Only open since the middle of April 2016, the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art is intent to do things differently. When founders Alice van den Abeele, Raphaël Cruyt and Michel and Florence de Launoit found there was a gaping hole in the European representation of subculture art – think graffiti, surfing or skateboard, geek art etc. – they set out to revolutionize the cultural landscape.
Their eyes landed on the former Bellevue breweries at the bank of the Brussels canal, an architectural piece of history that had been patiently waiting to be repurposed to service some greater cultural good. The fact that the 1200 m2 urban site lies on the edge of the disreputable district of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek didn’t scare them off one bit.
In fact, for the last couple of years, new and exciting initiatives have been rising up all along the canal banks. Aside from the massive fair hotspot Tour & Taxis, the old abattoir in Anderlecht has been turned into a food hall filled to the brim with artisan meat, cheeses and spices, and Brussels’ most environmentally conscious hotel has opened up shop right next to the MIMA. The edgy new museum is just the latest addition to an area in the midst of an impressive transformation.
Over time, its presence might even yield more benefits for the blooming canal district. With an unorthodox approach to art, the international allure of the Iconoclast museum looms large. Forms and disciplines that usually move around in the shadowy periphery of the contemporary art scene find a European home here, in an institution that promises to break down the confining barriers and definitions of traditional museum life. MIMA prefers to showcase artists with backgrounds in subcultures such as ‘hacking’, ‘skateboarding’, or ‘graphics’. To its view, these are the creative minds shaping what it likes to call ‘culture 2.0,’ or the culture that sprang to life with the Internet Age.
Aiming to become the reference point for the most significant art being made today, MIMA invited several artists who have already attained an international following. From the get-go, a statement was made to the public. The opening exhibition, City Lights, boasts five US figures emblematic of art 2.0. Swoon, MOMO, Maya Hayuk and the duo Failet all transformed one of the building’s floors specifically to celebrate the opening of the cultural house that hopes to reflect society as it is today: diverse and immensely influenced by the seismic shift that was the birth of the Internet.
Along with two temporary exhibitions each year, the cultural earthquake will be outlined in a permanent display of the museum’s own collection. Forty pieces focus on the work of culture 2.0 pioneers like Banksy, Blu, Barry McGee, Invader, Mobstr and Parra (the Dutch artist who designed MIMA’s logo). Also there to stay are the two rooftop terraces, delivering a stunning panoramic view of the canal and the capital. International crowds and a broad array of art lovers are bound to flock to this new Mecca of digital natives, already brightening up its own neighborhood and the European art world.