15 May 2021 is a special moment. The authentic 18th-century farmstead of Felix De Boeck (1898-1995) will open to the public, who will be given an insight into the life of the painter-farmer. We go back in time 100 years ago and let ourselves be inspired by the life and work of Felix De Boeck. It is a first step, because we are still working on the design and the visitor’s experience, together with local associations, people who still knew Felix and also with visitors who discover the everyday life Felix and can tell anecdotes. The reopening of this heritage gem adds an extra dimension to the artistic story told in the museum around abstract art and to the ecological story told in the orchard and the nature reserve.
An experiential journey reconstructs everyday life on the farm in the last century in all its simplicity. The kitchen is the central place of the house, around the typical stove of Leuven, where a rickety staircase leads to Felix’s painting studio, whose large windows look out onto the protected high-stemmed orchard. As in VRT’s vintage “Ten huize van”, we get to know Felix in his living room, in the stables and of course in his studio. The farm has always been a meeting place: artists, poets, prominent people and villagers used to visit regularly. And this atmosphere of a visit to Felix will be recreated.
At this stage of the reopening of the farm, the FeliXart Museum emphasises the participatory aspect of its mission and calls on the inhabitants of Drogenbos, associations and groups and other people who knew Felix De Boeck personally to update Felix’s story and enrich it with anecdotes, in and around the farm.
During his long life, Felix De Boeck kept track of almost everything and we found many curiosities in his house, objects from long ago. From the obligatory statues of the Virgin Mary to the tubes of paint he still used for his last works of art. From tables covered in layers of paint to rare farming utensils. From eyeglass frames to the embroidery of his beloved spouse Marieke. From wooden clogs to beautiful works of art, by Felix of course, but also by befriended (Prosper De Troyer, Louis Thevenet, Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Karel Maes,…).
We have countless objects from Felix’s daily life, but we do not know, or no longer know, what they were used for. Together with the visitors, we recover the memories of these objects, in order to pass them on to the next generations and to make them aware of the heritage.
The heritage also extends beyond the farm to the orchard, the herb garden and the bread oven. As in Felix’s day, the cows graze among the high-stemmed fruit trees. Felix refused to switch to the more productive and profitable low-stemmed trees at a time when all farmers were doing so. He chose the trees that he, his grandfather and his father had planted, with a deep respect for the rhythm of nature. And these trees still produce a rich harvest, which we share with the people of Drogenbos during joint picking moments.
The figure of Felix is at the centre of this whole story. He was also a rebel a hundred years ago, in the 1920s. Artistically, he was part of the avant-garde of abstract art, which broke with the existing visual language. Socially, he belonged to the “never again war” generation, which opposed capitalism and sought new ideals. The idea of cooperation, of returning to nature, of sustainability and renewal, is more topical than ever. And these ideals inspire the FeliXart Museum throughout its entire functioning.
This is only the beginning. With the help of the inhabitants of Drogenbos, groups and associations, old acquaintances of Felix and schools, we are developing the tour of the farm by refining the accents we want to put on it, by working on heritage practices and by pursuing ecological projects. To show that the lifestyle of a man with a beard and a pipe is more relevant than ever.
The entire FeliX site, with the restored farmhouse, the museum and the beautiful nature reserve with its protected orchard and swamp, literally provides oxygen to the area. The farm was restored with the support of the Flemish Community and the municipality of Drogenbos.
A visit to the FeliXart Museum is a unique and surprising combination of abstract art in the museum, biodiversity in the nature reserve and heritage in and around the farm. Just like the intriguing figure of the painter-farmer Felix De Boeck.
Visiting Felix… By being part of a participatory heritage project:
– On Sunday afternoon: at 1:30 and 3 pm
– Class trip or group guided tour: possible all week, by reservation
Book your ticket online or by phone 02 377 57 22