Photomontage: View of the monument of the count Paul de Smet de Naeyer with heap of sand, Wenduine

Le Beau Fort (The Beautiful Fort)

Monument of Count Paul de Smet de Naeyer, ca. sixty cubic meters (85 tons) of sand, a person with shovel *not executed

The project proposal was developed for the fourth edition of Art Triennial Beaufort, which takes place along the Belgian coast and in the town of De Haan-Wenduine. The project concerns a local monument of Count Paul de Smet de Naeyer, who between 1896-1907 served twice as prime minister and twice as finance minister of Belgium. As a conservative anti-democrat, he was against improving working conditions in the mining industry, universal suffrage, and public schooling. Even after the end of his tenure, Smet Naeyer, who then became director of the Société Générale de Belgique, remained one of the most influential figures in Belgium. His career is closely linked to the country’s colonialism.

The “moving” story of the monument, from the Belle Époque to the present, can be traced via historical postcards. Once the monument was at the center of a beachfront park, with Smet Naeyer facing the city. The monument paid him tribute for numerous beautification measures he initiated in De Haan, and for the success of the resort’s tourism. Since then, however, the square has been rebuilt several times. The figure was moved closer to the beach and rotated 180 degrees so that he looks out over the sea.

The draft stipulates that the monumental base of the figure be covered with sand. In order to keep the fragile structure encased in the sand, a person would be assigned and sent with a shovel to keep the sand continually heaped. This same person also acts as a storyteller, initiating conversations on the history of the monument, the Count, and the colonial history of East Flanders.

© 2011-12 Ulrich Genth & Heike Mutter