Experiencing the Centenary
Discovering the Centenary
Understanding the Centenary
Experiencing the Centenary
Discovering the Centenary
Understanding the Centenary
Around the Great War > "Monumentum" Memories of stone, earth creations Patrice Alexandre

"Monumentum" Memories of stone, earth creations Patrice Alexandre

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Patrice Alexandre
© D.R.

Leading up to 2014 which will see the centenary of the First World War, the Royal Army and military History museum, a world renowned military museum located at the heart of Brussels, is providing a tour to take another look at the First World War through selected themes. The comparison of collection items with works of contemporary artists, which display their interpretation of history, stirs up emotions and raises questions. No answers are forced upon the visitor who can make his or her own judgement and so gain a better understanding of the history of the conflicts.

Temporary exhibitions "Reflection(s) of the Great War". These exhibitions invite the visitor to explore or After "War & Game(s)" which compares the toys of the Great War with photographs from Virginie Cornet, the Royal Army Museum is this year taking another artistic look at the First World War. The "Monumentum" exhibition retraces the commemorative movement of the inter-war period through models, photographs and archive documents and at the same time displays sculpted interpretations by Patrice Alexandre of French, Belgian and British monuments from the Great War. The comparison of the history of the original monuments with the contemporary works “revisiting” them, incites the public to take ownership once more of this heritage which has become a token decoration on one’s daily life but also to question the relationship between the sculptor and the monument, and the artist and history.

The artist

The sculptor Patrice Alexandre lives and works in Paris and in the Champagne-Ardenne. He studied, from 1968 to 1973, at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (National School of Fine Arts). Between 1981 and 1983, he was a resident at the French Academy in Rome. He won the top award at the Budapest international Biennial in 1981. He was commissioned by the General Council of the Marne départment for the remembrance of the Great War in 2001, to resculpture several monuments to the fallen of the département. Following this work, he successfully presented a Masters’ essay to the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) on the role of the sculptor with respect to remembrance and its portrayal. In 2008, he became a professor at the Higher National School in Paris for Fine Arts. With Jacques Gamblin and David Chaillou, he dramatized the letters from Fernand Léger during the Great War. It was he who sculpted the monument to Saint-John Perse which is to be found in the gardens of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and a second dedicated to the victims of the Gestapo in Rheims. As part of his interest in exploring the Great War, Patrice Alexandre is today working on a number of Belgian and British commemorative monuments.

The exhibition

There are three parts to the exhibition.

The educational area

The educational area provides ideas which are useful for understanding the commemorative movement which developed around the world immediately after the First World War and during the inter-year wars. Several educational panels allow the visitor to understand various aspects: Why are monuments built? When and where are they built?  What iconography do they explore? With what artistic language?  How are such works of art financed?

The artist’s workshop uncovered

The workshop which Patrice Alexandre used has been partially restored.  The atmosphere in which the artist worked has been recreated and it shows the sculptural materials and techniques that he used. The different stages from the design to the construction of the monument are illustrated by a photographic and film story-board. Presented with scholarly confusion, the works offer an overall view of the sculptor’s creations illustrating his approach and his thinking on the Great War.

The questioning nature of the monuments

Like an artist, Patrice Alexandre explores for each monument the link between the sculptor and war, between the monument and space, between the plastic language and remembrance, between consecration and iconography creating the vision for ten French  monuments, twelve Belgian monuments and two  British memorials erected on Belgian soil. Displayed at the centre of the 1914-1918 room, in the midst of the exhibition, these modern creations are an integral part of the collection items. From the comparison of the exhibits referring to the act of war and sculptures referring to the act of remembrance, and the cohabitation between the place which is highly symbolically charged and the works which reveal the meanings of the monumental allegories of the commemorative narrative comes a dialogue. This dialogue helps one to understand what the monument heritage of the Great War is all about but beyond this it encourages the visitor to question and reflect on war, bereavement, remembrance, or rather the commemoration, of yesterday and today.

The book

A fully illustrated book (Coffee Table Book), written by leading specialist historians and eminent scholars of the First World War, in three languages (French, Dutch and English), will be published to coincide with the exhibition. This book will contain a pluridisciplinary study of the commemorative monuments. Historians, art historians, archaeologists, philosophers, writers and artists will be able to compare notes on the question of remembrance and the form of commemoration.

The bus tour

The Royal Army Museum and the Eguides association are offering the public the opportunity to visit the Monumentum exhibition plus a bus tour to explore the commemorative monuments in Brussels.

During the tour particular reference will be made to the Belgian infantry and British soldiers (place Poelaert), French soldiers (parvis Notre-Dame de Laeken), the resistance with Gabrielle Petit (place Saint-Jean), the auxiliaries who were absolutely vital at the time, the pigeons (square des Blindés), the civilian victims (Brussels cemetery), the airmen and balloonists (avenue Roosevelt), the heroism of the regiments (boulevard de Dixmude).

Useful information

Exhibition open daily (except Mondays)
from 9 am to midday and from 1pm to 4:45 pm
Entrance Free of Charge

Royal Army and Military History Museum
Parc du Cinquantenaire, 3
1000 Bruxelles
+ 32 (0)2 737 78 11

For bookings for the bus tour please contact asbl Eguides
+ 32 (0)499 21 39 85