“It’s not really a museum – or it was, or might have been”, muses Jan Bucquoy. I allow my eyes to flit around the room and take in his collection of wall collages. I see Napoleon, Michael Jackson,
Lenin, Hitler - all with brazen red lips and lacy fabric on their heads. Only Magritte’s head has an apple instead, “I thought that surrealism was already strange enough!” Chuckles Bucquoy. Moving over to take a closer look at one of the exhibits, I read the solemn notice:
“Please complete the aforementioned coupon and return it together with your pants.”
So here I am in Brussels’ anti-Museum of underpants, which has persisted in various locations since its creation in 1990, fanning the infamous reputation of its already infamous creator. Of course it’s an anti-museum because it doesn’t just represent dead things: the owners of some of the pants are very much alive! And for Bucquoy this is not art for art’s sake, it is reminding us that we all wear underpants, that we are all ... equal! Giggling aside, perhaps there’s some truth in the juxtaposition
of power and lace: stern portraits of Sarkozy, Clinton and de Gaulle all seem less intimidating with a pair of frilly ladies’ smalls on their head. And what of Bucquoy? “No, the Director doesn’t wear pants”, he says, mischievously.
This small sample of Bucquoy’s extensive collection is displayed in De Dolle Mol, a weathered Flemish bar re-opened after rising rents forced it to close; and now supported by the Flemish community, sometimes hosting musicians and cultural events. Linked to the liberation of women, the birth of the Flemish Amnesty International movement and the B-generation, this place has always been the home of dreamy revolutionaries and self-styled outlaws, and seems to be attracting fans from the school-age generation as well. On Thursday or Friday evenings you may even bump into Bucquoy.
21 May in Belgium used to be the day for Bucquoy’s mock “Coup d’état”. There’s no need for that at the moment, as Belgium has no elected government, no mandate for raising taxes, and for Bucquoy, things are working rather well. So his focus is on future projects: touring the Musée du Slip to New York or London; sending out another 1000 letters to solicit new exhibits; directing the second part
of his film “Camping Cosmos” (which will again feature Noël Godin, perhaps the original and most successful “entarteur” ever – cream pie throwing tormenter of public figures such as Bill Gates and Bernard-Henri Lévy). But, Bucquoy grins, “I always come back to the pants.”
De Dolle Mol is open Wednesday to Sunday from 16:00
Rue des Eperonniers 52, 1000 Brussels
Google map: bit.ly/p96Qus
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