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New Nouveau – January 25 – April 2, 2024


New Nouveau is a group exhibition that combines AI technology with physical objects to explore the eternal spring of organic style. Biophilia in art and design has over the course of centuries reoccurred and renewed itself at critical moments of environmental change and crisis. The twelve artists in this exhibition, mostly working in northern Europe, each conceptually approach natural materials and forms with their own distinct, resolutely contemporary techniques.

As a precedent and influence, Rococo was an international flourishing of arts inspired by shells, leaves and rock forms styled as baroque exuberance in the 18th century, when consciousness of our natural world rose to new scientific heights. At the end of the 19th century vines, tendrils, whiplash curves, and swollen buds returned as the language of a young new generation looking to break from regurgitated historical styles in search of a youthful and universal new expression.

Driven by the strong economic and industrial development in Belgium at the time, architects such as Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde and Paul Hankar imagined their ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ using innovative materials such as cast iron to create flowing spaces and nature-inspired decoration. The creation of The Tassel Mansion in 1893 by Victor Horta in Brussels signified the birth of the international Art Nouveau movement.

Curated by Belgian journalist and curator Elien Haentjens and by independent curator Christian Larsen, the digital spaces exhibit contemporary objects in progressive, futuristic renditions of organic design. Architects Arsalan Afshar of Ruso Panduro have rendered the following images using AI tools to imagine a future organicism that draws on the psychology and decadence of the Belle Epoque.

Selected designers

Aether/Mass by Davy Grosemans
Robin Berrewaerts
Natalia Brilli
Daan De Wit
Peter Donders
Jeske Haak
Kaspar Hamacher
Alexandre Lowie
Ruso Panduro & Arsalan Afshar
Studio Part
Elias Van Orshaegen
Niclas Wolf


Room 1

In a similar way to the architects and artists at the end of the nineteenth century, contemporary artists and craftspeople translate natural forms and materials into fascinating objects. They stimulate us to live in closer dialogue with nature. Although we can imitate nature, we always seem to fall short of matching its power.
The German artist Niclas Wolf applies his concept of the “geoprimitive” as a mineral and metallurgic approach to organic form. The Geoprimitive Settle is a hand-sculpted stool made from a newly developed specialized clay. In his material research, Wolf mimics tectonic structures and geological processes. His exquisite finishes contrast the rough against the refined to sublime effect.

Room 2

By combining natural materials, contemporary technology, human wit and craftsmanship, designers manage to create surprising objects mimicking the natural world. They beautify and enhance our living environments and celebrate our human relation to nature.

Pushing formal and material boundaries, Peter Donders combines technology with artisanal craftsmanship. For his tour-de-force Wind Bench, Donders uses CNC robots to cut and slice his digital 3D model into plywood parts. After milling 510 slices of Birch plywood, Donders sorts, glues, and shapes them by hand into 85 laminated layers. The final sanding and finishing achieve the bench’s intricate, airy, streamlined appearance. The bench echoes the historic appearance of tendrils and roots that defined Art Nouveau as a style.

Room 3

Alexandre Lowie is a connoisseur and procurer of rare and exquisitely grained woods. His genius rests on a bare minimum of constructive interventions to enhance the natural beauty of the wood itself. One side of the screen is made from white ebony with an exquisite patterning of spalted black grain that recalls the calligraphic line of japonisme that was also a source of inspiration for art Nouveau artists.

The Loveseat by Elias Van Orshaegen preserves the ‘new normal’ of the recent covid pandemic for future generations : the bench measures 1,5 metres, but instead of helping to keep this ‘safe’ distance, it forces people to sit even closer to each other. The loveseat strips steel down to its essential truth by fully expressing steel’s subtle ability to elude, reflect, and blend into the environment that surrounds it.

Room 4

With their creations the artists research and question the parallels between the human and natural world. Natalia Brilli melds her Belgian-Italian roots into minimalist, monochromatic creations with a baroque twist. Fascinated by our animal instincts, she created the Mamuthones Armchair. It pays homage to the Sardinian carnival, where shepherds transform into trans-human creatures covered in bells and black sheep skin.

