The name of the statue, Ode to friendship (De Ballon van de Vriendschap), says it all: the statue symbolizes friendships in Leuven. The origin of the image therefore lies with the Association of the Years, the Leuven association built up of friendship and charity.
De Jaartabels van Leuven – also known as the Men of the Year – is an association that originated from the local tradition. Every year in the month of March a group is made up of men who will turn forty in the following year.
In 1987, the Dutch Association of Years asked artist Dany Tulkens to create a sculpture that would give shape to the friendship. It became a hot air balloon. It was essential that there should be four men in the basket, four friends who embark on a journey together. Two of the images are loosely based on real people, the other two are fictitious.
They are urologist Hubert Michiels and economist Jacques Vander Eecken, former dean of the Faculty of Applied Economics at KU Leuven. The other two images are of a man holding a dog and one emptying a bag to make the balloon rise.
The construction consists of a stainless steel frame that has been stretched to a pressure of 60 tons to withstand storms and thunderstorms. The four men in the basket were also originally made of copper.
However, the original name of the work is not widely known; the general public commonly speaks of The Balloon.
Dany Tulkens (Leuven, 1953) is a versatile artist who initially started out as a painter, but gradually focused on three-dimensional sculptures. Over the years he has become proficient in working with hammered and welded bronze, which requires good technique and craftsmanship. As a result, each sculpture is a unique piece. Tulkens is a realistic artist, but he often dares to question or transcend reality. Man and his relationship to the world are therefore central to his work, and this man is often confronted with the bourgeois side of being human. His works contain irony, sarcasm and even cynicism, but these are still carried by a winged lightness. Dany Tulkens' sculptures attempt to create a universal world that is not limited by time and space.
De Ballon van de Vriendschap (Balloon of Friendship) is symbolic of friendships in Leuven and was created in 1987 by the artist Danny Tulkens, and commissioned by the age Association.
The sculpture represents an air balloon with four friends in it. Because of stability problems, it's unveiling in 1988 was postponed . one of the friends in the balloon was stolen and has not been found to this day.
The artwork is now located in a garden near Leuven bus station.
( Source: Leuven architecture.pdf ), photo by Aslı Tezcan