On 9 October 2010, the STAM, the new city museum of Ghent (Belgium) opened, replacing the former Bijlokemuseum, which had been closed for renovation since 2005. The renovated and expanded museum has exceeded all expectations. In conjunction with its reopening a special exhibition, ‘Illuminated City’ (Belichte Stad), will run until 10 May 2011, exploring through stained glass the numerous aspects of light [Fig. 3].
Aletta Rambaut first drew attention to the very fine collection of stained glass at the STAM in a presentation to the 2008 Corpus Vitrearum Colloquium in Zurich. The large and diverse collection includes roundels and fragments of great historical interest. First assembled in the nineteenth century by an eminent Ghent art collector, additional pieces, including roundels and heads, were subsequently purchased by the city from the glazier, Henry Coppejans.
The temporary exhibition provides the opportunity to display more of the museum’s sixteenth- and seventeenth-century roundels than is otherwise feasible: approximately 90% of the STAM’s holdings are in storage. The roundels have been set individually for the exhibition, the idea being to display them like jewels in jewellery boxes, allowing the visitor to see the artwork very closely without distraction. The exhibited pieces are thus not simply displayed illuminated by light, they also illustrate how the panels themselves present light in different ways. For each roundel and fragment, the light illuminating them cedes to the illumination from within, and the lamp-, torch- and halo-like effect that can only be created through different shades of silver stain.
A. Rambaut, ‘Magnifique ensemble de “petits vitraux” conservé au STAM de Gand (B): la collection de la Bijloke’, in V. Sauterel and S. Trumpler, Les panneaux de vitrail isolés. Die Einzelscheibe. The single stained-glass panel. Actes du XXIVe Colloque International du Corpus Vitrearum Zurich 2008, Bern, 2010, pp. 147–66
For more information about the exhibition, including opening times, visit the museum’s website.