Installation 2022. Charles V, Dürer and the treasure of the Aztecs. This exhibition adopts a novel approach, staging scientific and historical content in the heart of the remains of the former Palace of Brussels.

Mirroring the historical narrative developed by curators Véronique Bücken and Cecilia Paredes, Sabrina Montiel-Soto’s artistic installations reinterpret the concepts of ‘strangeness’ and ‘elsewhere’. Compensating, so to speak, for the absence of the original treasure, which has been lost, the artist’s contemporary curiosa are inspired by the world of Dürer, the pomp and circumstance surrounding Charles V, and the imagination of pre-Hispanic cultures. Through subtle combinations of varied artefacts, these intriguing objects encourage contemplation and reflection and put the stories told into

I – EL TRIBUTO / THE TRIBUTE. In the stores of the ships were the goods that came from the new world, wrapped in white cotton cloth and closed with ropes made of tree bark. In the holds of ships mingled the smells of plants, spices, food, animals and people.
II – MAL DE MAR / SEASICKNESS. Fever of power, gold and the recognition of royalty, take Hernán Cortez to the end of a journey of no return, which will lead to the fall of the Aztec Empire. The cellars of the palace of Charles V, epicenter of the Old World, became the holds of the navigator bound for what was to become “the new world”.
III – EN OTRA PARTE / ELSEWHERE. Linked to the founding Aztec myths, the feather is a precious and sacred material. Each feather used was collected according to a ritual: the Aztecs observe and follow the birds, waiting for them to moult to collect their feathers and create ceremonial adornments. Its use means approaching the gods, with the respect and patience they had for them.
IV – CONSTELACIONES / CONSTELLATIONS. The stars guided navigators on the high seas, inspiring scientists, artists, explorers and dreamers. “We had traveled 14,460 leagues and completed the circle of the world from east to west. (Journal of Magellan’s voyage, 1522).
V – METEORITO / METEORITE. What could be more universal than a celestial fragment which crosses the atmosphere and reaches the earth? Reminding us of our human frailty and our equality as living entities. Cradled by the hypnotic frogs of the Mexican swamps, the storm passes over our heads. Nature and the cosmos vibrate in the same mysterious frequencies and draw us towards the infinite universal. “And I also saw the rock that the storm threw at the foot of the lord of Nassau in a field. » (A. Dürer, Diary of travels in the Netherlands, 1520-1521).
VI – PERSPECTIVA LINIAL DE UN LORO / LINEAR PERSPECTIVE OF A PARROT. Albrecht Dürer stood out for his interest in perspective, for which he imagined many methods of capturing space, through a window towards which vanishing lines point, creating a large pyramid. The painter, carried by a recutting of the polyphonies of the “Maximilla Christo Amabilis”, projects himself and makes his perception travel in the exuberance of the pre-Columbian forest that he has never known. “Rodrigo gave me a present of one of those parrots brought back from Malaga” (A. Dürer, Travel journal in the Netherlands, 1520-1521).
VII – DULCE COMO LA CAÑA / SWEET LIKE SUGARCANE. Bitter sweet, sugar cane was until the beginning of the 19th century the only important source of sugar, traditionally linked to slavery until today. Memories flow like water from a plant full of sugar and the sweat of thousands of men and women exploited by commercial alienation. “Lord Rodrigo gave me a keg filled with sweets of all kinds. […] There are even a few walking sticks…”. (Dürer’s Diary, p. 35).
VIII – TRAVESÍA / CROSSING. Discreet in the water, turtles make long crossings to reach land where they are vulnerable. “Bernard Stecher [gives me] a turtle shell. » (A. Dürer, Diary of travels in the Netherlands, 1520-1521)
IX – PRIMER ENCUENTRO / FIRST ENCOUNTER. Sabrina Montiel-Soto is inspired by the engraving of Dürer’s hare, and places it face to face with the new world, with mystery, with the strange. Thomas Giry proposes the impossible encounter of a solitary cricket with the circle of the metal cymbal and the line of a horsehair bow. “And I cannot find the words to describe all that I saw there… (A. Dürer, Travel journal in the Netherlands, 1520-1521).
X DOS IMPERIOS ALINEADOS / TWO EMPIRES ALIGNED. Raised to the same status, two empires are evoked by the textiles, textures and objects used at the time. “Moctezuma also presented me with pieces of fabric from his wardrobe of such finesse, that woven of cotton and without a mixture of silk, there could not be woven such beautiful ones in the world…” (2nd Letter from Cortès to Charles Quint). Rue Isabelle and its daily life resounds with the evocation of the drums of “The War and the Battle of Marignan” by Clément Janequin composed in 1528. It was then that Brussels disappeared into the tropical forest.
XI_QUEMAR LOS BARCOS / BURN THE BOATS. The expression “to burn the boats” means “to go forward without possibility of return”. On the eve of his departure inland, Cortés would have scuttled his boats, cutting short any possibility of retreat for him and his men. The call of the shells “caracolas” and the percussion “teponaztli” carried by the waves of the ocean echo the devastation of the Aztec civilization by the Spanish armed forces. By Sabrina Montiel-Soto / Video creation, Pablo Diartinez./ Sound creation, Thomas Giry.
XII – LA TRAMPA / THE TRAP. An annihilated civilization, a muddled history. In the Aula Magna on fire resounds the soothing memory of “Amours, amours” by Nicolas Gombert composed in 1533.
XIII – RESISTENCIA / RESISTANCE. “…especially long spears with which he [Cuauhtemoc] hoped that horses could be struck from a distance…” (P. Martire d’Anghiera, De Orbe Novo, 4th Decade).
XIV – 40 LINGOTES DE ORO / 40 GOLD INGOTS. “To seize this metal, they destroyed fine feather work as well as rich jewels. They melted gold and made ingots out of it” (B. de Sahagún, General History of Things in New Spain, L. XII, ch. XVII)
XV – UN SOL DE ORO / A GOLDEN SUN. The Aztecs were called “the people of the sun” because it was the star they worshiped the most. For the ancient cultures of Mexico, the day star played a fundamental role in the conception of the world. The pulsation of an aerial sun where the Mexican Eagle soars above a crystalline river where time is eternal. “…a massive golden sun the size of a fathom…” (A. Dürer, Travel Journal in the Netherlands, 1520-1521).

