Sculptures that are anything but classical, inspiring paintings from Sweden, fashion photography and immersive art at the cutting edge of digital technology. It’s hard to decide where to look this spring in Brussels. Once again, the capital of Europe surprises visitors with the diversity of its artistic scene and varied views on the world.
Over the past few years, Brussels has established itself as one of the beating hearts of European contemporary art. The appearance of new national and international galleries, a growing number of artists setting up their studios here, major exhibitions and fairs have contributed to the city’s appeal and bustling scene, whatever the season.
As the days grow longer, the capital’s contemporary art offer continues to expand. New exhibitions, an extensive gallery program, events putting art, performance and design in the spotlight. Here is an overview of the events you cannot miss in the coming weeks.
1. Untold Stories, when fashion photography becomes art
Peter Lindbergh is one of the most famous and recognised fashion photographers in the world. In the ’90s, his talent and his sublime black and white portraits helped to launch the era of supermodels such as Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Kate Moss. Hosted at the Espace Vanderborght, Untold Stories brings together 152 emblematic or unpublished photographs, carefully selected by the photographer himself, to let visitors dream, escape and catch a glimpse of elegance.
Dates: Until 14 May
2. 236 – Land(es)capes from the 20th convoy
This exhibition offers an artistic look at an exceptional episode in the history of the Second World War. On 19 April 1943, a convoy left the Mechelen transit camp to deport 1,631 Jews to Auschwitz. Thanks to the actions of Resistance fihgters, 236 of these deportees managed to jump off the train that would have carried them to their deaths. Looking back on this unique act of rebellion in Western Europe, photographer Jo Struyven gives us a glimpse of the landscapes that served as a backdrop to this little-known story. These photographs, placed in relation to two paintings by Luc Tuymans evoking the same subject, offer a poignant dialogue.
Dates: Until 14 August
3. Danai Anesiadou: D POSSESSIONS
Danai Anesiadou’s performances, films and installations are imbued with cinematic culture and have a strong visual imprint. With D POSSESSIONS, she takes a detour into Hindu cosmology to thumb her nose at our contemporary frenzies. Her exuberant creations are made up of shoes, clothes and everyday objects and form an inventory of all her material goods… A game of stripping back and saturation that questions our relationship to objects.
Dates: Until 23 April
4. Local Heroes
Ready for a visual knock-out blow? At MIMA, there is only one step between the museum and the boxing ring. For four months, Local Heroes combines body and mind exercises and sets itself up as a temple of English boxing. This amazing journey includes graphic portraits of Brussels boxers, a comic book-like mural highlighting the talent of iconic athletes, audio and video installations and an exercise room filled with punching bags. The MIMA continues this authentic approach by inviting its visitors to attend real bouts, led by three Brussels sports clubs.
Dates: Until 28 May
5. Swedish Ecstasy
Bozar turns its gaze northward to highlight the mystical charms of Swedish painting and literature. Swedish Ecstasy reveals the intrinsic spirituality of the works of several major figures from the country’s art scene. August Strindberg, Hilma af Klint and Ernst Josephson are among the first visionaries to have explored the twists and turns of esotericism. Alongside them, Bozar is also exhibiting a wonderful selection of contemporary artists (Carsten Höller, Christine Ödlund and Lars Olof Loeld) who continue down their own paths of spirituality.
Dates: Until 21 May
6. Family Matters
Taking the family and its ramifications as its theme, Family Matters explores the topics of couples, parenthood, grandparents, brotherhood and sisterhood. It captures the nuances of human and intergenerational relationships, from the sweetness of childhood memories to painful family tensions, without obscuring their complexity. Some 20 artists, including Ariane Loze, Henry Moore and Franck Scurti, present a body of work in a range of media, including a magnificent selection of video art (installations, films, documentaries, etc.).
Dates: Until 28 May
7. André Cadere
The CAB Foundation, not far from the Ixelles Ponds, has dedicated its walls to minimal and conceptual art for the last ten years. Through its challenging programme, it has highlighted a handful of contemporary artists rarely exhibited in Brussels. One of them is André Cadere, a minimalist visual artist with a mysterious world to whom it dedicates an eponymous exhibition. The exhibition is structured around the round section bars – polychrome wooden works which are emblematic of the artist’s work -, some previously unseen creations and textual and photographic documents.
