Castles in the air

11 September 2009 - 15 November 2009

In the latter days of the Romantic period, Gaasbeek Castle was transformed by the intriguing Marquise Arconati Visconti into a fairytale castle in a revival style. This extreme restoration was a perfect example of an architectural trend. With an imaginative admiration for a distant and idealised past, architectural elements were conjured into new combinations and styles jumbled together. The dreams in stone that this produced formed the setting for a complex interplay of periods and identities. The tour starts with the late-eighteenth-century Strawberry Hill and on the way looks at such great European icons as Pierrefonds, De Haar Castle and Neuschwanstein, ending up at Fabre’s Tivoli and several contemporary interpretations of the notion of the castle.

The exhibition looks not only at the buildings but also at the history of the idea. We try to find the seed from which this phenomenon grew, and look at the influence of literature and at Romanticism as the greatest cultural tendency of the nineteenth century. We consider the dark sides of the gothic revival, the reappraisal of mediaeval culture. We spy on the occupants of the castles in their various roles and historical reveries, and look at some fairytales with magical and creepy castles, toys, (animated) films, … The presence of several remarkable contemporary and often utopian versions makes it apparent that the castle in the air still survives to the present day.

The tour is marked by a number of studiolos, designed by the curator Koen Van Synghel. In each room they present a particular theme, providing both an interpretation and background to the castle setting.

The exhibition combines a variety of media and objects: film and music, models, photos, paintings, historical documents and contemporary art.

Some of the names that appear are: Jean Cocteau, Pierre Cuypers, Wim Delvoye, Peter Depelchin, Lucile Desamory, Walt Disney, Aleksandar Duravcevic, Maurits Cornelis Escher, Jan Fabre, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Jackson, Maurice Maeterlinck, Alphonse Mucha, Nadia Naveau, Aldo Rossi, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

This exhibition is organised by Gaasbeek Castle in association with KADOC. Curator is Koen Van Synghel.