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Abandoned Brussels supermarket becomes temple of urban art
A Brussels non-profit has taken over an abandoned Delhaize supermarket in Ixelles and transformed it into a cathedral of urban art.
A swarm of the best Belgian and international street artists have, like an army of Michelangelos, covered the walls and ceilings of the disused store on Chaussée de Waterloo. Big and small rooms, every nook and cranny, have been transformed with an array of styles and scales, colours and subject matters.
The concept has been created by Strokar, an organisation founded by Alexandra Lambert and Fred Atax that supports urban art. Over the past decade, urban art has become recognised by the contemporary art market, but there was no Brussels hub for the genre and Strokar Inside aims to fill that void.
The venue is accessible from Wednesdays to Sundays, 11.00-18.30, at Chaussée de Waterloo 569. Entry is €8, or €5 for concessions and €3 for school groups. Guided tours are €12 per person, booked in advance, with a minimum group size of 10 people.
From the South Bronx to Belgium
Kool Koor (Charles Hargrove) is a New York-born Brussels-based artist considered by many to be one of the most influential and pivotal urban artists of the original NYC urban scene. Originally known for his space-age-inspired works, which range from surreal scenes to intricate works of abstraction, his style is unique and instantly recognisable.
He is one of the original graffiti pioneers whose works influenced many who came after him - and you can see one of his pieces at Strokar Inside.
"My interest in art is rooted at home," he says. "My mother and my sister were artists so I was always drawing as a kid - it was my number one pastime. This passion for art led me to follow my sister to the same high school which was New York City’s High School of Art & Design.
"Being a product of the 1960s I was inundated with science fiction, so my early works were spaceships and things like that. I was more interested in doing what was inside so I was designing the cockpits and the inners of the spacecraft.
"I had started writing graffiti at the age of 12 - and by the age of 16 I was in my first group exhibition in the South Bronx which was my formal introduction into the international art world.
"The person who bought my artwork asked me if I was interested in her representing me and helping me to sell my work. I said yes and that person unbeknownst to me was Delores Neumann, who was the wife of Hubert Neumann, and his father was one of the biggest art collectors in America. So I’d landed myself in the centre of American art collecting and art dealing. I was in rooms with everything from Chuck Close to Picasso to Dubuffet at a very young age.
"The association with that art dealer led to me coming to Europe because one of their good friends was an art dealer here in the Sablon in Brussels and they collaborated together to do a solo show for me in Brussels in 1985."
Today in Brussels you can see Kool Koor's work on Rue Blaes, at De Wand and next to the KVS as part of the Brussels Street Art Trail. His work is also visible in the streets of cities as disparate as Brest and Dar es Salaam as well as being displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Mons and the Groniger Museum, among many other public and private collections.