Leuven is celebrating the fifth centenary of Utopia. After seven years of preparation, the exhibition In Search of Utopia is opening at M – Museum Leuven. Utopia, the name of an imaginary island with a perfect communitarian society without private property, was written by the English humanist and statesman Thomas More and printed in the university town in 1516.
The anniversary is being celebrated with a city festival featuring an extraordinary flagship exhibition at M – Museum Leuven. In Search of Utopia is not only the biggest exhibition of 2016, but it also presents works that have never been exhibited in Flanders before.
No fewer than 80 masterpieces from museums and private collections from across the world are coming to Leuven. Together, they illustrate the boundless imagination of an ideal world in the 15th and 16th century. The majority of late 15th– and early 16th-century Flemish masters are represented in the exhibition.
The exhibition is not only bringing unique paintings (back) to Leuven, but Leuven’s renowned scientific instruments and a number of brilliant Brussels tapestriesare also perfect for the theme of Utopia. In the sixteenth century, Leuven was world-famous for the production of scientific instruments. Seven of these instruments are being brought together for an exhibition for the very first time.
More’s fictional island Utopia lies ‘nowhere’, far beyond the horizon. Everything is perfectly organized and everybody is happy. But the island only ever existed in More’s imagination.
Professor Jan Van der Stock, curator of the exhibition told The Brussels Times that “We cannot take the book as a blueprint for a model society because it was never intended to be one.”
“Some of the ideas are strange for us today and not consistent with our values. On the other hand, some ideas seem amazingly modern and may still be relevant and have even been partially implemented. Take for example shorter working time, gender equality, welfare services, income redistribution and environmental protection.”
He added: “Utopia was an imaginary society and we cannot find any Utopia anywhere in the world. But it’s important to keep looking for Utopia. More’s book inspires us to think about our common future.”
Via Flanders Tourism, Flemish Minister for Tourism Ben Weyts has invested more than 770,000 euro in the exhibition.
Minister Weyts states: “The Flemish masters are timeless icons who appeal to a very broad audience. This exhibition is intended to bring many visitors to Leuven, a significant number of whom will come from abroad. All these museum guests will also make use of Leuven’s service industries and be customers at Leuven’s many businesses, and thus generously sponsor the local economy”.
The exhibition opens today (20 October) and continues until 17 January 2017.
The Brussels Times