If you want to discover and understand the Contemporary Art scene in Belgium, but don’t know where to begin, a new series of Art Walks in Brussels can show you the way.
Andrew and I stood in a completely white room, staring at four sheets of paper with typed phrases, hanging on the wall.
I am normally the one urging Andrew to be open-minded about Contemporary Art. But, had I been alone, even I would have walked out of the gallery wondering where the art was.
The purpose of the Brussels Art Walk is to expose expats to the Contemporary Art scene in Brussels by leading them through a series of galleries and exhibitions in a particular neighbourhood. According to Selina, many expats are interested in art but are too intimidated to visit the many small galleries, in the city, on their own.
Each Art Walk takes in different galleries, from the seemingly endless list in Brussels. By the time a gallery is repeated, there is a new exhibition with new art to discover, making each and every walk a unique experience.
Watch our video to hear Selina discuss the Art Walk and Brussels Contemporary Art scene:
Back in the white room, part of the Jan Mot Gallery, looking at Ian Wilson’s sheets of paper, we were discussing the nature of art and whether conversations could be considered works of art – heavy stuff for a Saturday afternoon, but fascinating nonetheless.
As we made our way to the Galerie VidalCuglietta, around the corner, Selina guided our discussion to the question “What qualifies as a painting?” As we viewed Cheryl Donegan’s exhibition, Blood Sugar, we contemplated this question, leading to another lively discussion.
From there we walked to the Mot International Gallery to view Eirene Efstathiou’s Memories of the Present. Her paintings were certainly the easiest to understand on a surface level, but Selina helped us delve deeper into the works. We found ourselves discussing role media plays in shaping our perspectives of world events.
In the same interesting complex, we found the Catherine Bastide Gallery. What looked like stacks of books and random bits of IKEA furniture became the Art installation, KONSMO, by Jacques André, under the guidance of Selina and the gallery director.
Our final stop was the day’s show stopper. The Vanhaerents Art Collection is one family’s private passion and is one of the most important Contemporary Art collections in Europe, if not the world. It is open to the public the first and third Saturday of every month and is currently showing Sympathy for the Devil, in which all of the pieces relate to the famous Rolling Stones song.
As we walked into the three story industrial building, I knew right away, it was going to be good. The space is incredible and the works inside show an eclectic, yet quite cohesive collection, ranging from sculpture, to installations, to video and photography.
I could have explored the space for hours, which was a pity, as we only had time for a quick look before the gallery closed for the day. Andrew and I both vowed to return for a longer look.
The icing on the cake was a chance meeting, as we were leaving, with the man behind the collection, Walter Vanhaerents.
Vanhaerents’ passion for collecting Contemporary Art was evident, as he lit up while discussing his collection. He explained how it all began with a piece by Andy Worhol in the 1970s and he hasn’t looked back since. In fact, not looking back became a kind of mission and he continues to only collect pieces from the modern day.
Our entire Art Walk took about four hours, and we easily could have spent more time discussing the works we had seen throughout the day. We both felt we gained a better understanding for the art we experienced and had visited galleries we never would have found on our own.
We hope to do another Brussels Art Walk soon, in a different area of the city, as well as making a return trip to the Vanhaerents Art Collection on our own.
Brussels Art Walks take place every Saturday and Thursday and cost 30€ per person or 55€ for two. Tours are in English but private group tours can be arranged in French or Spanish. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For more art in Belgium, check out our Wanderlist at AFAR.com – Inspire Creativity – Where to See Art in Belgium.