Must-Visit Art Galleries in Ostend, Belgium

The cityscape from the harbour with Church Saint Peter and Saint Paul in sight
The cityscape from the harbour with Church Saint Peter and Saint Paul in sight | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Nana Van De Poel

The Belgian city of Ostend has long been an urban seaside escape for those with cultivated tastes. Its range of quality art galleries champion this mix of sea and city with their exhibitions, often promoting rising young talents of the next generation.

1. Galerie BeauSite

Restaurant, Belgian, Pub Grub

An undertaking closely related to the concept-store family, Ann Rommelaere’s Galerie BeauSite offers a home away from home for art lovers along the Ostend boardwalk. Not solely a gallery, Beausite also hosts a design store, bar and restaurant under its roof for a well-rounded experience that speaks to anyone who appreciates beauty and design. Housed in a protected Art Deco mansion with high, moulded ceilings, BeauSite is the only gallery in town that actually provides panoramic views of the ocean. Newspapers and magazines lie scattered about on designer tables, enhancing the sensation of sitting in an expertly-decorated living room with pieces by gifted national artists such as Matthieu Ronsse hanging on the surrounding walls.

2. Mu.ZEE

Art Gallery

Mu.ZEE has been a fixture on Ostend’s art scene ever since its inception in 2008. The gallery, whose name cleverly plays on its proximity to the ocean (‘zee’ meaning sea), has a history of championing both local and Belgian artists. Highlights in the permanent collection dating from 1850 to today are major works by James Ensor such as Self-Portrait With Flowered Hat, and 160 paintings and graphic designs by Léon Spilliaert. Also present are contemporary gems by Luc Tuymans, Panamarenko and so forth. All these greats of the Lower Countries are accompanied by upcoming regional artists that Mu.Zee has selected for your discovery and delight.

3. Exposure Value

Art Gallery

Late hours and a convivial atmosphere for visiting artists and amateur photographers are what set Exposure Value apart from its local peers, putting the discipline of photography on the Ostend map. Each year from September to May, four photographers – both young talents and established names – are invited by Yvon Poncelet and his wife Kristien Terryn to put their best work on display inside the modern gallery of their old manor house. Also on permanent display are the gallery’s “valuables” – hundreds of precious old cameras that have been put to rest, made obsolete by ever-evolving technology. With each new exhibition, the visiting photographer is awarded the privilege of choosing one old (still-functioning) camera to enjoy the limelight once more.

4. Galerie Theobalds Boothuisje

Art Gallery

A stone’s throw from the famous Ensor House lies Ostend’s curiously narrow and petite architectural gem, Theobalds Boothuisje. The elegance of this Art Nouveau building, with its balcony shaped to resemble a ship’s bow, would be well worth a visit on its own. Luck has it then that MedusaArts has taken up residence in the house, presenting contemporary art with a respect for the splendor of its surroundings. The abstract works often on display mesh astonishingly well with the Art Nouveau backdrop.

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