Not just a museum – an experience
In the 1990s, now enjoying international fame and with his works on display right round the world, the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon (1934-2005) had the idea of setting up a foundation which would bring together, in one place, the works he had kept throughout his artistic career.
Although he was offered some remarkable premises in Italy and France, Folon was delighted by the Walloon region’s suggestion that he set up his foundation on the edge of the Forêt de Soignes, in the Solvay Regional Estate – just 20 minutes from Brussels. Folon, a keen conservationist, was captivated by the 227-hectare park. This was largely because he had known it since he was a child. During the war, his family had moved to Genval and young Jean-Michel often walked around the edge of the then inaccessible estate, dreaming of the “garden of a thousand rhododendrons”.
The Fondation Folon opened to the public in October 2000. It is situated downhill from the Château Solvay, in Zondael farm, which was designed in 1836 by the architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar, who went on to design the famous Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels the following year. Unlike conventional museum layouts, Folon’s scenography for the rooms was designed to be an art installation in itself, one of the last he created. It takes visitors inside the artist’s head. With assistance from the EuroCulture scenography agency and Art&Build architects, Folon created an immersive and poetic museum. He achieved this through the use of sound and movement. Optical illusions, mirrors, music, videos and animation films line the tour route.
The original music by the French composer Michel Colombier echoes Folon’s palette of colours. Contents and container are in total harmony.
Over time, a number of temporary exhibition halls have been added to the route created by Folon. These exhibitions – one or two each year – focus on aspects of Folon’s work or showcase the work of his close artist friends, whom Folon described as his “family in spirit”.