In the ancient city of Antwerp, art is never far away. Visitors can explore the beautiful cultural gems the city has to offer, including the impressive art nouveau architecture and the work of Rubens, an Antwerp native. However, the Belgian city is also home to numerous contemporary art galleries worth of any art-lover’s itinerary. This selection includes 10 of the best contemporary art galleries to be found in Antwerp.
Tim Van Laere Gallery
1997 marked the year of the opening of Tim Van Laere ’s Antwerp gallery, when Van Laere was only 27. Ever since, the gallery has acquired a reputation on the global art scene, with artists from many different countries exhibiting works of all genres. In the past couple of years, important names such as Kati Heck, Jonathan Meese, Gelitin and Nicolas Provost have all had the opportunity to exhibit at the gallery during their solo shows. These artists all have very disparate practices: Heck is known for the sense of freedom in her creations; Meese actively brings forward his idea of a dictatorship rather than a democracy of art; Gelitin comprises four artists who also show freedom in their work by combining different materials; Provost explores the peculiarities of human expectation by using images that are deeply rooted in our collective memory. One thing that artists who exhibit in this gallery have in common is that they have all found a personal language of expression and a unique vision that they want to promote.
Founded by Dries Roelens, the Antwerp gallery Stieglitz 19 specialises in 21st century art photography, focusing on new talents from the Western world but also displaying collections of contemporary Chinese photography. Emerging European, American and Chinese photographers use Stieglitz 19 as a platform to put on display their contemporary photographs, exhibiting either in groups or solo. The gallery is famous for being the only one in the country to showcase the work of emerging talents on the contemporary photography art scene to a larger audience. Stieglitz 19 has also worked as a curator for important international exhibitions, such as the Guangzhou Museum of Art Show in 2011, and participated in fairs such as Art Brussels and Art Amsterdam. The gallery’s special editions include photographs from the famous Lara Gasparotto, known for her spontaneous and personal shots; François Goffin, who tries to give new meanings to objects that do not appear significant at first glance; and Ben Murphy, who captures empty interiors to gain a better understanding of space.
Micheline Szwajcer was established in Antwerp in 1980, and since then the aim of the gallery has been to offer an extensive range of exhibitions based on the arte povera modern art movement, conceptual art and the work of Belgian artists. While the gallery has remained faithful to its philosophy over the years, it has added new interests such as the work of younger, post-conceptual artists.
The art gallery Van de Weghe, which bears the name of its director Hendrik Van de Weghe, was originally located on the Museumstraat (Museum Street) in Antwerp but moved to its current address in 2011, remaining in the museum district. The gallery puts on display vast collections of paintings and sculptures. The core artists exhibiting at the Van de Weghe are a group of ten, most of them Belgian artists. These artists include the well known Johan Tahon, Jean-Marie Bytebier, Narcisse Tordoir, Hans Vandekerckhove and Steve Schepens. They have all greatly contributed in bringing the gallery forward on the global art scene, especially Tahon, best known for his vertiginous plastic human sculptures.
Valerie Traan, Veerle Wenes’ art gallery in Antwerp, came to being after Wenes curated the Le fabuleux destin du quotidien exhibition in 2009. The experience inspired her to translate her lifelong passion for art objects into a space where it can all be expressed and put on display. The gallery became the space for both art objects and subjects, experimenting with both design and art. Typical themes that exhibiting artists explore include sustainability, self-sufficiency, cultural heritage, as well as authenticity. Themes of beauty and reflection are also at the core of their work: for example, Bram Boo specialises in designing sculptural objects that have a function; Studio Simple reinterprets the world that is around us into something useful; Martino Gamper gets inspiration from the cultural heritage; and Scholten and Baijings bring colour and beauty to their art. The aim of this gallery is not only to expose work but also act as a meeting space for creative minds.
