The city of Ghent has been showing art in unusual places since 1986, when Jan Hoet’s Chambres d’amis created a sensation by featuring works in private homes. The city is now hosting an event called Track in which 41 international artists have been commissioned to integrate works into the urban fabric. Curated by Philippe Van Cauteren and Mirjam Varadinis, Track occupies six Ghent neighbourhoods this summer. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a giant helium balloon in the shape of a rock floating above the town, with a model of the Vooruit art centre on top. Other works are dotted around the town in unexpected locations, including a former boxing club called The Golden Gloves and an abandoned vineyard hidden behind the St Peter’s Abbey. Some of the works are easy to track down. The performance artist Benjamin Verdonck has embedded a bungalow in the trunk of a massive old tree in the Vogelzang Park while the artist Leo Copers has placed mock gravestones inscribed with the names of art museums within the Citadel Park. Other works take a bit of effort to find. The Japanese artist Tadashi’s Kawamata has created a makeshift slum on a waterfront near the Dampoort station. The work is cut off by a dangerous road, so the organisers have constructed two towers to allow people to view the work. It may not last much longer – a section of the ramshackle wooden construction collapsed in a recent storm. At times, the locations are rather ordinary spaces. The artist Dahn Vo, for example, has been given a space in the Fine Arts Museum to display copper fragments. At other times, it seems as if Tracks has retreated to the 1986 concept of art in private homes. The painter Michael Borremans has been allocated an abandoned town house on the Korenlei to display two enormous bronze sculptures representing human faces. This turns out to be one of the most successful interventions in the city.
“This works perfectly in the abandoned, dilapidated and crumbling period room in the Hotel de Ghellinck,” according to art critic Eric Rinckhout. Maybe art needs to be safely enclosed by walls after all.