Recently I went to The Netherlands for the Roadburn Festival. Thanks to Duane Harriot for running the Fun Machine for a week and not wrecking the gears! Last weeks episode was a full three hours of music and photos from the most enjoyable fest I have ever been to, and if you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it (not because it's my program, mind you - it is my taste, but it was really programmed by those who put Roadburn together- thank them, not me)!
Since last year's festival was disrupted by a pesky volcanic eruption, I thought it would be wise to take an extra day ahead of the festival and eliminate the stress factor. I made my ever important sleeping bag connection ahead of time, and decided to head over to the town of 's-Hertogenbosch to check out the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center.
All of Bosch's works are in name museums, so I was not sure what to expect. This town probably would have no one paying attention to it except for their famous, intensely talented son. I'm not going to even go into describing his artwork here; if you are unfamiliar, go check out a link or two and get the scoop on this man.
The Art Center is housed in what had once been a church. It looks like a church, but when you step inside, all your senses tell you nearly right away (there's a large red curtain that separates the entrance from a lot of the exhibit area) that you may have actually stepped into a delightfully quirky version of hell. There is a telltale sculpture outside as well to tip you off, that in most ways, this was not going to be a religious experience, at least of a churchgoing nature.
The helpful women at the desk were concerned with the size of my backpack and could see I was being taxed by it's weight. They took it off my hands immediately although there was no coat room. The entrance fee was laughably cheap and I was given an audio guide to boot. It was when I got to the other side of the curtain that I thought to myself "I'm going to be here for hours and hours"...
Upon entering the largest open area in the Center, I could see that although there was no religious icons adorning the altar, there were still pulpits on either side of the large stepped platform and there were human sized sculptures of some of Bosch's most famous characters from his works. They were hanging from the ceiling and there were many, many tapestries of different sections of his masterpieces hanging on the walls. It was a homey and warm celebration of some of the most burnt out looking artwork anyone has ever laid eyes on. So there I am, mouth agape, going up to these sculptures, silently flipping my lid. There was almost no one there, and I sat down to watch the introductory film about Bosch, his life, and his works. When he was creating art, people still believed the world was flat. Yet simultaneously he conjured up these creatures.
There was a five story tower that housed reproductions of all of his works. The great thing about the reproductions was, many of Bosch's more famous pieces were triptychs that folded over onto themselves, so in this way of presenting them, the viewer got to open and close them and handle them in the way they were originally intended. Sculptures punctuated the building, and especially noteworthy was the balcony where the pipe organ was. There was still a sculpture of some Saint like figure between the two sets of pipes, and then also on the balcony there were three other Bosch figures, as well as a video showing an artistic "live interpretation" of the Garden of Earthly Delights - one of his most famous pieces. Every step I took, my mind was blown, and I felt really lucky to be able to relish his work without long lines, high admittance prices and bulletproof glass over everything. Here's a picture so you can get an idea of how this place was laid out. For me, it was the juxtapositioning of his work within a church. The presentation was simply wonderful. This is what I mean by a delightfully quirky hell. It was light, fun, yet having these figures larger than life was a little confronting. There was also the a workshop type area regarding one of his circular pieces, The Seven Deadly Sins. The piece was reproduced as a tabletop, and there was paper and markers, and patrons were encouraged to delve into their own take on the 7 Deadly Sins. Videos about each sin were available to watch, and I can't tell you how tempted I was just to work on sloth for the rest of the day and call the rest of my trip off! There was also a collection of his works on paper, and in the basement of the buiding a re-creation of what his workshop would have been like, complete with a small brook running below the ground floor of the building.
I can't recommend this place enough, and my experience is still as strong now as it was when I was there- I'm still reeling from having seen all these pieces, and so psyched that a town would take such pride in being so creative with the displays and representation of his works that I could have been in my own Garden of Earthly Delights! Here's a few more photos, and a link to the Garden of Earthly Delights animated movie! Enjoy your own little foray into hell, guilt and sin never looked so good!