Take one part contemporary art gallery and one part scavenger hunt and mix them all up with some unique historic locations around one of Flanders’ most beautiful cities and you get TRACK – 44 artworks scattered around the city and a great way to discover Ghent.
Last weekend we decided to see what TRACK was all about, so we began at the source, S.M.A.K (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst), Ghent’s contemporary art museum. There, we purchased our TRACK pass, which allows us admission to the 14 interior works for a one-time visit, plus three Bonus TRACKs to revisit our favourite works. The pass is valid for the duration of the exhibition so we can visit the works any time we like. The 30 exterior works are free for the entire public to enjoy throughout the duration of the exhibition.
In addition to our passes, we received the TRACK map – a city map of Ghent with all of the interior and exterior works marked and a green route, meant to be taken by bike, throughout the city.
The exhibition is divided into 6 areas, known as clusters, corresponding to six different neighbourhoods in Ghent. In addition to the well-known historic centre, TRACK takes you to some out of the way corners of the city. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
My bike riding skills being next to nonexistent, we opted to view TRACK on foot, closely following the proposed bike route. It is also possible to reach many of the works by bus, with a discounted ticket available from the TRACK information desks.
We had perfect weather for our wander through Ghent. It wasn’t too hot for a long walk and the skies only opened to rain on us once, luckily while we were inside one of the TRACK meeting-points.
After exploring the artworks at S.M.A.K., we headed to the Blandijn area where we discovered one of our favourite works – Bookyards 2012, by Massimo Bartolini.
This piece was essentially a series of bookcases in the vineyard of St. Peter’s Abbey. The shelves are filled with discontinued library books visitors are free to take home, provided they make a small donation to help literacy charities. The shelves are in line with the vineyard rows because, according to the artist, “books can broaden the mind, just like good wine.” Books and wine? This is our kind of art.
In tracking down this artwork, we also discovered St. Peter’s Abbey, a beautiful site in Ghent we had not yet visited. As another TRACK work, Visible World, by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, was located inside; we were able to explore some of the abbey, thanks to our TRACK pass.
On our second day in Ghent, we decided to head to a part of town we had never visited before and followed our TRACK map to the Tolhuis cluster.
Our first stop was the TRACK meeting-point, Campo Victoria, where we decided to purchase the TRACK guidebook (available in Dutch, French, English and German for 7 euro).
The guide was a great asset. Not only did it make locating the artworks easier (and it really was a bit of a scavenger hunt for some) it also gave us some insight into the artworks themselves – some were quite ‘difficult’ to say the least.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of the guide was the information it provided us with about the locations of the art. It gave us more context for the art itself, as well of the historical significance of the location in Ghent in which we found it.
We spent most of the day walking through the city and pausing to check out artworks. The interior works, in particular, were in some unique locations and we found ourselves thinking back to an art exhibition in an abandoned building, we saw in Brussels, many years ago.
Our TRACK experience took us to the Ghent University, a church, an old boxing club, an abandoned mansion, a public garden and, most bizarrely, the room where the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1814, which is now inside a psychiatric hospital.
We were also impressed by the thought that went into accommodating the visitors to TRACK. In addition to plenty of documentation and signage, each cluster contained an info point. There, you can buy TRACK passes and guidebooks, there are toilets and most contain snacks and drinks for sale. We were able to enjoy some ice-cream while sheltering from the rain at the pop-up cafe, vivavanilla, created especially for TRACK.
We can’t say we loved all of the artworks, but that’s not really the point – of TRACK or of art in general. We loved the experience of exploring these hidden corners of Ghent, seeing art that made us think and discovering locations we never would have seen otherwise.
TRACK is on until September 16, 2012. TRACK passes cost 10€ and are available at SMAK and any of the TRACK meeting points around the city. Visit www.track.be for more information.