M closed on 18 January. Five months later, we are reopening our doors. Denise Vandevoort, Chair of M-Museum Leuven explains: “Over the past eight years, M had received more than one million visitors to its 100 exhibitions. This left a mark, so it was time for some refurbishment. Consequently, we have worked hard to create a warmer reception space, new signposting, and new passageways. But the real change is the exhibition spaces themselves. We are highlighting the power of the M Collection. And everyone can come and discover it on Sunday 11 June during our reopening festivities.”
A rich collection in five new stories
M’s collection comprises approximately 52,000 artworks. From the Middle Ages to the present day. And too many of these objects were never given a place in the permanent exhibition. Peter Carpreau, Head of Old Masters: “That is a shame because M is a place of encounter for art and stories, with a rich and varied collection. The permanent collection is therefore becoming much less permanent. Henceforth, you can discover the collection in a series of shorter, temporary exhibitions of 1,2 or sometimes 4 years.” On 11 June, we are opening five collection presentation in new settings, along with the solo exhibitions by Aurélien Froment and Cécile B. Evans. Because M would not be M without the combination of old and contemporary art. And the museum is taking this one step further. Peter Carpreau, Head of Old Masters: “A 14th-century pieta. A 17th-century painting. A 19th-century sculpture. A 21st-century conceptual work. Why should they each remain in their own little box? From now on, at M, they will happily sit side by side. Because together, they might tell a much more pointed or intelligible story than they do separately. M is removing the classical distinctions between old and contemporary art.”
Centre of visual literacy
Images have never been more important than they are now. Language and writing are losing importance relative to photos, video, and everything visual. Gefundenes Fressen for the museum world, one might think. Where else are people more occupied with the visual than in the visual arts? And yet this has not always been the case. In the past, M always employed a very classical approach, focused on wall texts as the central guide and with extensive explanations in writing. According to Peter Bary, Director of M-Museum Leuven, this needs to change: “In a society dominated by images, M aims to help its visitors to see: to see critically, to see profoundly, and to see differently. Therein, according to us, lies the social role of a museum in the 21st century. And this will keep us relevant for the future.” That is why M is going in a new direction and abandoning this art historical perspective. Dialogue with our visitors and stimulating visual literacy are the museum’s new focus. Head of Public Relations Isabel Lowyck: “We have devised a new museum language in which images play the central role. Questioning labels, sensory labels, audio guides, an app, video, places where you can get actively involved instead of just looking… The whole never becomes excessive or overwhelming, but opens up like a fan from which the visitor can filter their own preferences. Everyone will thus be able to find something to suit their taste.”
Museum as laboratory
Everywhere, museums are laboratories par excellence, but that is especially the case in a university city like Leuven. They are places where scientific insights can be tested and experimented with. For example, we are currently conducting research into sight-DNA in cooperation with KU Leuven. A test group of 100 people participated in an analysis of how they look at art and what they actually see. M is using the findings of tracking research. During their visit to the museum, visitors do not only discover the works, but also the mechanisms of human sight and their personal sight-DNA. The IR scans for art historical research also offer many possibilities. Thanks to this medical imaging, the museum is expanding its expertise in medieval sculpture. Peter Bary, director M-Museum Leuven: “Cross-fertilization between the worlds of museums and science is crucial to the development of a 21st-century museum. It is a mutuality that is also reflected in the museum’s relationship with its visitors: nobody is omniscient, and together we can go further than alone. That is how the museum of the future will work.”
Opening festivities on Sunday 11 June
On 11 June, you can expect great festivities. The museum will be open free of charge for everyone, from 11 AM to 6 PM. Starting at 2 PM, numerous activities will be organized especially for families: image boxing, blowing bubbles, making your dreams come true in the cardboard factory, being swept away by the stories of Carmien Michels or queuing up with the whole family in the film machine. You can relex in the refurbished lobby, or become creatively involved yourself. Drawing, playing games or taking selfies in the photo booth, you can do it all! What’s more, the Museum Game Street is back, and you can enjoy a delicious taco or some pasta from one of the food trucks in the museum garden.
On Sunday 11 June, M will be open free of charge from 11 AM to 6 PM. All information is available on www.mleuven.be.
Download the free M Leuven App on your smartphone in the Appstore or on Googleplay. On 11 June, we are opening five new collection presentations: The power of images, The art of collecting, Masters of sculpture, Form first & Boundless hospitality. More information about the exhibitions is available in the press file below (pdf).
In addition, we are opening two solo exhibitions by the contemporary artists Aurélien Froment and Cécile B. Evans. More information about the exhibitions is available in the press files below (pdf).