'The cigar box' - Patrick Van Caeckenbergh | MSK Gent
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'The cigar box' - Patrick Van Caeckenbergh

From his back garden in the rural Flemish Ardennes, Patrick Van Caeckenbergh (°1960) rules the world. A personal world, which he has arranged according to his own memories and desires. With the exhibition 'The Pantologue (danke schön)' he brought fragments from that imaginative world into MSK, and in 2017 he donated his artwork 'The cigar box' to the museum.

The world of 'he who loves all'

'Pantology' is the science of the whole. The 'pantologist' is the person who loves everything. In his parallel world, which is very similar to ours but at the same time very far removed from it, Van Caeckenbergh plays with his thoughts like a young cat with a ball of wool. His greatest ambition is to be a pet.

Just like Monsieur Teste by Paul Valéry, Van Caeckenbergh has created an inner island for himself and he spends his time exploring and strengthening it. He goes in search of the extreme pleasure of solitary invention.

Understanding the world as a 'bricoleur'

The diversity of the world is investigated by means of collecting, classifying and inventorying, in which he makes free use of taxonomy and genealogy, cartography and cosmogony. The unity of the world is reconstructed with the technique of collage and assemblage.

But the research is not systematic. The attitude of the artist is not that of a scientist, but of a 'bricoleur'. Instead of mapping the world, he creates new worlds in which he embarks on a voyage of discovery like a chamber scholar in constant wonder.

Tthe illusion of the all-encompassing

But the harder the pantologist tries to grasp life, the world and the cosmos in one system, the further away he gets from it. His frantic attempts are a fine illustration of the paradox of being an artist. The artist is a child of his time and actively engaged in life. But at the same time, he has the capacity to remain constantly deprived of it.

Van Caeckenbergh's world therefore fits in perfectly with that of the 17th century, when scholars and amateurs tried to capture the universe in wonder chambers, collections and taxonomies. That's why 'The cigar box' was placed firmly in the midst of these galleries.


Van Caeckenbergh's dream world landed in the museum in 2017 during the exhibition 'The Pantologue (danke Schön)'. On this occasion, the artist donated the work 'The cigar box' to the museum. This giant cigar box is the artist's studio. He lived and worked in this space for twenty years.

It looks nothing like the studio of a sculptor or painter. It is rather the study of a sixteenth-century chamber scholar. A study that later evolved into an encyclopaedic collection or Wunderkammer, the forerunner of the modern museum. In order to read and write, to dream or to think, the artist does not need much space. Patrick Van Caeckenbergh works mainly in his own head.