The Jewish Museum of Belgium presents 'Four Sisters': a group show with works by Chantal Akerman, Marianne Berenhaut, Sarah Kaliski and Julia Pirotte

Through the work of four artists - Chantal Akerman, Marianne Berenhaut, Sarah Kaliski and Julia Pirotte - the exhibition Four Sisters addresses the themes of destruction, emancipation, transformation, desire and memory.

Chantal Akerman, Marianne Berenhaut, Sarah Kaliski and Julia Pirotte are artists. One makes films, the other sculptures. Another is a painter, the last a photographer. Four Jewish women. Coming from different generations, they emigrated or were born of stateless parents who fled Eastern Europe and the persecutions of the 1930s. All four lived in Brussels and have in common that they lived - directly or through their relatives - through the Occupation, that they saw and suffered deportations, that they lived through the disaster. ​ 

Chantal, Marianne, Sarah and Julia are sisters. Sisters from other parents. They have survived, or simply lived, thanks to their own resilience. Like Ruth Elias, Ada Lichtman, Paula Biren and Hanna Marton, The Four Sisters who returned from the death camps and whose testimonies were collected by the filmmaker Claude Lanzmann in the late 1970s, they share the experience of the Shoah. They are custodians of a memory, made up of as many stories as of absences and incomplete words. A gap, a silence, a haunting which they inherited.

These artists have created works, languages, and ways of seeing in and around this hole in history, in their history. Evolving each in a singular world, Chantal, Marianne, Sarah and Julia have sometimes crossed paths, seen each other at the bend of an exhibition or a projection. These women have built themselves with a strength and a commitment that make them today’s models of life and freedom. As Jews, they have questioned the weight of belonging and transmission, the power of a scattered and diasporic culture. 

Four Sisters is a choral exhibition that follows the gaze of these four figures, whose lives, placed end to end, cover an entire century of history, where events and places, destruction and emancipation, political transformations and intimate experimentations are connected. Combining works and archives, images and texts, monographic presentations and collective arrangements, Four Sisters interweaves the threads of these life stories in a weaving fashion extending into the present, through the punctuated participation of artists from a younger generation. Within Four Sisters, in the details and folds, memories mingling with fiction, there are gestures, times and fragments whose echoes resonate and compose new patterns, like a memory that can only be formed in sharing.

Four Sisters ​
23 March - 27 August 2023
Jewish Museum of Belgium


  • Chantal Akerman 
  • Marianne Berenhaut
  • Sarah Kaliski 
  • Julia Pirotte

A proposal by Barbara Cuglietta & Yann Chateigné Tytelman

Press conference: 22 March, 11am

This exhibition project is realized in partnership with Bozar, the Museum of Photography of Charleroi, the C.A Foundation and the Polish Institute Brussels.


Sarah Kaliski

Sarah Kaliski is a "metaphysical" painter whose sensitivity transcends the media. She de-multiplies the body through a painting that is as sensual as it is poetic and marked by history.

Born in 1941 in Brussels, passed away in 2010 in Paris, Sarah Kaliski is the youngest of four children who have distinguished themselves in the arts. Of Jewish and Polish origins, the Kaliski family grew up in Belgium and suffered the tragedies of the 20th century, including the loss of their father deported to Auschwitz. Since then, one can observe in Kaliski's work the thematic recurrence of the torments inflicted by the Nazis, Belgian culture and identity, violence towards children and the sexual freedom of women.

Julia Pirotte

Artist and fighter, Julia Pirotte's poignant photographic work is one of the rare and precious visual testimonies of the Resistance.

Born in 1907 in Poland, Julia Pirotte, born Gina Diament, had to flee her native country where she was persecuted for her communist political ideas. When she wanted to join her sister Mindla in Paris, she took refuge in Belgium where she met, among others, the resistance fighter Suzanne Spaak who gave her her first camera, a Leica Elmar 3, which she kept all her life. From then on, Pirotte never stopped photographing her daily life as a resistance fighter and activist. In 1940, following the invasion of Belgium by the Germans, she fled and joined Free France so as to continue her resistance activities. In Marseilles, she shot numerous photographs documenting daily life under the Vichy regime. After the war, she returned to Poland where she witnessed the massacres in Kielce in 1946, which she immortalized in a series of moving photographs. She continued her documentary practice until the end of her life while teaching this medium to the younger Polish generation. She died in 2000 in Warsaw at the age of 92. 

Marianne Berenhaut

Marianne Berenhaut's installations reveal themselves to the viewer as a waste product. They seem to form a question mark where any attempt at an answer evaporates. Never fixed, always moving, her sculptures are enigmas where a fragile and striking assemblage of narratives, identities and memories collide. 

Born in Brussels in 1934, Marianne Berenhaut was separated from her family during the war and found refuge with her twin brother in a Catholic orphanage. Her older brother and her parents did not survive Auschwitz where they were deported in 1943. 

Through the technique of assembling eclectic materials, Marianne Berenhaut's sculptural work addresses the themes of trauma, absence and remembrance. ​ The subtle balance of her works questions the instability of identities, that of women as well as that of the objects that compose them. 

Chantal Akerman

A key figure of modern cinema, revered internationally, Chantal Akerman is without a doubt the most important Belgian filmmaker. Her mythical film "Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080, Brussels" was recently ranked "best film of all time" by the British magazine "Sight&Sound".

Born in 1950 in Brussels into a Jewish family from Central Europe, Chantal Akerman was raised by her mother Natalia, an Auschwitz survivor, with whom she had a very close relationship that left its mark on the filmmaker's work.

Akerman's protean work is as much fiction as documentary, including musicals and installations. Temporality, femininity, and filiation are the recurring themes of her work. Akerman's frontal and verist look at daily life, often inhabited by women, questions, through gestures and rituals, the passing of time, the definitions of femininity and the relationship we have with memory. 

Died in 2015 in Paris, Chantal Akerman fascinates more than ever as her work remains, even today, of a relevance and a primordial importance to contemporary issues.



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