Art meets the great outdoors in Limburg exhibition


With an outdoor exhibition and months of events focused on biodiversity, Nieuwenhoven recreational domain in Limburg is the place to be this summer

Living art gallery

Last week, an exhibition on the theme of biodiversity opened in Limburg’s Nieuwenhoven recreational domain. The exhibition, called simply Biodiversity Nieuwenhoven 2014, is conceived as a stroll among works of art, while exploring Nieuwenhoven in all its facets.

Curator Jos Herck is my enthusiastic guide on a beautiful day. The first stop is the castle garden, maintained according to permaculture principles. It’s a heroic task, because the stretch of land is huge. Here, the first piece by one of the 31 participating artists pops up: a large banana rising above the nettles (pictured), by Dutch sculptor Etienne van Berlo.

Biodiversity might not sound very exciting as a topic for an art exhibition, but the environment demands it. Nieuwenhoven Castle and the adjacent provincial recreation park are in a delightful part of Limburg’s Haspengouw region. Together they cover 160 hectares of forest, the largest in a beautiful but mainly agricultural region.

“In fact, bringing art outside doesn’t differ much from how you would handle it inside,” says Herck, who has previously worked on art in public spaces with the non-profit organisation Kunst-Groen (Art Green). “It’s just a room, but with a mass of interfering elements. A real ‘living room’, if you like.”

The year of biodiversity

Herck walked the property over and over in planning the show. “The landscape, the grass, the trees... Everything here is in a constant change. That had to be part of the exhibition. The diversity of this area is something that visitors often don’t notice because part of the route is not normally accessible. You have the garden, the meadows and the forest itself. Some pieces are wild and not very accessible, other pieces rather  easier. That offered a large variety of possible exhibition spots.”

We walk over undulating grassland. An artist has decorated a stake set up as a resting place for birds of prey. Another artist has used wooden boards to make a pattern in the grass and photographed the image from the air.

Certain spots really lend themselves to the work of a certain artist

- Curator Jos Herck

But why the theme of biodiversity? “This is the year of biodiversity for the centre,” explains Herck. “The request to set up this exhibition came from Nieuwenhoven itself.” The domain is supporting the project with the province of Limburg and the city of Sint-Truiden.

“I started looking for artists who were already working on the theme of nature,” continues Herck. “The artists were selected in a combination of their work and the possible locations. Certain spots really lend themselves to the work of a certain artist: That is  also diversity to me.”

The trek leads deeper into the forest. Suddenly we bump into a tough-looking sculpture by Mark Leyman, followed by a kind of veil of stone. The works at the end of the walk are more conceptual.

“Most of the works are open to change, also” says Herck. “New elements pop up, others disappear. This process is documented and presented itself as a work of art. In the four months that the exhibition will run, there will be much to see. And the walk alone is worth the visit.”

Nieuwenhoven is also hosting a number of workshops, markets and events related to biodiversity over the next several months. In July and August, you’ll find a permaculture festival, guided walks, a farm featuring alpacas, horses and bats and a potluck picnic.

Until 19 October, Provincial Domain Nieuwenhoven, Hasseltsesteenweg, Sint-Truiden

Nieuwenhoven recreational domain in Limburg is the place to be this summer

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