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April 9, 2004
The innocent veneer of the Hotel de Coninck conceals a wide range of arts, periods, styles, and innovations. The original creamy white facades of the inner courtyard have been restored, and the new additions exhibit a similar cool white color although in a more contemporary design mode. The centerpiece of the courtyard is its signature piece, “Grande Vaso di Gent” by Andrea Branzi. This enormous and whimsical sculpture, visible to all who gaze into the courtyard, looks like a giant vase with a cool green color found glazed onto typical Korean earthenware. The centerpiece of the interior is a colorful hydraulic lift in the middle of the building. Yes, think giant elevator, with its floor consisting of colorfully backlit squares that give it the impression of a disco floor or game show stage. Funky as it may be, the lift serves the important purpose of allowing for adaptable floors and displays, making the jobs of the curators simpler and yet more challenging at the same time.
Visitors who like old continental arts and crafts will enjoy the furniture displays of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Palatial salons contain lavish chandeliers, royal portraits, silk wall coverings and elegantly carved furniture. The original dining room is a snapshot back in time with wooden walls, tasteful china settings, dreamy scenes painted on the ceiling, and a distinctive wood chandelier carved by local sculptor J. F. Allaert. These spaces are elegant and elaborate yet familiar and cozy.
Venture into 1900 by visiting the new wing, and see some interior reconstructions related to the finest Art Nouveau talents. Step into rooms featuring Belgian stars like Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde and Paul Hankar along with European legends like Josef Hoffmann and Le Corbusier. The modern furniture selections are quite eye-catching if not necessarily comfortable. Collections from the last few decades feature the talents and creations of many Belgian and Italian designers. Notable architects with items in the collections include Graves, Hollein, Botta and Meier. Temporary exhibitions can be fascinating, like one that features interpretations of teapots by a slew of contemporary designers and architects.
If you have the time, try to make a stop at the Design Museum Gent. You will be pleasantly surprisingly. The museum is closed on Mondays, and there is free admission for individual visitors on Sunday mornings.
From journal Bill in Belgium - GHENT
Todmorden, England, United Kingdom
September 27, 2003
It is actually an eighteenth century building and was no doubt occupied by a wealthy family. Rooms have collected furniture from the seventeenth century onwards and remind me slightly of the period rooms in one of my favourite museums, London's Jeffrye Museum. In the Ghent museum the old kitchen is a wonderful display of carved wood extending even to the chandelier.
There is an extension which shows some art nouveau and art deco furniture and artefacts. I was lucky that there was a temporary exhibition on cutlery through the ages--I should never have made any effort to see something called that but the articles of cutlery with their lavish use of precious metals and of ivory were really quite something.
If there had been a very, very highly commended rating for some of the other Ghent places, this one would have got 'very highly commended', but it can't quite be classed with them--but it really is good!
From journal Ghent, Gent or Gand - Great and Gracious