05/12 2012

“A work in progress” Dikkie Scipio – ZAAL Z number 4

A work in progress, the storage area, a cavernous empty space at the heart of the building vaulted like a cathedral, awaits the many valuable works that will fill it. Shelves and paintings a place where the work ripens until it is ready to be shown to the public.

This month, the storage facility at the heart of the building is, at last, complete. The empty, cavernous space, vaulted like a cathedral, will soon be ready to receive its many valuable works of art. Once the space is filled, it will be the museum’s treasure trove. For now, and only briefly, it is a space of beauty, strength and security: a cathedral for art.

Strewn around the garden are 90cm-thick chunks of stone, remnants of the 125-year-old protective walls, sawed out to create access for the ventilation channels.

Storage racks will be installed and then the paintings will be ensconced, leaving little trace of all that went before to accommodate this. Only the initiated understand the long road travelled before a building is ready for use. Like the production of a painting, the public generally only sees the end result. People can sometimes catch a glimpse of the building behind the scaffolding, yet they are rarely allowed to enter a studio. This is where experimentation takes place, concepts are explored and compared, and skilled craftsmanship is exercised. In this protected environment, the artist does not have to account for his or her choices or explain his or her inspiration. This is where the work ripens until it is ready to be shown to the public.

On rare occasions, one gets the opportunity to view an unfinished work and consequently becomes more aware of the wealth and variety of layers that have gone into it. This is the case with respect to Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece ‘Saint Barbara’, which is currently on loan at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam from our Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. The story of a Syrian nobleman’s daughter who converted to Christianity is told by means of symbolism and drawing. More than that, however, the panel magnificently shows a gradation of detailing – from relatively undefined and sketchy to extremely detailed and coloured. Van Eyck placed Saint Barbara in front of a large Gothic tower that is in the process of being built, a construction site like ours. For now, ours is likewise a work in progress.


You can download the PDF version via the link down here and you’ll find Dikkie Scipio’s article from page 48.