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Sculptures in Leiden exhibition is intriguing and endearing

Art and science: are they polar opposites? The theme of this year’s Sculptures in Leiden open air exhibition is ‘life sciences’. It has resulted in many intriguing sculptures, including one that is especially endearing.

Inspiration in the Bio Science Park

The eleven participating young Dutch artists gained inspiration for their sculptures at Leiden Bio Science Park. They spoke with researchers and saw the results that can come from their research. The sculptures will be displayed on the historic Hooglandse Kerkgracht in Leiden until 7 August.

Immunomonolith by Ruben Jager.

Endearing creature

Almost everyone gazes at him at least a little tenderly. Many visitors even go and sit next to him in the open air waiting room. Homunculus Loxodontus by Margriet van Breevoort (1990) is clearly the public’s favourite in this exhibition. This endearing creature, a kind of cross between an elephant seal and a giant larva, sits on a chair in a waiting room. The creature has folded hands and large, sensitive eyes.

Homunculus Loxodontus by Margriet van Breevoort

Waiting patiently

Van Breevoort spent a couple of hours walking around in Leiden University Medical Center. She wandered along the corridors and saw the many waiting rooms. Then she made her decision: she would focus not on the researcher, but on the patient and the atmosphere in a hospital. ‘I was struck by all the waiting patiently  that goes on. For instance in ophthalmology. Many elderly people with bleary eyes are waiting resignedly for their turn. Very typically, often with folded hands. That gives them an air of resignation, but you also see a ray of hope shining from their eyes.’ She wants her sculpture to elicit a response in the viewer: ‘The creature is waiting to be given some results. There’s something endearing about him, and as the viewer you hope it all turns out OK for him.’

Substance or style

Artists and scientists are the same in a certain way, suggests the curator Feico Hoekstra. They are both driven by curiosity, without having any guarantee of success. And they both have the strong suspicion that there’s something beautiful and important beyond the horizon. But there is also a big difference: in science it’s all about the substance, while in art it’s the style, says Hoekstra. In this exhibition, those styles are highly diverse: from a gigantic molecular model made of expanded polystyrene foam to large sheets of skin made of latex, hanging on a steel installation.

Sculptures for sale

In addition to the sculptures on Hooglandse Kerkgracht, there are four others in the Bio Science Park, by artists who participated in previous editions of Sculptures in Leiden. The sculptures will be available for sale in an auction at the end of the exhibition.


The Sculptures in Leiden (Beelden in Leiden) foundation is holding its fifth sculpture exhibition on Hooglandse Kerkgracht, with the main aim of offering a platform for upcoming Dutch artists.

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