In 1997, Stella Lohaus decided to establish her contemporary art gallery in Antwerp, promoting artists she had faith irrespective of their status on the global art scene. Her main aim was to bring forward these talented artists and work towards establishing a national and international reputation for them by giving them visibility. The artists who exhibit at the gallery are more or less all from the same generation as the gallerist; she believes it to be more meaningful to work with this age range as she can better understand their language and the issues they aim to express. Stella Lohaus initiated the breakthrough for many artists including Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Erik Van Lieshout and Manfred Pernice. After managing to give a couple of artists international recognition and visibility, Stella Lohaus was ready for new challenges, working with artists that were still at the start of their trajectory on the art scene. Exhibitions are always innovative and at times controversial. Both conceptual and emotive ways of expression are represented and the galleries makes sure not to exclude any visual medium.
Established in 1990, Galerie Van Der Planken often exhibits the artwork of both established and emerging talented contemporary and post-war artists. The main focus of the gallery is on paintings, graphics and sculptures. Thanks to the space that the gallery provides, artists such as Hans Bruyneel, Gartner, Gosti, Erwin Peeters, and Tony Soulié were able to gain international recognition. Galerie Van Der Planken does not only hold exhibitions, but also offers extensive consulting services. Thanks to the range of resources they have acquired with time, the gallery manages to offer private and corporate clients ‘consultation for private acquisition, certified appraisals, framing, professional restoration’, and as such Galerie Van Der Planken is renowned for offering collectors and gallery goers a holistic experience.
In 2012, Galerie Verbeeck – Van Dyck opened in Antwerp, aiming to promote up-and-coming talented artists. Space is given for local talent to shine, but also to international talents such as Roberto Salas, the Cuban photographer. Verbeeck – Van Dyck also helps young artists through the medium of publications and local and international exhibitions. In addition to having their regular represented artists, the gallery also focuses on cross-disciplinary projects. The gallery provides the perfect meeting space for artists, collectors, academics and art lovers to come together and inspire each other. The opening exhibition featured the work of Bruno Vekemans, who created a universe through his collection of portraits. Galerie Verbeeck – Van Dyck aims to find the right balance between art with a strong image and international quality and aesthetics. The story behind the artwork has to come in second position as the image itself is the primary focus of the gallerists. However, the gallery does not exclude engaged artists who have a strong message to share through their art.
Galerie Jamar, under Jos Jamar’s leadership, has focused on exploring and exhibiting the work of a select number of well-chosen talented artists over the years. For Jamar, this does not represent a limitation but instead a new opening of perspectives. To be a good art dealer, he believes that making choices are essential, and it is better to maintain tight relationships with a few artists and be able to specialise in their artwork. Jamar worked on a series of catalogues raisonnés, including those of Panamarenko and Marcel Broodthaers. Panaramenko advanced on the art scene by following his childhood dream of ascension to the heavens by working on constructions which reflect sculptural beauty and also poetical eloquence. He gained international recognition with his visionary sailing and flying machines that relied on technical insight and imagination. Broodthaers too had an interesting story, being a passionate writer but finding literary success elusive. When he was 40 years old, he decided to drench one of his poetry books in plaster and presented it in an art gallery in Brussels. He then began his successful career as a conceptual artist, focusing on language and everyday objects such as eggs, mussels or furniture.
Annie Gentils Gallery was established in central Antwerp in 1985, after running first as an experimental art space for four years. The gallery provides a platform for international and national contemporary artists to exhibit their work. International artists include Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz and Stephen Willats, and artists from Belgium include Leo Copers, Guillaume Bijl, Bernd Lohaus, Luc Deleu and many more. Today, the gallery is famous for exhibiting contemporary conceptual and multimedia work, paintings and sculptures. However, it also continues to showcase the work of the artists it has been working with in the beginnings while following the trajectories of younger generations. Up to seven or eight exhibition are organised every year on the two floors of the gallery, presenting new talents to a wide public. Quality and critical engagement are key elements to the gallery’s philosophy who also takes part to a variety of art fairs where its artists are presented on an international level to attract the gaze of both art institutions and collectors.