Typically Flemish chicken, bred in Mechelen (Malines) in the 1850s by crossing imported Asian fowl species from the Antwerp Zoo with local breeds / originally raised as a broiler chicken / with its plump physique and muddy colour, it is reminiscent of the earthy atmosphere in the paintings of Constant Permeke.
Poulet de Bresse
Chicken breed from France’s Bresse region / a slaughter animal internationally renowned as a high-quality luxury product, with very tender and tasty meat / elegant animal that reflects the French national tricolour with its red comb, white plumage and blue legs.
In the second half of the 1990s, Vanmechelen had a lot of difficulty acquiring a set of Poulet de Bresse chickens in Bourg-en-Bresse, where the local breed was closely guarded: the area’s chicken breeders were trying to prevent illegal breeding, and wanted to uphold the honour associated with the breed’s legally protected label of ‘appellation d’origine contrôlée’.
Birthplace of the first chicks
In the basement of restaurant La Feuille d’Or, in Dilsen-Stokkem (Belgium).
Mechelen Bresse. First Generation Blue. 'In de ban van de ring' Provinciaal Museum, Hasselt, 1999.
The unexpected, the appeal of the chicken
Serendipity at work...
The birth of dozens of Mechelen Bresse chicks is what started the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. Among the off-white chicks, Vanmechelen spotted one that was blue - reason enough to name this entire generation ‘First Generation Blue’. During the first show in Hasselt, on the day of a solar eclipse on 11 August 1999, a black rooster was born. The incubator in which the egg was hatched stood in between two large photos of eggs: on one side an egg on a light background - an image that Vanmechelen likes to use to evoke the sun and solar system - on the other side an egg on a black background, in the artist’s language a representation of the moon. Vanmechelen decided to keep the black rooster apart from the rest...