Helen Buys

20210120 SMAK in de klas foto Kurt Stockman 08308

Now that group visits cannot take place, we offer you a story, an anecdote, a look at a work of art by one of our guides.

Our group visits still cannot be restarted. Fortunately, we can continue to count on our guides. These fascinating storytellers also guide you into the museum via the digital route. Today, our guide is Helen Buys.

"I’ve been working as a guide in SMAK for many years. I’ve had the privilege of guiding people around all kinds of large and small, newsworthy, beautiful and fascinating exhibitions.

Some have been controversial, such as the Paul McCarthy exhibition, which made many people’s hair stand on end. Others flowed quietly on, without much fuss.

I am always struck – and this is what makes guiding such a fascinating job – by how differently people can react to art. What captivates one person can completely repel another. It’s impossible to predict people’s reactions. I sometimes feel disappointed when I’ve sung the praises of an exhibition and people just look back at me blankly.

One of the nicest groups to guide, in my opinion, are children. They’re usually very open-minded and aren’t led by prejudice, which can sometimes happen with adults. Children can be quicker to ‘see’ what it’s all about, and they’re exceptionally good at feeling things.

This was also the case, for example, with the landmark Berlinde De Bruyckere exhibition in 2015. Although many visitors were profoundly impressed by the often monumental works, there were also people who told me afterwards: ‘madam, I don’t like this’.

One of the most impressive works on view at the time was ‘Kreupelhout – Cripplewood’ (2012-13), which was also shown at the Venice Biennale. ‘Cripplewood’ fills an entire room, a fallen or felled tree that is lovingly wrapped and supported. The reference to Saint Sebastian, who was bound to a tree and pierced with arrows, is never far away.

I visited the exhibition with my family. My youngest son, then five, entered the room in which ‘Cripple Wood’ was shown, took one look at the work and then said: ‘Look, mama, the tree is wounded and Berlinde (he spoke about the artist as if he knew her personally) has put a cloth on it. Are we going to the next room now?’

Sometimes it can be as simple as that."

Helen Buys

Helen Buys is a trained historian and art historian. She has been a guide for many years in various museums in Ghent and Brussels.

We hope to allow group visits again but this is subject to what the National Security Council will decide in the future.
Through this link you will find all information.

23.Mar.21 Category: Don't forget the guide
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