Berlinde De Bruyckere
Doornenkroon II, 2008
© Mirjam Devriendt

Berlinde De Bruyckere. Sculptures & Drawings. 2000 – 2014

‘Sculptures & Drawings. 2000-2014’ at the S.M.A.K. is the first mid-career presentation of the oeuvre of Berlinde De Bruyckere (1964, Ghent). This exhibition shows a hundred-odd works which have so far rarely if ever been seen in Belgium, though in the last decade the artist has exhibited in many of the most important international museums and institutions.

Posted 24 November 2014

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The exhibition does not give us a chronological survey, but is conceived as a promenade taking in a select choice of drawings, sculptures and installations that bring to light the evolution and nuances of the oeuvre. It combines the core motifs of De Bruyckere’s oeuvre: the vulnerability of man, which is her chief theme, and the suffering body, which is the source of her visual idiom. The presentation includes earlier works in textile and horse skin that gained the artist her international renown. 

Berlinde De Bruyckere
028, 2007
© Mirjam Devriendt

Berlinda De Bruyckere: Acteaon
© Mirjam Devriendt

The sculptures in wax evolve gradually from human bodies to creatures midway between plant and animal. The pivotal work is ‘Kreupelhout – Cripplewood’ (2012-13), the monumental installation which has previously only been shown at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Finally, drawings are an essential part of this exhibition. They are hung in series in the same rooms as the sculptures and enrich the associations and cross-connections that relate all the works to each other.


Drawings are an essential part of this exhibition. They are hung in series in the same rooms as the sculptures, enriching them with their variations and nuances. Although De Bruyckere’s three-dimensional work is better known than her drawings, the two disciplines go hand in hand in the development of her oeuvre. In her series of drawings, the artist above all explores psychological topics and develops her visual research, taking inspiration among other things from anatomical studies and academic life drawings. De Bruyckere’s drawings are often the first step towards a sculpture, but they are not simply preliminary studies for three-dimensional work. Each drawing arises, exists and stands up as a full work in its own right. In De Bruyckere’s case, new images seem to spring ceaselessly and organically from existing ones as if in an endless process of growth. This exhibition also takes an evolutional approach: the repetition of core motifs in different combinations enables you to gradually discover affinities of form, interrelated content and new layers of meaning.

Berlinde De Bruyckere
©Mirjam Devriendt

Kreupelhout - Cripplewood

The key work in this solo exhibition is ‘Kreupelhout – Cripplewood’ (2012-
13), the monumental installation which has previously only been shown at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Its production, installation and dismantling were carried out in close cooperation with the S.M.A.K. It is now being put together again here on the basis of the installation plan that was meticulously drawn up at the time.
“The Cripplewood tree cannot raise itself straight, grows crooked, shrunk into
itself; crutches are cut from its trunk for those who otherwise can only crawl; a tree
with branches full of knots, gnarled and tangled.”
– J.M. Coetzee

Berlinde De Bruyckere
Kreupelhout – Cripplewood,
2012 – 2013
© Mirjam Devriendt

‘Kreupelhout – Cripplewood’ shows the metamorphosis from an imposing tree to a fragile body midway between plant, human and animal. This being does not stand upright, but lies down, felled. The wood is replaced by coloured wax reminiscent of veins with blood running through them, the ivory colour of bones and sickly grey-pink flesh. A new ‘bark’ of skin seems to be growing around the debarked branches. A trunk pierced by branches evokes the image of St Sebastian. De Bruyckere merges his torso, riddled with arrows, with the tree against which he was executed.
In addition, the artist ties up and bandages the trunk with rope, straps, hooks and cloths to form a coherent organic mass. The tender and emaciated branches, flesh, wounds and scars emphasise its vulnerability. But although this monumental mass lies there motionless, it does not feel quite dead. Despite being irrevocably damaged, it appears to survive. De Bruyckere lays this creature, branching and pierced by branches, on a soft bed of cushions and swathes it as if she wanted to comfort and care for it, and offer it support in its struggle for survival.

Berlinde De Bruyckere
Into One-Another I to P.P.P., 2010 - 2011
© Mirjam Devriendt

Berlinde De Bruyckere
S.M.A.K. 2014
© Dirk Pauwels

Berlinde De Bruyckere
Into One-Another II to P.P.P., 2010 - 2011
© Mirjam Devriendt

Berlinde De Bruyckere
Portrait: ©Mirjam Devriendt

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A modified version of the exhibition ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere. Sculptures & Drawings. 2000 – 2014’ will then go to the Municipal Museum at The Hague in the Netherlands (Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 28 February - 23 May 2015), and from 18 April 2015 will be on at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria.
Berlinde De Bruyckere Monograph

The substantial monograph being published by Mercatorfonds to coincide with the exhibition is conceived as an artist’s book. It documents the last 25 years of Berlinde De Bruyckere’s career, including visual source material from her rich archives. The editor-in-chief, Angela Mengoni, is contributing an essay to the publication, as are Emmanuel Alloa and Gary Carrion-Murayari. Philippe Van Cauteren, the artistic director of the S.M.A.K., adds a personal letter to the artist.
The book is available at S.M.A.K. at the exclusive price of 55 euro instead of 64.95 euro.
Visiting the exhibition
If you want to visit the S.M.A.K. in a group, or are looking for somewhere to visit with family or friends, we have something new to offer you. .
Find out more about these packages, please contact:
T: + 32 (0)9 269 87 50

9000 Ghent
+32 (0)9-2407601

Click here to download the file "Berlinde_De_Bruykere_SMAK_Gent.pdf".
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