This beautiful cathedral has several magnificent examples of intricate woodwork and carvings. The 19th Century St. Joseph retable consists of finely carved sculptures depicting Saint Joseph during 7 episodes of his life. The incredible oak pulpit created in 1713 by Michiel van der Voort features banisters in the form of tree branches, twigs and roots as well as carvings of a parrot, crane and owl as well as other animals and lush vegetation. These elements reflect the importance of nature as a source of inspiration for the faithful. At the base, four female figures represent the continents of Europe, Asian, America and Africa, implying that the word of God was to be spread across what was then known as the world. Along with Guillielmus Kerricx, Michiel van der Voort also made three groups of oak confessionals that feature 24 life-sized figures depicting the 12 apostles, and 12 women who represent virtues such as Contrition, Enlightenment, Conscience, Divine Mercy, Strength and Sorrow.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Museum Mayer van den Bergh and Peter Paul Rubens House, we headed towards Antwerp's historic city centre. Our tour of the "Old Town" took us through the shopping street Eiermarkt, into the square where the Cathedral of Our Lady resides, and then to the Grote Markt Square where the City Hall is found. It was confusing trying to figure out the names of the many squares in Antwerp. For example, the "square" (actually more of an oval) where the Cathedral is located is bound by the streets Groenplaats, Jan Blomstraat, Blauwmoezelstraat, Ljinwaadmarkt, and Sint-Pieterstraat. The Cathedral has an address of 21 Groenplaats, yet it is not in Groenplaats Square, which is actually the one south of the Cathedral and features the sculpture of Rubens. Despite performing Internet searches, I could not figure out what the square containing the Cathedral is called? Recently I asked my home swap host and it turns out that the square is called Handschoenmarkt (Glove Market). This doesn’t make sense to me since it is not even one of the streets surrounding the Cathedral, but rather the street just west of the enclosure. At any rate, the Cathedral was easy to find, since at 123 metres, its tallest spire towered above all the other buildings in the area and could be seen from blocks away.
The focus of our second day in Antwerp involved visiting the sights en route to and within the Old Town. Our path would take us to the Gothic and Renaissance Flemish art collection of Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, the home of painter Paul Ruebens, the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Grand Square or Grote Markt where the City Hall is located. As we pass them along our path, we planned to look for Comics murals that are found throughout the area and usually encompass an entire wall of a building. Our original plan was to go counter clockwise, getting to the Old Town and the Cathedral (which opened relatively early) first and picking up the two museums on the way back home. But we started to worry about timing, not knowing for sure how long we would need in each museum and whether we would leave enough time to finish before they closed at 5pm. Instead we decided to reverse our route, making our first stop the Museum Mayer van den Bergh which opened at 10am. This turned out to be a great idea since we were still jetlagged and getting a bit of a later start helped refresh us significantly.
After traversing Eiermarkt, we finally reached the square that contained the Cathedral of Our Lady. Our tour of Antwerp's Old Town will be continued in the next blog entry.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
To get to Antwerp, we took a Diabolo train, which ran directly from the Brussels airport to Antwerp Central Station in just over 30 minutes. Not wanting to figure out how to use the ticket vending machines, we bought our tickets from a live ticket agent, explaining where we wanted to go. We took our tickets, climbed aboard the first compartment that we saw, and sat down. Not long afterwards, a ticket collector came by to check our tickets and declared that we had “second-class” tickets but were sitting in the “first-class” compartment. We had not even realized that there was a difference and the original agent that sold us the tickets did not offer us the upgraded choice. Maybe we didn’t appear well-heeled enough to want to buy a first-class ticket. We picked up our bags and shuffled one car over to the “second class” compartment, now noticing the number “1” on the car that we were in, and the “2” for the one we were headed towards. We found out later that first class costs an extra 7 Euros and offers more leg room and a quieter environment, but we really didn’t notice much of a difference, especially for such a short ride as we were taking.
The chocolates were so good and the store location was so convenient since we had to pass it to get to most places, that we returned the next day and hinted that this might become a daily affair. Getting free samples each time helped earn our loyalty as well, but alas, not enough. There were too many other chocolate shops beckoning and we soon spurned our first love and decided to play the field when it came to buying chocolate. More will be discussed about the “Belgium Chocolate Experience” in a future blog.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
After three previous visits to "New York City", Rich and I really have only explored Manhattan, so on this trip our plan was to check out Queens and Brooklyn. The Queens itinerary fell by the wayside on our last day when torrential rains induced us to hunker down instead and rest for the trip home. We did manage to go on day trips to Brooklyn and got a good taste of this borough, although by no means did we see it all. Along with our friends Yim and Murray, we booked a 3 hour walking tour covering the neighbourhoods of Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights, and in particular, the fascinating story behind the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Our tour started on the Manhattan side at the City Hall Park where we got a brief introduction on the history of Brooklyn and a glimpse of the bridge, before actually walking across it while we learned about how it was built. Taking 14 years to build and completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is the oldest cable-stayed suspension bridge in the United States and the first one constructed using steel wires.
Youtube and was aired during shows like Nightline, Arsenio Hall and David Letterman.
Green Pink Caviar”, Minter films close-up images of a model’s mouth, lips and tongue, which lap up a variety of slimy and bubbly substances including vodka-infused and liquefied candy and cake decorations. She used vodka as a binding agent for the metallic powdered food colouring to give it the desired thick, sticky, and semi-fluid consistency. The filming viewpoint capturing sucking and licking motions are clearly influenced by techniques used in porn films. Madonna cleverly used excerpts from this video as the backdrop for her opening song in her Sweet and Sticky tour. Minter also created some of these images as large-scaled paintings, applying enamel paint and silver liquid on metal sheets, producing photographic-like effects.
Smash” was created as part of a fashion exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum featuring high-heeled shoes. Minter’s video depicts a woman with painted toenails strutting around in a pair of bejeweled open-toed stilettos which she uses to kick through plates of glass. The video is set to erotic music and lighting and is once again shot as a close-up featuring only the woman’s feet. While all of Minter’s work at least flirts with or hints at the concepts of pornography, in 1989 she created a series of works that she called “Porn Grid”, based on hard-core images of pornographic acts which she embellished with suggestive paint splashes and drips. These pieces caused great controversy and debate over whether or not they were exploitive and misogynistic when appropriated by a female artist. In 2014, Playboy Magazine commissioned Minter to create a collage of photographs depicting close-ups of women shaving or touching their pubic areas. While she created some fairly explicit shots, only the tamer ones were published. Minter published the unedited versions in a book called “Plush” and some of those photos (again probably the tamer ones) were on display in this exhibition. I had to break the news to our friend Murray who had returned to Toronto that he missed seeing the “Porn Art” exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.