The World of Bruegel

Museum Bokrijk

Exhibiting Bruegel in the historical buildings of the open-air museum without any original Bruegel painting nor print seems like a challenging task. Even if the similarity between Bruegel’s depiction of rural Flemish villages and the scenes present in Bokrijk are self-evident for many. This might not feel like a sufficient reason to develop a large scale exhibition.

However Bruegel’s link to Bokrijk goes far deeper than mere appearances alone. Few people are aware of the important historical relationship between the two and the pivotal role Bruegel’s work played in the history of the Museum.


The tension between the history of Bokrijk and Bruegel’s rich imagery offers special opportunities for a curator. Together with the scenographers of ruimtevaarders and a multimedia artist Bob Takes the exhibition has been conceived as a sensitive and immersive experience. The multi-layered messages are linked to various exhibition media and experiences.

Pieter Bruegel was a crucial source of inspiration for first museum director Jozef Weyns. To enliven the rich history of the museum’s conception - a story with a lot of facts and data - we opted for the medium of film. In a matter of minutes the audience gets to know the story of the open-air museum, from its humble beginnings in the sixties to the vibrant museum it is today.

In addition to the buildings, the Bokrijk collection also consists of various household utensils. Because objects from everyday life also appear frequently in Bruegel's scenes, we decided to exhibit the corresponding historical objects of the museum’s collection.

In order to highlight the enigmatic content of ‘The battle between Carnival and Lent’, we chose 6 dioramas, three-dimensional mini-worlds in which the following themes are addressed with humour, wonder and contemporary craftsmanship: Bruegel's view on mankind, The Symbolic battle, The eye of the painter, Fasting and religion, Carnival feast and Lenten fast, and 'The world upside down!

The Zuienkerke barn, a large 16th-century open space, with a phenomenal roof, served as a natural end to the exhibition. Here one steps physically into Bruegel’s world. In the centre of the space, we exhibited a larger than life-size print of the ‘The battle between Carnival and Lent’- 12 by 16 metres - on the floor. Above it hangs an enormous mirror in which the painting is reflected. The visitor can walk around freely, sit or even lie down on the print. When he looks up, he sees himself reflected in the Bruegelian scene. He literally 'is' in the painting and is part of the scene.

06.04.2019 - ongoing

Bokrijk Open-Air Museum, Genk (BE)

Art, Heritage

Collaborators :
Scenography : ruimtevaarders
Multimedia artist : Bob Takes

Function :
Curator and production management