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 Basel, 14 June 2012


In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Old Testament (Michael Gove Bible), Genesis 3.19

Peter Buggenhout seems to have taken this text to heart, for dust is the signature material that characterizes all this Belgian sculptor’s works.

We first encountered the Buggenhout oeuvre last April Fool’s Day at Paris’s Galerie Laurent Godin during the annual “Art Paris” fair staged under the sensational iron-and-glass dome of the Grand Palais just off the Champs- Elysées.

Now we come across him again at the stand of Düsseldorf’s Konrad Fischer Galerie at the 43rd annual international art fair which is currently being held (from 14 to 17 June) at Basel in Switzerland.

How to describe what you see when you hit upon a Buggenhout?

Impossible.  You just can’t do it.

It is appropriate then that the 2012 creation on display at the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Basel is entitled “The Blind leading the Blind”.

Actually, it might also be misleading to call it a creation.

Much of the work consists of ready-made “found” materials. Paper, steel rods, scrap metal, textile tape, plastic. However, according to Konrad Fischer’s Thomas Rieger, it is also the case that Buggenhout sometimes – but not always – refashions the materials he finds into shapes of his own imagining. Like any artist. Sometimes, also, he paints them or at least some of them. And, in any case, his creative imagination is at work when he assembles the whole thing into its final Gestalt.

It is then that the operation gets interesting.

Buggenhout buys boxes of dust from industrial cleaning firms.

Hands up how many of you knew that you can actually buy dust?

Most of us, if we think about dust at all, regard it as something we want to get rid of, usually by employing a vacuum cleaner.

They say, if you try hard enough, you can sell anything. Whatever it is, someone will buy it from you.

And so it turns out to be the case with common-0r-garden dust. Filth. Scum. Scuzz. Scunge.

Buggenhout is clearly in love with the stuff and will do anything to get his hands on it.

Because dust is the by far the outstanding feature of the sculptor’s work. The other materials he assembles are just a receptacle, a platform, nay an excuse, for the dust. It is the dust that dazzles you. It is the dust – thick layers of disgusting blackish grey dust – that hits you in the eye.

The exercise involved in applying the dust to the assembled materials is more complex than you might imagine. Dust is not normally applied. It just settles – on floors, on tables, on chairs, on window sills, on everything.

In Buggenhout’s case, however, we are talking about the creative application of dust.

The artist’s modus operandi is no secret.

Having bought the dust, he then has to rid it of harmful micro-organisms – in effect, to purify it. He does this by deep-freezing it. You can maybe think of one or two bizarre uses for domestic deep-freezers – occasionally murderers use them to stash away the corpses of their victims – but deep-freezing dust to sanitize it surely takes the biscuit.

Using fixatives, Buggenhout then applies the dust to the assembled materials in accordance with the dictates of his imagination .

And hey prest0! There you have it – a finished Buggenhout sculpture in pristine condition.

As we said above, it is impossible to describe a Buggenhout – think only of a shapeless heap of dingy ramshackle debris such as you might find on a bomb site or in the unkempt grounds of a dilapidated disused factory – but it can be measured.

“The Blind leading the Blind” measures 297 x 83 x 50 cm.

And, of course, it can be priced. This is after all a market, not an exhibition. The price being quoted yesterday for the Buggenhout in question was 35 000 euros. A snip in terms of headline Basel sale prices.

We have one practical query.

Most works of art need to be dusted down from time to time……….

We confidently predict that Buggenhout is the next big thing – post-Tàpies, post-Kounellis, post-Hirst. Buy now – while stocks last!

London’s Saatchi Gallery seems to think along the same lines. In 2011 they exhibited Buggenhout in a show entitled “Shape Of Things to Come”.

Here is what they said about him.

“At first glance, Peter Buggenhout’s large fuzzy masses, seemingly covered in thick layers of dust, look like readymade objects, rubble found in the aftermath of a building site, an archaeological dig, or at the scene of a cataclysm – an earthquake, explosion or other force of violent destruction (natural disasters or terrorist attacks?)….. Buggenhout’s sculpture raises questions around the subjects artists choose as their models and the strong influence of projection on the way art is perceived…..”

They go on to quote Buggenhout himself:

“I consider my works as analogies. All these analogies bear the consoling thought that they were created by human hands, that they are viable and bring viability that is hardly, if at all, bearable into a chilled, inhumanly large world. These analogies do not operate within the standard artistic norm because they do not intend to pass judgment, preach or pass on emotions. They simply are, there is more than meets the eye, after all.”

Buggenhout was born in 1963 at Dendermonde. He lives and works in Ghent.

The Konrad Fischer Galerie is holding an exhibition of Buggenhout’s works in Düsseldorf as from 7 September 2012.


You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

 1. Why? or How? That is the question(3 Jan 2012)

2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich(6 Feb 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices(2 Feb 2012)

4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat(31 Jan 2012)

5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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