FeliXart and FeliXeco: an integrated heritage ensemble

Change Management / Institutional reorientation

Museum: FeliXart Museum  website
Years: Presented and gradually implemented since 2006. Expected public opening of new policy: September 2019

FeliXart Museum

The FeliXart Museum wishes to position itself as an integrated heritage ensemble. The legacy of Felix De Boeck offers all the elements for this. The painter-farmer, who was one of the pioneers of the Belgian avant-garde, worked on a particular spiritual and mystical oeuvre within the special context in which he lived: he was a traditional farmer on the Flemish edge of Brussels.

In a dynamic and contemporary way, the museum wants to surprise a broad public with the combination of visual arts and ecology. The work, the place of residence and the spiritual legacy of Felix De Boeck form the starting point and inspiration. Through the selectively accessible collection, temporary exhibitions and thematic activities on the museumsite we want to engage with the local en regional visitor. The restored farm with protected orchard and the figure of Felix De Boeck form the background for a special mix of activities.

From a purely museum-scientific point of view, the added value of the FeliXart Museum lies in the expertise on the Interbellum-period and abstract art. Until recently, there was a strict separation between the museum aspect and the Felix De Boeck farm and orchard because this was the applicable standard for a visual arts museum. The new Flemish heritage decree, however, goes further and allows us to look beyond the objects. The immaterial value of heritage collections can now also be involved. Felix De Boeck as farmer, his care and protection of nature, his ecological stance and the local heritage are all part of his legate that now can be fully engaged. 

FeliXart and FeliXeco: an integrated heritage ensemble

Description of the project / practice / program

In our will to fullfill the expectation and social accountablity of our institution, we had to focus on the profile of our visitors. From a study led by the University of Antwerp, some initial conclusions followed, such as the aging of the public, the limited facilities, etc ... But equally important was the involvement with which so many people were really touched by artist-farmer De Boeck's life. It was striking that most visitors were 'broad' cultural participants. In addition to art, there was a 'life attitude' that appealed, and from which a flourishing effect could be achieved.

New forms of cooperation were tested in Flanders. Heritage ensembles are defined as the symbiosis of different cultural values and tasks. We see a 'mediation role' for heritage managers to harmonize a 'content' ideology with a 'public-oriented' function. Translated to the FeliXart Museum this meant that it was necessary to find a way to separate the 'art' and the 'anecdote' from the work and life of Felix De Boeck and still keep them together in an adapted form and operation.

The new mission, formulated in 2006, marked the beginning of a regained dynamic from a two-track policy. Around the pioneering role of De Boeck, the museum focuses with a high-quality art program on the historical avant-garde, art in the Interbellum and abstraction in the broad sense. On the other hand, Felix De Boeck, as a farmer, forms the basis for an environment and ecology operation. The intersection of these two types of cultural experience is expressed in the logo of the new name 'FeliXart Museum' where the X symbolizes these two tracks. That new name came in 2010.

In a relatively short period of time, the museum is completely reoriented: from a biographical museum, exclusively dedicated to Felix De Boeck, to a themed museum. Thanks to the new policy, the museum was divided regionally in 2009 and the museum site was cited as a strategically-developed project in the Flemish coalition agreement. This new dynamic was made possible thanks to the small but motivated team of employees and the help of many enthusiastic volunteers.

Now that the farm of De Boeck will be completed after a thorough restoration in 2018, the public opening for 2019 is in full preparation. In addition to the reconstruction of De Boeck's studio and living space, which is a museological activity, multifunctional spaces and dynamic exploitation are also being set up with the aim of promoting local cohesion. One of the ways in which we can achieve social cohesion is by activating the original national activities in and around the farm. But all this has only a meaning with all the intangible values we get from De Boeck: authenticity, serenity and respect of our sourrounding and environment.

© Ghysen


How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

Many different steps where taken together with different groups and communities. Some examples:

  • In 2013 we collaborated with the municipality of Drogenbos with Het Moeras (The Swamp), a biodiversity project that links the protected orchard of De Boeck to a naturepool, a forest and an open green environment where eco-education and relaxation are central. Specifically, a number of outdoor recreation and summer camps have already been organized with various partners where there is always a mix between art and eco-education. The content of these sumercamps are made together with Regionaal Landschap PZ who have knowdlege of the agricultural heritage in context with our site. Much can happen from the history of fruit cultivation and the tension between the environment and urbanization. The Moeras and orchard are the only public green spaces of the municipality and we can use them to broaden the site's activities. By involving the various population groups in the exploitation of the site, we hope to increase local anchoring and social cohesion. A challenge in a municipal facility where the vast majority of the population is non-Dutch speaking and has no feeling with Felix De Boeck or the history of the last 100 years in Drogenbos. 
  • Together with the municipality we integrated infrastructure on the site for the existing historic archers' guild in Drogenbos. Their use and folklore would offer an excellent opportunity to get a true folk tradition in a new dynamic on the site. We are mirroring the work in neighboring municipality of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw where this is very successful but will have to make our own 'translation' within our context full of cultural differences and language issues.
  • In 2015 we worked with the Erfgoedcel ('heritage cell') Pajottenland and Zennevallei  on the industrial heritage project 'Fabrieksburen' (Factory walls): the cooperation between 4 municipalities, the museum and the Erfgoedcel started around a large regional project on industry in the Zennevallei. We started from what binds us: the large factory sites and working-class districts along the canal, the railway and the river the Zenne that have defined and drawn the surroundings, with the stories of the former factory workers as a thread and starting point. On the basis of oral testimonies and other heritage material, the story was made accessible to the general public in various campaigns and products that took place in the autumn of 2017 (exhibition module, films, heritage route, educational package, ...) This project will be completed after the restoration of the farm De Boeck and will be permanently be part of the educational offer of the museum. All the recordings/ interviews made are being stored by the museum.

CV of the author

Sergio Servellón studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and Cultural Management at Antwerp University. Since 2005, he has been director of FeliXart Museum (BE), which he has reoriented from a monographic to a thematic museum with a focus on the Belgian historical avantgarde movement in the inter-war period. In 2012, he published a catalogue raisonné of the drawings of Felix De Boeck and in 2013 a monograph on the author-artist Michel Seuphor. He is editor the theme website 'Abstract Modernism' for the Flemish Art Collection. Servellón worked as program coordinator of the Conservation and Restoration Department of the Artesis Hogeschool Antwerp.



13 July 2018 from 10:02 to 10:02



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