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Banned, proscribed, prohibited, censored, feared, dreaded, transgressed, trespassed… Taboos are inherent to society and to mankind. The word “taboo” exists in every civilization and culture. It touches the universality of the human condition. No matter what they are, taboos are invariably rooted in the fear of danger.


Taboo for some, but not for others. Forbidden here, but not elsewhere.


Thus, taboos range from social danger to prohibition, from what one cannot do, show or say out of fear, respect, modesty or decency; from those imposed unto oneself to those enforced upon us, from self-censorship to censorship… Taboos may pertain to one’s particular relationship with the body or to cleanliness, money, religion, death, old age, suicide or certain sexual practices… We live in a world where assuredly certain taboos have weakened while others have gained in strength and power.


For ten weeks, close to one hundred works of art on view among the rooms will showcase themes such as men’s and women’s sexuality, sadomasochistic practices, debauchery, hidden parts of our bodies, death, religion as a “powerful vector of proscription,” unease over disease, aging or unsightly bodies… subjects that could not be more “repulsive.”


Taboos are great in both number and power; they reveal the paradox within a modern society that believes itself to be rid of taboos. For censorship does still exist. While we feel more liberal and open minded about some things - Nabokov’s Lolita is no longer forbidden - we turn our gaze and veil our eyes to others: for instance, it is still difficult to mention or depict women’s menstruation in public.


In January 2013, for the exhibit Sex, Money, and Power, we wrote, “We live in an era of dematerialized forms of money, in an era of outrageous powers, of blatant and unashamed sex.” ta.bu is the reverse image of that prior exhibit, for which Kendell Geers served as our guest artist. In a rare effort to mirror that exhibit, we wanted to give him carte blanche for ta.bu, where he was provided full use of one of the display windows in the house.


The role of the artist is to break the silence, free the shackles, and lift the veil. Wim Delvoye is the guest artist for this opus. He has never shied away from breaking the rules of propriety, be they tied to the body or sex, by shaking up the narrow-minded and sanitized mindset through his joyous and unbridled work of art.


What role do collectors play? When they lend a work of art, they dare to reveal a certain outlook, an outlook that in its own way forms the work of art. And if, on the other hand, the artist himself is committed to disturbing this outlook, selecting a work of art may at times become an act of subversion. Because indeed “all is no longer for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” Reality is violent, and we camouflage reality the best we can; and even though we have to state things as they are, living well in harmony requires a modicum of decorum.


This is why the choice of works from the collectors invited to participate in ta.bu illustrate, in sometimes daring fashion, the various aspects of these “facts of life.” Lieven and Chris Declerck, Estelle and Hervé Francès as well as Amaury and Myriam de Solages, the founders of Maison Particulière, seem to have an outlook in which few taboos exist, even if each one acknowledges that “taboos are omnipresent in today’s society.”


Amaury and Myriam de Solages wonder about decorum and raise the question of the onlooker: “A work of art draws meaning through the onlooker’s gaze. We all have “our” taboos, “our” limits that are not to be crossed. The question of taboo rests essentially in the eyes of the beholder. The depiction of a reality, even sordid, always engenders distance.”


After participating in States of Minds and Obsession (exhibits held in January 2014 and January 2015, respectively), Lieven and Chris Declerk are pursuing their dialogue with Maison Particulière and therefore their reflection on their collection. Indeed, selecting works of art is a commitment, a conscious call to action. Although they realize that their collection features “themes that others might find off-putting or unattractive,” they themselves do not consider them taboo. If a guiding principle could be used to define their approach as collectors, it would be “physicality, which, while it may no longer be considered a taboo here, may be considered as such elsewhere.”


Following Red and Sex, Money, and Power, (September 2012 and January 2013, respectively), Estelle and Hervé Francès provide us with the chance to pursue the conversation we started with them - the recurring theme of their collection - on the subject of the excesses of mankind. So it is no surprise that they opted to display primarily “works that deal with humanity’s taboos. Some are ancestral, such as death, while others are tied to our modern way of life, such as certain sexual practices. Then there are those that stand out because they are part of our current environment, such as all issues associated with childhood and children’s conditions.”


Along with contemporary works of art, videos and installations, paintings that at first blush are “classical” in appearance, as well as photographs and other drawings, the trajectory of ta.bu has been synchronized to select literary works, all of which were banned at a certain point in time. Natalie David-Weill has punctuated each exhibit space in Maison Particulière with excerpts from literary works by Boris Vian, Flaubert, Salman Rushdie, Sade, D. H. Lawrence, or Nabokov. “In these written texts, just as in this exhibit, the word is liberated, the depiction is unshackled, and the taboo is unveiled.”


A bronze table on which people give in to cannibalistic rituals; lamps that more resemble ambiguous sculptures of procreation; an inverted Taj Mahal, a sacred symbol; a chair that takes liberties with space… with the generous participation of the Carpenters Workshop Gallery, design is once again a welcome guest at Maison Particulière, and Joep Van Lieshout, Studio Job, and Pablo Reinoso will therefore be represented at this exhibit.


ta.bu is a unique exhibit on more than one level. It does not seek to please nor does it want to be provocative. Nonetheless, the exhibit is off limits to persons under the age of 18. A subject full of paradox, decency obliges.


ta.bu reunites collectors who are all regulars at Maison Particulière and who have been engaged in a conversation with the art center and its public over several exhibits. They run the risk of baring themselves ever slightly more.


ta.bu is central to the pivotal role art plays as it seeks “…to remove the holy nature from the forbidden, to emancipate ourselves from morals, to bypass any restriction to the point of gaining freedom from fear.  Can everything be shown in the name of art? If we display that which should remain hidden, can it still be called taboo?”*


Even though it appears in our free and democratic societies that public censorship no longer exists, self-censorship is alive and well. For museums and art galleries, which see themselves constrained by selection committees over who and what may be exhibited - and by extension, collectors, who find themselves constrained over what they must see and appreciate - self-censorship reigns at a disturbing degree. Artists courageously counterbalance this self-censorship, by creating “unshowable” works of art, thereby denouncing the abuses of mankind and the hindrance of freedoms.

*Nathalie David-Weill
The guests

The art collectors

  • Estelle and Hervé Francès
  • Chris and Lieven Declerck
  • Myriam and Amaury de Solages

The artist

  • Wim Delvoye      


The literary point of view

  • Nathalie David Weill