When the Middelheim Museum added the former Hortiflora flower garden of Nachtengalenpark (Nightingale Park) to its grounds last year, it also acquired a new exhibition area: a formally designed garden hidden behind a lush layer of greenery. The summer exhibition My Little Paradise (Mijn kleine paradijs) puts the spotlight firmly on the Hortiflora. The design of the garden evokes the concept of the Hortus Conclusus – the enclosed garden – a concept that has been loaded with meaning in the world of Western history of art and literature since as far back as the Middle Ages. According to Erasmus, it was a place for contemplation and introspection, for the (once very powerful) Catholic clients in the world of art, a metaphor for the Annunciation and a representation of the Garden of Eden. It has offered artists since the Flemish Primitives a welcome opportunity to experiment with perspective and space. But non-Western illustrations, from present-day Iraq and China, have also featured enclosed gardens and the “good life” therein since 645 BC.
Today, enclosed gardens are associated with a very different range of aspects. They are the ideal places, for instance, for creating one’s own little personal paradise.
My Little Paradise (Mijn kleine paradijs) gives seven national and international artists the opportunity to reflect on the tension between private and public, the boundaries of personal and psychological space, voluntary isolation and involuntary exclusion. More than sufficient subject matter for a group exhibition designed by Hans Op de Beeck (1969, Belgium), who is also the first selected artist, and Sara Weyns, curator of the Middelheim Museum. The other artists are David Altmejd (1974 Canada), John Cale (1942 Wales), Janet Cardiff (1957, Canada) & George Bures Miller (1960, Canada), Carsten Höller (1961, Belgium), Pascale Marthine Tayou (1967, Cameroon), and Leon Vranken (1975, Belgium).
Middelheim Museum Website