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Get your art fix! Must-see modern and contemporary art shows in Brussels
The Belgian capital lives up to its reputation as a creative hotspot with a feast of current and upcoming exhibitions filling its cultural agenda this season. The artistic landscape has never been livelier with long-anticipated and eclectic solo and group shows by home-grown and international talent.
“Brussels is a cultural crossroads, which is what makes it interesting,” says Guy de Bellefroid, Visit.brussels’ Deputy Director Agenda, Arts & Creativity. “The cultural programme on offer is surely connected to the international artists who have made their home in Brussels. They find work, make connections and are happy to live here, which is positive for the city,” he adds.
Among the many foreign artists who call Brussels home, Mexican sculptor Gabriel Kuri is currently enjoying his first solo show at one of the city’s cultural institutions. Gabriel Kuri: sorted, resorted at Wiels until 5 January, presents 70 works, categorised according to their repurposed material: paper, plastic, metal and building materials. It’s a simple premise that questions commercial and cultural value. The contemporary art centre’s parallel exhibition, Open Skies, is a multidisciplinary gathering of seven international artists who explore the supposed freedom of public and private spaces, interrogating transparence in society (pictured above, video still of Too Big to Fail, Too Small to Notice by Toon Fibbe).
The Villa Empain’s new autumn exhibition, Ekphrasis – The Writing of Artists, is almost self-explanatory. With more than 40 major artists showing until 9 February, the replacement of images by words reveals the fine line between the two and the experimentation within visual art. Works date from the 1960s and artists include Shirin Neshat, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Tracey Emin, Marcel Broodthaers and Fred Eerdekens (pictured above, Anything added to something by Lawrence Weiner). With its mission as a centre of art and dialogue between East and West, the Boghossian Foundation’s Art Deco architectural jewel and its multidisciplinary programme is always a visual treat.
In Obsessions at MIMA until 5 January, the quayside visual arts museum pitches contemporary art versus art brut in an exploration of notions of normality. Visitors are invited to view artists’ various preoccupations, each presented in church-like naves. Alcoves are filled with works created by handicapped and non-handicapped artists arising from a residency program organised by La S Grand Atelier, a lab for contemporary artists and artists with mental health difficulties.
Internationally-renowned Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota presents a very personal and intricate installation at the Fine Arts Museum. Consisting of a blood-red net of yarn, suspended from the ceiling and grounded by a cast of the artist’s feet, Me Somewhere Else references her battle with cancer and belief that her mind would outlive her body. Meanwhile, the big draw at the museum is Dali & Magritte, a dialogue between the two surrealist icons. More than 100 paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawing and archive objects reveal how the two artist’s works were entwined. Both exhibitions run until 9 February.
La Centrale’s much-anticipated exhibition Roger Ballen – The Theatre of the Ballenesque, opens on 14 November until 14 March. It’s the latest stop in a 40-year psychological journey for the South Africa-based American photographer, one of the most influential of the 21st century. With videos, in-situ installations and photos, an additional bonus is the contemporary arts centre’s parallel show Correspondances, proposing a dialogue between Ballen and Belgian photographer Ronny Delrue (pictured above, Atonement 2019 © Roger-Ballen in collaboration with-Ronny Delrue and Marguerite-Rossouw).
At ADAM museum, the punk movement of the 1970s to mid-80s falls under the spotlight in PUNK GRAPHICS: Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, from 20 November until 26 April (pictured above). Posters, flyers, album covers and magazines, explore the subculture via professional and amateur works. Visitors can also test their DJ skills by creating their own playlist from a selection of vinyls in a ‘concert’ room.
Bozar’s leading exhibition of the season and Europalia Romania’s flagship show, is devoted to modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi. Subtitled ‘Sublimation of form’, emblematic sculptures on display until 12 January include Sleeping Muse, The Kiss and Leda. Later in the season, from 6 December to 19 April, the arts centre hosts a retrospective of American Keith Haring’s too-brief career, a co-creation with the Tate Liverpool and the Folkwang Museum (pictured top and above). It’s a snapshot of the iconic pop artist and activist’s work as a key figure in the legendary 1980s New York art scene. Large-scale, colorful drawings, paintings, videos, posters and murals include responses to contemporary social and political events. Haring used mass media to promote his platform as an artist to raise awareness of AIDS. Diagnosed with the disease in 1988, he died two years later, aged 31. He left a large body of work that remains relevant today.
Exhibitions selected in collaboration with Visit.brussels
Combi-tickets (€15) are available for MIMA, Art et Marges Museum and La Centrale. They can be purchased at each museum until 5 January; valid until 2 February (dependent on the end date of each exhibition)