Whether by land or by sea, works of art have always travelled the world. However, it is hard to imagine that during the mid-19th century, a painting the size of The Abdication of Charles V, a monumental canvas by the artist Louis Gallait currently on display at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Tournai, travelled around Europe by train.
Inspired by the astonishing pilgrimage of this spectacular painting, Raffaella Crispino takes us on a journey full of stories and seeds. As the expansion of the railways happened towards the end of the 19th century, and wool from different parts of the world was imported into Verviers to be washed in the river Vesdre, plant species unknown in Belgium began to appear along the river downstream from the town. The wool carried seeds that might have crossed
the path of the train carrying Gallait's monumental work. As a young nation, Belgian thus exposed itself to its neighbours, through the travelling painting and its story of the first globalised empire: Charles V's reign stretched across scattered territories throughout Europe and the Americas.
Gallait's work is now on display under a glass roof designed by the architect Victor Horta. Behind the Museum of Fine Arts in Tournai, where its new extension will be built, conservatories house the plants that take over the city's public spaces every year. In multiple narratives, both distant and close, several practices will intersect.
Raffaella Crispino (Naples 1979) lives and works in Brussels and has a Master in Visual Arts from IUAV, University of Venice (2007). She participated in different art residencies at, among others, the CCA-Kitakyushu in Japan (2008-2009), the JCVA in Jerusalem (2010) and the HISK in Ghent (2014-2015). In Israel, she created a permanent land art installation in the framework of the Bat-Yam Biennale 2010. In 2009, she showed her work at the CCA Tel Aviv in collaboration with Museo Madre in Naples. Crispino was a finalist of several awards in Italy and Belgium: in 2013, she won the Young Artistic Talent Award and the Prix Médiatine in Brussels. In 2018, she was commissioned to be part of the new collection of KANAL-Centre Pompidou in Brussels. In 2018, she also participated in the 6th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art Thessaloniki, Greece.