"Modern Art" "Moderne Kunst".
These words on top of a portico were silhouetted in white against the cloudy and changing sky of the Heysel.
They were an invitation to visit a vast pavilion, housing painting, sculpture and printmaking, as well as the architectural 'patio'.
A few steps from the entrance, George Minne's fountain, with its pensive kneelers, was an introduction to Modern Art, of which it is one of the masterpieces.
In the bright rooms of the pavilion there were works by artists from fifteen different countries. However, a common style emerged from the whole, which is now coming to fruition. Léo van Puyvelde, special commissioner for Fine Arts at the Exhibition, analysed the dominant characteristics of this style in a lecture he gave at the Exhibition itself: "Art today," he said, "tends essentially towards the expression of aesthetic emotion. It is personal, frank, sometimes to the point of brutality and in some cases exquisitely naive. It is sometimes profound when it addresses the heart and the mind and not only the senses. It is vigorous and healthy. For Belgian artists, the excesses of revolutionary tendencies elsewhere were quickly abandoned: the best have a sense of measure, the tradition of good craftsmanship and the gift of colour. In the forms of style, an evolution always appears somewhat like a revolution. Let us not be put off at first by a conception of art that departs from the one we are used to. The artist is a more sensitive being than we are, who has the gift of translating his emotion into plastic forms and colours. We must humbly make the effort to understand him and not demand that he lower himself to us. Let us seek to commune with the soul of the artist who gives himself up in his work.
"If the artist today escapes from the realism dear to the 19th century, it is because he has understood that the work of art is above all a creation and not a slavish imitation of nature. "
In selecting the works for the various sections, the organisers had adhered to Article 3 of the regulations:
"Only works of high artistic value and creative spirit will be accepted. Any copy or counterfeit of the past will be rejected. "
The application of this principle was to run into certain difficulties, and admissions were fiercely debated, at least as far as the Belgian Section was concerned; for each of the fifteen foreign sections was organised by a National Committee, under the control of a Special Commissioner. The liveliness of these polemics showed the interest that this Exhibition aroused; and the presence of many masterpieces of the European schools favoured the most fruitful confrontations, those that only long and costly journeys allow.
The Belgian Section occupied six rooms; France and Algeria, five; the other nations represented shared the rest of the saloons, lined up on either side of a wide central aisle cut by steps, adorned with the main works of sculpture. At the back of Modern Art, a salon was reserved for Literature; Belgian, French, Flemish and Walloon writers displayed books, manuscripts and portraits - mostly by well-known artists. Finally, on the left, a "patio" whose wings were divided into compartments, housed the architecture section: plans, photos and drawings.
© Le Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Bruxelles 1935