Call for projects open to artists and curators
Contextualisation of a work in situ - painted plaster equestrian statue of Leopold II at the Art & History Museum (Cinquantenaire Park - Brussels)
Call for projects open to artists and curators with the support of Belspo and the Brussels Region.
The work to be contextualised is a plaster original of the equestrian statue of Leopold II made by Thomas Vinçotte (1850-1925), of which a definitive bronze version was installed and is still located place du Trône, and another was moved to Mont Ngaliema, Kinshasa, DRC. This plaster statue was donated to the Belgian State and the Royal Museums of Art and History by friends of the sculptor, who raised funds after his death to buy it from his widow (probably also to support her financially). The donors' only condition was that the work be exhibited "permanently on the premises of the Royal Museums of Art and History in the Parc du Cinquantenaire". On 15 November 1933, the statue was unveiled in the presence of Queen Elisabeth. It overlooks the museum's Great Narthex.
The Royal Museums of Art and History are launching a call for projects open to professional artists and curators.As the equestrian statue is part of the Royal Museums of Art and History’s heritage, the chosen project must not have an irreversible effect. The contextualisation/installation is for the long term, but the museum is not committed to making it permanent. The proposed concept may also involve moving the work within the museum.
An initial selection will be made on the basis of a CV and a sketch or design proposal. Artists are requested to submit a portfolio. The criteria for this first selection will evaluate the artistic aspect (poetic force, experience), the museal aspect (respect for heritage, integrity of the work and the space), and the visitor experience (the proposal must be readable for the museum's public). The working method and feasibility of the proposal will also be taken into account.
An independent jury will select a maximum of five artists/curators who will be invited to submit a detailed project. For this phase, a sum of €1,500 (incl. VAT) is foreseen for artists/curators who are not selected.
A fee of €9,000 (excluding production costs) has been earmarked for the artist/curator selected. An amount of €12,500 has been earmarked for production costs. In the detailed project phase, participants must submit a production budget, as well as additional sources of funding if the production budget exceeds the planned budget.
Call publication date: 30 June 2023
Applications are due by 30 September 2023, in pdf format, by email to the following address: call_contextualisation_statue_LII@kmkg-mrah.be.
A detailed project will be requested three months after the announcement of the shortlist. Installation is scheduled for autumn 2024.
A “Decolonising public spaces in the Brussels-Capital Region” workgroup issued recommendations in 2021 concerning colonial statues in public spaces and museums. With regard to the equestrian statue of Leopold II, the recommendations only concern the bronze statue on Place du Trône.
- Consensus to remove or modify the statue (particularly given its geographical location). The Working Group recommends a phased process:
- social dialogue phase: the statue is covered by a temporary structure that serves as a medium for a historical explanation and announcement of the intervention process, then unbolted and the empty base is used for theatrical or artistic interventions.
- decision phase: either melt down the statue and transform it into a memorial in honour of the victims of colonisation (artists mentioned: Sammy Baloji, Laura Nsengiyumva and Freddy Tsimba), or move it (depository/dump) and establish a narrative on the freed-up space.
- Please note: the report states that "even melting (...) will not prevent the replica from being kept at the RMAH", but insists that it must be contextualised.
In 2021, the museum contextualised the work with an explanatory label:
EQUESTRIAN STATUE OF LEOPOLD II
(Borgerhout, 1850 - Schaerbeek, 1925). Equestrian Statue of Leopold II. 1925. Plaster. Gift “un groupe d’amis et d’admirateurs de Thomas Vinçotte”
In 1880, the Cinquantenaire Park was inaugurated on the occasion of Belgium's fiftieth anniversary. For almost twenty years, it hosted major exhibitions and international events. In 1889, part of the collections of the Art & History Museum were transferred there. The museum complex gradually expanded and integrated this wing of the building in 1920.
Friends of the sculptor Thomas Vinçotte (1850-1925) raised funds after his death to donate this original plaster statue to the Belgian state. On 15 November 1933, the statue was
unveiled in the presence of Queen Elisabeth. It pays tribute to King Leopold II (1835-1909), who made a crucial contribution to the urbanisation and rejuvenation of Brussels, which the Cinquantenaire Park illustrates perfectly.
This place of honour can be seen as contributing to the image of Leopold II as a great leader. However, the monarch is known around the world for the part he played in the misdeeds that claimed countless victims in the Congo Free
State. Criticism of this regime led to the transfer of the colony to the Belgian state in 1908. Historians agree on the unbridled capitalist greed, marked by crime and dehumanization, displayed by Leopold II when he governed Congo.
The Art & History Museum is a place dedicated to fascination for beauty and to understanding the past. The glorification of Leopold II embodied in this equestrian statue cannot be defended; nevertheless, the decision was made not to remove it, as aversion to the horrors of the past can also be a lesson for the present.
The text will be adapted to the recommendations of the "Decolonising public spaces in the Brussels-Capital Region" working group and will highlight the following narrative elements:
- - Leopold II's absolute power over the independent state of Congo;
- - the close link between the government of Leopold II in Congo and capitalism;
- - the millions of victims;
- - land grabbing;
- - economic exploitation;
- - "classification" and "racial segregation";
- - the proximity with Matonge/the various forms of resistance and opposition/urban development projects/the marking of the Royal Quarter (these suggestions can only concern the original statue, located on Place du Trône).
The file attached to this call explains how the statue and its painted plaster double were created, and sets out the recommendations of the "Decolonising public space in the Brussels-Capital Region" working group:
- Recommendations of the "Decolonising public space in the Brussels-Capital Region" working group : file in French
- ARCHIVES DES MRAH - Dons et legs - dossier 1542 - Don de la maquette en plâtre de la statue de Léopold II de Thomas Vinçotte (1933)-1
- Coupures de presse ARCHIVES DES MRAH - Dons et legs - dossier 1542 - Don de la maquette en plâtre de la statue de Léopold II de Thomas Vinçotte (1933)-1-1