In Search of Utopia, the most high-profile exhibition of 2016 in Flanders

In Search of Utopia, the most high-profile exhibition of 2016 in Flanders

Thursday, May 19, 2016 — Leuven is celebrating a 500th anniversary. Utopia, the iconic book by Thomas More, was printed in Leuven in 1516. The city on the Dyle is organizing a lavish commemoration of this event with a major exhibition, a city festival and a unique social project. 'In Search of Utopia’ will not only be the biggest Flemish exhibition of 2016, but will also feature many artworks that have never been exhibited in Flanders before. No fewer than 80 masterpieces from across the world are coming to M - Museum Leuven.


In Search of Utopia has three central focuses: a sample of Flemish Masters, works that have rarely if ever been seen together, and a diversity of artworks. For In Search of Utopia, masterpieces from museums and private collections from across the world are coming to M - Museum Leuven. One of the most fascinating highlights is the Portrait of a Humanist by Quinten Metsys from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. This piece is considered to be one of the central portraits in the history of Flemish art. The Collection of Queen Elisabeth II has loaned the exhibition its world-famous Portrait of Erasmus, likewise by Quinten Metsys. All the leading Flemish Masters of the late 15th and early 16th century are represented. In addition to Quinten Metsys, there will be big names such as Joachim Patinir and Jan Gossaert. Other appealing figures include Simon Bening, Simon Marmion, Herri met de Bles and Conrat Meit. Albrecht Dürer, who spent time travelling around Flanders in this period is likewise represented with one of his finest portraits, an anonymous humanist from the collection of the Berlin Museum of Prints and Drawings. The sublime Portrait of a Young Princess with an Armillary Sphere by Jan Gossaert from the National Gallery in London will be one of the focal points of the exhibition, in addition to being the central image in the advertising campaign. Also worthy of particular attention are the three Enclosed Gardens from Mechelen. They have been restored especially for the exhibition, and visitors can see them exhibited here for the very first time. After the exhibition, they will move to the permanent collection of the new museum in Mechelen. The organizers are very proud to present these works for the first time, in part because the Enclosed Gardens are listed as official Flemish Masterpieces. The exhibition is not only bringing unique paintings (back) to Leuven, but Leuven’s renowned scientific instruments and unique tapestries are also a perfect match for the utopian theme. 

Practical information

Curator: Jan Van der Stock (Illuminare/KU Leuven)

In search of Utopia. 20.10.16 >< 17.01.17 at M-Museum Leuven

In Search of Utopia © Hans Holbein the Younger (after), Portrait of Thomas More, 1527. National Portrait Gallery, London.
In Search of Utopia © Quinten Massys, Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1517, Palazzo Barberini, Rome
In Search of Utopia © Quinten Metsys, Portrait of a Scholar, c. 1525-1530. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.
In Search of Utopia © Quinten Massys, Portrait of Pieter Gillis, 1517. Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Antwerp.
In Search of Utopia © Jan Gossaert, A Young Princess with armillary sphere c. 1530, The National Gallery, London
In Search of Utopia © Enclosed Garden with Saint Elisabeth, Saint Ursula and Saint Catharine, c. 1520-1530. Stedelijke Musea, Mechelen.
In Search of Utopia © Pierre Desceliers, Mappamundi (Map of the World), 1550. British Library, London.
In Search of Utopia © Armillary Sphere, 1573, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich.
Exhibiton © Utopia & More<br/>KU Leuven University Library
Exposition © Eutopia – possibility of an island - Stad en Architectuur vzw.
Barrada, Yto<br/>Untitled (painted educational boards found in Natural History Museum, never opened, Azilal, Morocco; fig. 4), 2013-2015<br/>© Yto Barrada 2016, Courtesy Pace London; Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, Beirut; and Galerie Polaris, Paris
Martin Le Chevallier, Münster, video installation, 2016, video still. <br/>© Spectre Productions – courtesy galerie Jousse Entreprise, Paris