In 1974, the Belgian cartoonist Hergé, a great admirer of American avant-garde art, and Karel Geirlandt, the new director of the Centre for Fine Arts, invited Charlemagne Palestine to perform in Brussels, after discovering him on a prospecting trip to New York. Having witnessed the artist in performance, they were impressed by the “total art” nature of his work, and the physical power of his presentation. Surrounded by a multitude of stuffed animals arranged like so many alter egos, Charlemagne strummed his piano into a trance. Marking the entry into office of the newly appointed director, the concert in Brussels would leave a lasting impression on everyone who attended.
Forty-four years later, the total artist (Gesamtkünstler) is now returning to the total Work of Art and Architecture (Gesamtkunstwerk) conceived over a century ago by architect Victor Horta – to install what he calls his “CharleWorld”: a universe where his works unravel animist stories and tales of adventure, teasing and reinventing the art deco sobriety of the original design of the building, and all these magical sparks that this encounter produces are then multiplied to infinity in magical halls of wonder.
A Yiddish play on words, the title of the exhibition, AA SSCHMMETTRROOSSPPECCTIVVE, makes a mockery of the finite, finished nature of the classic, austere retrospective project, preferring instead to open up a huge range of possibilities and future avenues for the artist to explore.