Dates: Until 15 July
8. Michel François – against nature
Brussels-based artist Michel François thinks in three dimensions! Starting from sculpture, he displays accessible, playful works where upcycling, reuse and the interplay of materials have pride of place. With blown glass balloons, sculptures like doodles, woven metal and rolled paper works, François invites us to explore a universe with a huge variety of forms. This exhibition takes a comprehensive, yet playful, look at 40 years of artistic practice.
Dates: Until 21 July
9. Artificiala – Stephan Balleux
A newcomer to the Brussels scene, the Blan Foundation is neither a gallery, nor a museum, but rather a place for meetings and creation. For its first exhibition, this hybrid space led by Thomas de Wouters has invited Brussels painter Stephan Balleux. The artist has taken over every nook and cranny of the private mansion that houses the Foundation, and has created a monumental work installed in its impressive hanging garden.
Dates: Until 1 July
10. Johann Van Mullem, For Love’s S(n)ake
From 31 March, Belgian artist Johan Van Mullem will present around 50 previously unseen works, in dialogue with the drawings, paintings and sculptures of the Old Masters Museum. The artist unfolds profane themes in various different formats, portraits with a watered down touch and contemplative landscapes. His vast panoramas, stripped of all human life, testify to the blossoming of his colour palette. This is a radiant exhibition, between figuration and abstraction, curated by Sophie Hasaerts.
Dates: Until 23 July
11. Don’t Call It Outsider Art
For its next exhibition, The Art et Marges Museum is opening the doors to its reserve collections! Designed as an invitation to rediscover the works in the museum’s collections, Don’t Call it Outsider Art is an exhibition that will continue to evolve throughout the year. By questioning the name and characterisation of Outsider Art – this art on the edge with its polymorphic manifestations – the Art et Marges Museum looks back at its history and the challenges of its mission. How have its collections grown? How have its ambitions evolved? Don’t Call it Outsider Art sketches out an answer, in the company of artists from the contemporary scene.
Dates: Until 21 April 2024
12. The Artwork as a Living System
This spring, the iMAL honours the French-Austrian duo of Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. The Artwork as a Living System looks back on the 30-year career of these pioneers of digital and interactive art. The pair have been working at the intersection of natural science, technology and art since the early 90s. Virtual reality, algorithms, interfaces and immersive environments are an integral part of their works.
Dates: From 14 April to 24 September
13. Mehdi-Georges Lahlou and Candice Breitz, extra
With totemic works, colourful ‘banana tree busts’, immersive installations and more, Mehdi- Georges Lahlou’s work tackles notions of gender and questions both our identities and our representations. At CENTRALE, the French-Moroccan artist offers a multifaceted work while continuing to explore the representation of violence and its consequences. In parallel, the work of Berlin-based Candice Breitz, invited for the occasion, offers a striking counterpoint.
Dates: From 20 April to 17 September
14. Diane von Fürstenberg, Woman Before Fashion
A maestro of the stocking stitch, creator of the iconic wrap dress and a genius dressmaker, Diane von Fürstenberg embodies pure elegance. She is as comfortable in the company of the European Jet Set as she is with Pop Art artists, and, this spring, she is being honoured at the Fashion and Lace Museum. Among the creations on display, visitors can swoon over the vintage contours, taken directly from the fashion house’s archives.
Dates: From 21 April 2023 to 7 January 2024
15. Facade: Laure Prouvost
Well known to the inhabitants of Brussels, the huge glass roof of the former Citroën garage showroom has now been completely dismantled as part of the renovation works of the future KANAL. This spring, it becomes the backdrop for the work of artist Laure Prouvost. Based in Molenbeek, she represented France at the Venice Biennale in 2019, after winning the Turner Prize in 2013. Her work brings together personal memories, artistic and literary references and elements of fiction. Laure Prouvost’s works will be followed by those of Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven (September 2023 – March 2024) and Tarek Lakhrissi (March – September 2024).
Dates: Opening on 25 March, on display until September 2023