There’s zero argument that the most provocative, crowd-pleasing work of public statuary in all of Brussels is Mannekin Pis, a wee bronze statue of a naked toddler who is in the midst of, well, taking a wee into the basin of a fountain below. The English translation of the perpetually tinkling statue (“Little Man Pee”) really says all you need to know.
Now, thanks to the herbaceous handiwork of artist Geoffroy Mottart, some of the Belgian capital city’s neglected and lesser-known — and non-urinating — statues are having their moment in the spotlight. Similar to the jaunty, ever-evolving outfits that appear on Mannekin Pis, these overlooked sculptures — primarily busts of famous Belgians as well as full statues, most found in city parks — are only “dressed up” for a short time. However, unlike Mannekin Pis, the busts and statues in question aren’t being outfitted in clothing. Rather, Mottart has bestowed them with facial hair composed completely of colorful floral arrangements.
Says Mottart of his playful, ongoing project titled Fleurissements:
This project consists in the decoration of statues, somewhat forgotten, which are part of the decor of our parks.A small note of color making a call to passers-by.
This idea came to me, because I realized that most people pass by these statues without paying attention.
Apart from many of these works, they are testimonies of the past. I believe they are worth seeing, they are part of our cultural heritage!
Beyond the beard
As you can see, Mottart doesn’t strictly limit himself to botanical beards and vegetative manes. Some statues and busts around town, including one of Hermes located next to a busy tram line, have been topped with intricate flower crowns in lieu of the lush floral facial hair found Mottart has placed on busts of old Belgian dudes. Likewise, a memorial to Belgian poet Armand Bernier is sans a full bloom-beard. However, for all too briefly, Bernier was bedecked with lovely chrysanthemum headgear that, at first glance, resembles a petaled swim cap worthy of Ester Williams.
On the topic of longevity, This is Colossal notes that Mottart's guerrilla floral installations aren’t up for too long before city authorities take notice and remove them. After all, some might consider sticking a beard of roses on Belgian “Builder King” Leopold II to be a bit rude, an act of desecration even, although the ruthless monarch doesn't exactly have the most favorable reputation. (Located in Parc Duden, a bust of Leopold II, who in real-life very much had a proto ZZ Top thing going on, has been targeted/decorated more than once by Mottart).
Others would obviously like to see the unauthorized floral arrangements stick around for a bit longer than a day or two as they add a bit of cheekiness and a vibrant splash of color to the otherwise solemn monochrome monuments populating Brussels' parks. Whatever the case, they remain intact long enough to draw a fair amount of attention, and, most important, they’re up long enough for Mottart to photograph his work and share it with the world on his Instagram account.
Yarn bombing, with a twist
While turning the heads of Brussels residents and visitors alike, Mottart (you can watch a video of him creating his one-of-a-kind floral installations here) has also caught the attention of an American icon who certainly knows her way around a flower arrangement: Martha Stewart.
The headline of a recent blog post on Stewart's website that features Mottart's work boldly declares that "flower crowning is the new yard [sic] bombing."
Flower-bewigged public statuary aside, Brussels is rather famous for its pop-up floral spectacles.
A beloved biennial tradition, Brussels’ massive (and predominately begonia-based) Flower Carpet has been “unrolled” at Grand-Place, the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site-designated central square, every other year since 1986 although the tradition dates all the way back to the early 1970s.
Installed by a small army of volunteer gardeners, each Flower Carpet takes on a different theme. In 2016, for example, the plus-sized floral tapestry was themed around Japan “to celebrate 150 years of Belgo-Japanese friendship.” In 2014, the 1,800 square meter installation was designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Turkish immigration to Belgium.