Dutch artist Jeske Haak pays homage to the deep sea and natural worlds which remain invisible for us. Her bronze sculpture Rabbit Hole is a casting of the imagined underground den of a rabbit. Haak triggers our imagination to consider worlds beyond our human existence.

Room 5

With their bronze objects both Peter Donders and Jeske Haak bring a touch of nature into our human world. Crown of the sea by Jeske Haak tells the story of gardening coral to create healthy ecosystems. By benefiting the organisms of the underwater world, it stimulates a better quality of life and, in the long run, a better future.

By fully embracing the possibilities of industrial machines at the end of the 19th century,, Henry van de Velde wanted to minimize the division between arts and design. Today, designers such as Peter Donders fully integrate innovative techniques such as 3D-printing to transcend the purely artisanal. Combining artisanal and technological knowledge he creates objects such as Shelly with such complex geometries they appear as if they could only be made by nature.

Room 6

The Jellyfish by Jeske Haak adds a playful touch to a dramatic surrounding, mimicking the beauty but also the destructive power of nature. This duality is an intrinsic part of the Pair of Sofas by Belgian artist Kaspar Hamacher. As the son of a wood ward, Kaspar Hamacher pays homage to the forest with his sculptural objects in wood. The black colour contrasted with the deliberate rough texture of the wood’s live edge reminds us of the destructive forces of one of the basic natural elements: fire.

Room 7

In its most ambitious appearances Art Nouveau was conceived as a gesamtkunstwerk, or a totally integrated work of art, melding architecture, design, and art into a whole. The Paradise Tapestry by Natalia Brilli evocates the complex biome of an underwater world. The extremely detailed scene is made by hand in raffia by artisans in Madagascar.

For his Stratum Saxum-series Belgian designer Daan De Wit developed his own technique to optimize his material use, combining automized laser cutting and, afterwards, a detailed constructing of the bamboo layers by hand. Similar to the geological layers of mother earth, the tables look different from every vantage point—a total sculpture. 


Although the floral style of Art Nouveau is best known, some architects proposed a reductive, geometric style, as epitomized by the Glasgow School of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Vienna Secession of Josef Hoffmann, who built the Stoclet Palace in Brussels (1905-1911).

This playful dialogue between the organic and the geometric can be discovered in the Stories Table by Belgian design duo studio PART, which is made with wood from the Brussels Sonian Forest by Sonian Wood Coop. The table is a meditation on the rough and refined, with the lower section of the tables base made from raw unworked wood, with each progressive layer built above it increasingly refined.


RoOM 9

Belgian artist Robin Berrewaerts brings raw nature from out of the forest into the home: he transforms the wood he finds in Brussels parks into organic sculptural creations. The found waste wood receives new life through intricately carved, incised, and chiseled surfaces. His signature black tinting process enhances the texture of the original material while imbuing it with a saturated extra-sensorial velvety density.


Room 10

In between the architectural ruins of our civilization these objects function as astonishing witnesses of historical lives and stories, and of the playful dialogue between the man-made and nature made. In his bronze creations such as the Exsitu Occasional Table, Niclas Wolf plays with contrasts between the rough texture of hand-sculpted silvered bronze against the refined smooth mirror-polish underside of the table to sublime effect.

Natalia Brilli wraps found and natural objects with ultra-thin layers of leather in Extra Large Shells –a way to safeguard them and transform them into objects worthy of a contemporary Wunderkammer.

Davy Grosemans founded ÆTHER/MASS to pursue a pared-down minimalist ethos in his visionary formal and material language. TwentyTwenty resulted from research into the opal glass lamp designs of 1920s Dutch modernism. In a metaphor for biological cross-breeding of the historical designs, Grosemans merges pairings of the lamp forms into a singular sculptural light object.


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