press release

WIELS presents The Absent Museum, a temporary exhibition that explores what a museum’s role today could be. Despite the fact that museums—especially those devoted to contemporary art—have never been so popular, they remain notably absent from public debate on most key current issues. In Brussels, as in many metropolitan areas, discussions around the creation of a new museum focus on a building or a collection, but avoid the fundamental question: what is to be done? What content or knowledge should a museum transmit?

Although WIELS does not have the status of a museum, it is commonly referred to as "the WIELS museum." Over the past decade, WIELS has established a reputation for its critically engaged programme. To mark its 10th anniversary, WIELS proposes a substantive framework—or blueprint—for a possible museum of contemporary art in the capital of Europe. In this speculative exhibition, existing works and new productions by contemporary and historical artists interpret the challenges that museums face today: which issues should a museum propel into the realm of careful consideration? Which absences or lacunae in museum collections should be redressed? Which new or parallel histories should be told? Whose identities should be represented, shaped, or confirmed?

The Absent Museum is both a look backwards at the journey that WIELS has made so far and a projection of its future development. As such, it includes several contributions by artists who have previously exhibited at WIELS while also setting forth certain directions for the future. In their choice of artists, the curators have focused on those leading discourse, drawing from the wealth of artists in the wider region, from Amsterdam to Paris, from Cologne and Düsseldorf to London, with Brussels at the crossroads.

This exhibition of works by 47 artists is held throughout three landmark buildings of the former Wielemans brewery site: WIELS, BRASS and Métropole. The project also encompasses an important partnership with the cross-disciplinary Kunstenfestivaldesarts. Like WIELS, the annual Kunstenfestivaldesarts is a platform for artistic creation and the exchange of ideas, rooted in Brussels with an international outlook. It is thus an obvious ally for such a project. Together, WIELS and the Kunstenfestival have invited four artists to present ambitious projects: Carsten Höller hosts 24 hours of un-determination in a re-creation of The Boudewijn/Baudouin Experiment; Otobong Nkanga presents a new version of her sculptural and performative meditation on belonging; Lili Reynaud-Dewar presents the world première of a tragic pop opera; and Nástio Mosquito creates an out-of-hours tour through the exhibition in the guise of a new persona. And, in collaboration with the City of Brussels, WIELS invites Lucy McKenzie to create her own interpretation of a cartoon mural, to be unveiled as a permanent installation in public space as part of The Absent Museum.

Artists: Francis Alÿs, Archives of the Universal Embassy, Younes Baba-Ali, Jo Baer, Monika Baer, Sammy Baloji, Guillaume Bijl, Dirk Braeckman, Marcel Broodthaers, stanley brouwn, Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, Marlene Dumas, Jimmie Durham, Jana Euler, Olivier Foulon, Michel François, Ellen Gallagher, Mekhitar Garabedian, Isa Genzken, Jef Geys, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Thomas Hirschhorn, Carsten Höller, Cameron Jamie, Ann Veronica Janssens, Martin Kippenberger, Goshka Macuga, Mark Manders, Lucy McKenzie, Wesley Meuris, Nástio Mosquito, Jean-Luc Moulène, Le Mur, Oscar Murillo, Otobong Nkanga, Felix Nussbaum, Willem Oorebeek, Marina Pinsky, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Gerhard Richter, Walter Swennen, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rosemarie Trockel, Luc Tuymans, Richard Venlet, Peter Wächtler, Christopher Williams, Nil Yalter

Curators: Dirk Snauwaert with Zoë Gray, Frédérique Versaen, Caroline Dumalin & Charlotte Friling