Berlinde De Bruyckere
City of Refuge II

In 2022 Berlinde De Bruyckere created Arcangelo (Freising), 2021-2022 for the reopened Diözesanmuseum Freising, a monumental, yet touching sculpture of a bronze angel covered in lead patina. Surpassing humans by far and yet approachable the Arcangelo fills the atrium with its presence. Around this mysterious angel, the Diözesanmuseum now presents an exhibition by the Belgian artist in the adjacent halls, reflecting on the museum’s rich historical collections and the history of the building itself. The figure of the Arcangelo, developed during the first Covid lockdown, is inspired by the care givers in hospitals, dedicating themselves to nurse those dying in solitary confinement.

In the Münchner Saal, the focus remains solely on the motif of the angel. The central piece, Liggende – Arcangelo III, 2023, was created especially for the exhibition. The collapsed angel fallen face down on a pedestal made of debris, is accompanied by a selection of very early works and sketches here shown for the first time, investigating the angel/the wing in Berlinde De Bruyckere’s oeuvre.

In the Freisinger Saal, a much more eclectic display, closely related to the collection spaces of the museum, explores a variety of sculptures and drawings, partly embedded in religious iconography, but touching simultaneously on more profane and universal topics in the social and political context.

In the atrium, De Bruyckere’s “beds”, with their shabby blankets enveloping tree trunks cast in flesh-colored wax, unfold a special meaning: this was the site of a military hospital for prisoners of war from 1939 until the end of the war, and then a hospital set up by the U.S. Army for liberated concentration camps prisoners until September 1945.

Berlinde De Bruyckere’s City of Refuge (the title is drawn from a song by Nick Cave and finds its origin in the gospel song by Blind Willie Johnson) is a homage to those seeking protection and to all those who offer it – a plea for compassion and affection and an inquiry on the duality of human nature. A topic further developed in Mantel I and II, the two monumental sculptures, inspired by paintings of Saint Francis by Francisco de Zurbaran that are on view in the neighboring St. John's Church.

The exhibition is curated by Petra Giloy-Hirtz and Studio Berlinde De Bruyckere.

Berlinde De Bruyckere – The Artist

Born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1964, where she currently lives and works, Berlinde De Bruyckere is profoundly influenced by traditions of Flemish Renaissance. Deeply familiar with the iconography of Christian salvation history and ancient mythology, she interweaves the traditional images and narratives of suffering, death and resurrection, dying and redemption, hope and love with events and themes of the recent past and the present. In this way, she transforms religious and mythological content into a universal and a contemporary sensibility and experience. Fusing diverse materials such as wax, used blankets, wood, animal hair and tanned animal skins into hybrid sculptures in which human, animal, plant and divine merge. Though confronting in nature, the poetry of her work integrates a strong social commitment, and a sense of hope and vitality.

De Bruyckere’s works have been shown in numerous exhibitions at major institutions worldwide. In 2013 she was selected to represent Belgium at the 55th Venice Biennale where she unveiled her monumental work Kreupelhout – Cripplewood, a collaboration with Nobel Prize novelist J.M. Coetzee.

©Diözesanmuseum Freising, Photos: Thomas Dashuber