they swim, counted with a digital wristband, contributes to each team’s total and in turn converts into a donation to charity. While doing their lengths, swimmers can listen to a six-part play about the conflict between the two brothers on a waterproof MP3 player. The whole project has been devised by Ghent-based social storytelling agency Chase Creative.

Another unusual connection is a project from bio-design studio Glimps, which will link the artistic innovations of the Van Eyck brothers with biotechnology.

Meanwhile, Ghent University Museum will combine science and art with a pop-up exhibition on perspective and geometry in the work of Van Eyck, and the Universiteit van Vlaanderen platform will organise an online lecture series around Van Eyck. Questions up for discussion include “Was Jan Van Eyck an artist or a craftsman?” and “Why are Adam and Eve in the Ghent Altarpiece so unattractive?”

Photo: Portrait of a Man in a Turban by Jan Van Eyck (1433) is thought to be a self-portrait. Click on photo for full image
©National Gallery, London