Sabrina Montiel-Soto’s creations pull together clashing images, worlds and materials and play on shifts of meaning to inspire our imagination. Airy and light, these installations discreetly inhabit the spaces, though always with a view to establishing dialogue with the texts and images in each section.

A flickering lantern invites us to think about the instability of the historical narrative; a starry sky welcomes us on board Magellan’s ship for a round-the-world trip guided by the stars; turn a corner and the setting in perspective of a parrot reminds us that the observation of living things, including the exotic, is at the heart of learning; further on, ceremonial clothes suspended on a pole prompt us to reflect on the empires that came face to face and how they are depicted; finally, at the top of Rue Isabelle/Isabellastraat and in the Aula Magna of the Coudenberg Palace, visitors will experience those curiosa more intimately rooted in a bloody and tragic period of the history of the Aztec civilisation.

curators: Véronique Bücken, from Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts of Belgium and Cecilia Paredes from Urban. The exhibition has been organised by Urban and the Coudenberg Palace in collaboration with the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. It aims to commemorate three events: Dürer’s journey to the Netherlands, the conquest of Mexico and the coronation of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor in Aachen.

Direction and artistic creation, Sabrina Montiel-Soto / Scenography: Atelier Blink / Graphics: NNstudio

Thomas Giry, Sound Creation / Pablo Diartinez, Video Creation – Fx / Emmanuelle Béduneau, Seamstress / Ludo Engels, Audiovisual Manager / Raphael Vanhoest, Scenography Manager.