The Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille is staging an exhibition with international appeal in 2012 : “The Fantastic and the Fabulous in sixteenth-century Flemish landscape painting : Bosch, Bruegel, Bles and Bril”. Alongside this exhibition, BABEL is the first exclusively contemporary exhibition on the theme of the most famous of architectural allegories in art history : the Tower of Babel.
BABEL features a set of paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, films and original comic strips illustrating the many facets of the Babel myth in contemporary art. In keeping with the Bible story, the selection addresses the building and destruction of the Tower as well as its symbolic aspect. From German painter Anselm Kiefer through to British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, the allegories illustrate the episodes in Genesis that resonate with our world as we know it.
The Tower building, divine blessing, the babbling tongues and the spreading of peoples are depicted via the prism of contemporary history. The current popularity of the Tower of Babel echoes that enjoyed by 16th-century Flemish art. With a profusion of references to art history, the artists offer a new slant on paintings by Bruegel, Cleve, Valckenborch, Verhaecht and Momper.
In large-format photography and painting, in futuristic films and comic strips, contemporary and futuristic Babels are represented as organic architecture, via which as in a mirror, we recognise our vanity, and the pride that suffuses all we do and the irrational aspect of human ambition. In this moral, philosophical perspective, contemporary expression formulates a critique of the yearning for power via the image of Babel.
Following the example of the Flemish Renaissance Towers, teeming with detail merging Ancient Roman architecture with that of the building of cathedrals, the sheer wealth of formal and graphic contemporary views of Babel provide a concentrate of ancient, modern and current references, to giddying effect.
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
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