Jef Cornelis, De Zwanen van Roger Raveel. 1971
Bruges Triennial 1971

Second Triennial of Plastic Art in Belgium

Three years after the very first edition, the Second Triennial was organised in 1971 in the City Halls. The intention remained the same, namely to offer a current overview of the visual arts in Belgium and to allow 84 Belgian artists to show their work. Conceptual art was given a bigger platform and the artists themselves were no longer divided by artistic movement.

However, the biggest eye-catcher of this triennial was not in the City Halls but appeared on the canals of Bruges. Roger Raveel made four wooden swans, each with a square vista and placed them in the water at the level of the Rozenhoedkaai. Although it was first assumed that the swans were merely a publicity stunt for the triennial, Raveel's real intention was to address the poor quality of the water in the canals. This prompted the Bruges city council to clean up the canals in the years that followed, which would eventually lead to the first swimming platform on the canals during Bruges Triennial 2015.

Moving the exhibition to the public domain is an idea that originated as early as 1971, when Roger Raveel spoke the prophetic words 'Why not let that exhibition spill out into the city and into the houses?'. It would take until 2015 for this idea to become a reality but in the meantime the Bruges Triennial has become an integral part of the public space.