BOUKE DE VRIES: WAR AND PIECES
Bouke de Vries’ contemporary interpretation of the decorative sculptures that adorned 17th- and 18th-century banqueting tables.
War & Pieces is an eight-meter (26-foot) installation by Dutch-born artist Bouke de Vries inspired by the sophisticated figural centerpieces that decorated eighteenth-century European rulers’ banqueting tables. Displayed during the dessert course on special occasions, these figures first made of sugar and later increasingly porcelain, told stories or conveyed political messages to the diners.
Bouke de Vries draws on such traditions in his modern centerpiece, arranged around the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion whose force appears to have turned the entire table into a wasteland. Battle rages across this heap of shards old and new, fought by myriad miniature figures with conventional arms. Jesus on the cross and the Chinese Buddhist goddess of compassion, Guanyin, watch over the death and destruction.
War & Pieces has been exhibited at venues in Europe and Asia, beginning in 2012 at the Holburne Museum in Bath, England with support from the Arts Council of Great Britain. At each venue, de Vries worked with the curators and the collection by responding to the region and its history and interacting with the interior settings. In some venues, he was able add to the installation using relevant objects from the collection. Charlottenburg Palace, (shown here) was looted in the Seven Years’ War and almost completely destroyed in the Second World War, adding a special meaning to this era-spanning work. In 2018, it will begin a museum tour in North America.
Born in Utrecht, The Netherlands, Bouke de Vries studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven and Central St Martin’s, London. After working with John Galliano, Stephen Jones, and Zandra Rhodes, he switched careers and studied ceramics conservation and restoration at West Dean College. He has been a full-time studio artist since 2010.
War & Pieces is currently touring North America:
The Wadsworth Athaneum: October 4–January 6, 2019
Montgomery Fine Arts Museum: February 2–May 12, 2019
The Holburne Museum, Bath, UK 2012
Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, Germany 2013
Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, UK 2013
Whitspace, Amsterdam, Netherlands 2013
Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taiwan 2014
Chateau de Nyon, Switzerland 2014–5
Castle d’Ursel Hingene, Belgium 2015
Gemeente Museum, The Hague, Netherlands 2015–6
Berrington Hall, Herefordshire, UK 2017
Harley Gallery, Lincolnshire, UK 2018