My favorite museum in Gent is the one where I spent hours of sketching state-of-the-art chairs and other famous furniture. The one located right in the middle of the city centre, opposite to a little park with view on the steady floating boats passing by on the Leie river. With white walls and a tiny courtyard, perfect enough to enjoy an early spring day in the sun. Because I’m turning 26 – oh help, almost on the wrong side of the twenties. Let’s call it the best side. – and the entrance fee is only 2€ for -26 year olds, I knew I had to visit the Designmuseum again before leaving on foreign adventures. And they had an exhibition going on I was dying to see.
As a proud Belgian, I can’t do anything else but promote and admire Belgian design and architecture. The curly lines and love for detail, the progressive designs of Victor Horta and his colleagues always have left me speechless. But at the same time I am also fascinated by the quirkiness and pureness of the Dutch designers. Masters of clean lines and founders of ‘De Stijl’. Curators of the museum must have thought ‘hmm, interesting, why not make them battle in our museum? Which of the two countries has the best / cleanest / most interesting design? Why not let the people decide for themselves in a Design Derby? Let them fight to the death!’. And so they decided. – I guess that’s how it happened, I would think like that – And that’s how they caught my interest.
When I stumbled upon the catalogue of the Design Derby in my local library – Yes, I’m one of the rare people who still reads tons of books and visits the library on a weekly base – and I devoured it within the day, I decided a visit was inevitable. My inner history & designfreak was dancing is ass off of excitement. The visit itself was a little bit less exciting. While I’d probably better waited to read the catalogue until after the visit, I was happy enough to have had the full background to the objects on display. That’s it though. I was left a little bit disappointed with the rather unattractive room dividers – transparant mesh with a Dutch or Belgian flag printed on it –, which seemed unappropriate to me for such a well composed collection. The graphic design was great though and a little treasure hunt for cards with the designer objects on it was a nice extra. Still, my enthousiasm about the visit didn’t return during the exhibition itself. I can only say the only moments my heart skipped a beat where at the weird audio installation on the second floor and the funny ‘Belgium vs The Netherlands’ mural of the Flemish illustrator Eva Mouton. – I really love her work, she’s way too honest. Which I like. – Oh, and the contemporary part in the Hotel de Coninck halls.
While the Design Derby part in the new museum area wasn’t my cup of tea, the Hotel de Coninck part left me with a ‘Yes, this is what I came for!’ feeling, accompanied by a smile. Hotel de Coninck used to be the 18th century residence of the family De Coninck in the city of Gent, before it became a Designmuseum. Think about high ceilings and original floral wallpaper in a rococo or classicist style. Think about those old interiors with intricate details combined with the newest of the newest design thinking of Belgium and the Netherlands. Heaven for a lover of contemporary design. Halleluja. Sorted on theme and color, I stumbled upon little treasures for the eye. – while I couldn’t bother to dig my camera out of my bag at the other exhibition, I couldn’t stop shooting pictures of these rooms – Not the first time the Designmuseum astonishes me. Maybe next time, I should consider visiting again. To see which little surprises they have arranged for us, unknowing visitors.