Nicolaas Rockox (1560-1640) was an Antwerp mayor who commanded great respect in his city. He played an important role in the political, social, and economic life of the first half of the 17th century. Moreover, he was an esteemed humanist, antiquarian, numismatist, patron, and art collector. At the end of his life, he left merely 82 paintings, two-thirds of which were by contemporaries. Since 1622, his neighbour was the Antwerp painter Frans Snijders (1579-1657). He made name mainly as a still-life and animal painter during the first half of the 17th century. Both had a good relationship and were passionate art collectors. The museum's collection shows a vivid picture of their lives in Antwerp at the time.
In the 'Neercamer' of ‘The Snijders House’, Berlinde De Bruyckere and Cindy Wright enter into dialogue with the museum's imposing 16th- and 17th-century hunting & fishing scenes.
It almost seemed a lily VIII (2022) by Berlinde De Bruyckere (°1964, Ghent) is part of the series of the same name (2018-now), inspired by Michelin’s 16th-century 'Besloten Hofjes' (Enclosed Gardens). The retable boxes with hundreds of finely elaborated silk flowers, in all phases of growth and decay, reminded her of withered lilies – the oldest flower mentioned in the bible and therefore widely present in art from the 15th to the 17th century – with their leaves resembling human skin: "I sculpt a leaf as big as myself and carefully hang it in the oak frame. I repeat this action until the 'lily' feeling is right. The leaves are warm and press together. They sag, fuse, and define their own shape. I connect the petals of the lilies with skin, flesh. Their scent with lust and pleasure. The woeful smell as they wither with transience and pain."
In the adjoining room, conversing with the hunting & fishing scenes, Cindy Wright (°1972, Herentals) shows the painting Cornucopia (2022). The title refers to the 'horn of abundance' from Greek mythology. Those who possessed it would never go hungry. The horn became the attribute of various Greek and Roman gods, associated with harvest, prosperity, or spiritual abundance. Wright connects this to a contemporary issue: food shortages on one side of the globe and food waste on the other. The painting depicts a pile of organic waste - the leftovers of a New Year's dinner. It confronts us with our own ecological footprint: the large waste production in our Western world, but also the energy and water wastage or the large CO₂ emissions involved.
The audio room
Walking towards ‘The Rockox House’, one finds in the back of the hallway, the audio room where Emmanuel Van der Auwera (1982, Brussels) presents his video installation Perfect Days (2022). The video is a collection of images from the digital platform ‘virbela’, during the Covid-19 crisis. During the pandemic, this virtual world acted as a safe alternative to hold meetings, but also to satisfy social needs. Each avatar represents a real person. They enter the ‘Metaverse’ professionally, or to find social gratification. Finally, this ‘fictional virtual world’ also represents an ideal, green world, a harmonious Utopia for people and nature, with open spaces full of grass and trees. It illustrates the flight to a completely new and ideal virtual world accessible to all - something that seemed unthinkable a few decades ago.