Critic’s Guide: Antwerp

Ahead of the third Antwerp Art Weekend, a guide to the best shows across the city

BY Antony Hudek in Critic's Guides | 18 MAY 17

‘A Temporary Future Studies’, 2017, installation view, M HKA, Antwerp. Courtesy: M HKA, Antwerp

A Temporary Futures Institute
28 April – 17 September 2017

The Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, M HKA, has just undergone a thorough revamp, with a ground floor interior redesigned by architect Tatsuro Miki and interior designer Axel Vervoordt. New spaces for the permanent collection, an Artists’ Archive Centre and a public reading area make the museum into a much more intimate, cosier, even, place. On the first floor, cosy is probably the last word that comes to mind: in the exhibition ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’, co-curators Anders Kreuger and Maya Van Leemput conjure up a sometimes retro-poetic (Michel Auder, Miriam Bäckström) at other times techno-predictive (Simryn Gill, Mei-Mei Song) overview of what awaits us in an indeterminate future. For the Antwerp Art Weekend, on Saturday 20 May, Kreuger and Van Leemput host a workshop around the theme of ‘diversity’, which promises to make the future feel like a stone’s throw away.

Klaas Kloosterboer, Goochelen & Verlies (Magic and Loss), 2017, charcoal and oil on linen, 60 x 50 cm. Courtesy: Annie Gentils Gallery, Antwerp

Frank Koolen, Duel, 2017, video still. Courtesy: Annie Gentils Gallery, Antwerp

Klaas Klosterboer & Frank Koolen
Annie Gentils Gallery
7 May – 30 June 2017

An Antwerp fixture since the mid-1980s, Annie Gentils Gallery keeps re-inventing itself over the years, having worked with generations of Belgian and international artists, from Guillaume Bijl and Stephen Willats to, more recently, the young Greek artist Panos Profitis and the photographer and video maker Elke Andreas Boon. During the Antwerp Art Weekend, the gallery will host an exhibition of two Dutch artists, Klaas Klosterboer and Frank Koolen. The more senior of the two, Klosterboer, often resorts to large expanses of primary colours but his presentation here may include some of his recent paintings on which he scrawls evocative words such as ‘Verloren’ (‘lost’) or ‘Weg’ (‘path’ or ‘way’). For this exhibition, Klosterboer has invited Koolen to show alongside him, as a way of initiating a conversation between their work. An actual conversation between the two artists will take place at De Studio on Sunday 21 May at 3pm, around some of their many shared interests, including Lou Reed.

Peter Fengler, As For Pity and Grief, 2017, mixed media, 155 x 84 x 84 cm. ourtesy: Pinkie Bowtie, Antwerp; photograph: Pinkie Bowtie / Koos Siep

Peter Fengler
Pinkie Bowtie
18 May – 11 June 2017

Antwerp has recently been through a period of cultural attrition, losing several small publicly funded art spaces in the buzz saw of ‘austerity’. Meanwhile, Brussels keeps attracting international artists and new spaces (including a future museum in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou). Were it not for spontaneous initiatives like Pinkie Bowtie – a semi-commercial space recently set up by the three artists Vaast Colson, Peter Fengler and Dennis Tyfus – there would be a real risk that Antwerp would drift slowly and irremediably into provincial complacency. As their press release states, Pinkie Bowtie is ‘a joint exploration towards self-determination, born out of a desire to fill the gap between the commercial and the independent art space.’ During the Antwerp Art Weekend, Fengler will be presenting recent prints and vinyls – music being a staple of the Colson-Fengler-Tyfus trio. This will be a must-see on the Antwerp Art Weekend’s circuit.

Flurin Bisig and Wesley Meuris, Lecture Notes – The Theory of Meaning, 2014, 58 x 68 cm, pencil and watercolour on paper. Courtesy: the artists

‘Little HISK’
18 – 21 May 2017

The Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK) was once a beacon of free expression and thinking (and a lot of drinking) in Antwerp. Before moving to neighbouring and rival Ghent in 2007, the prestigious residency programme occupied a dilapidated former military barracks, where artists seemed to thrive in its cavernous studios. It is widely acknowledged that HISK’s move was Antwerp’s loss, so the Little HISK initiative, co-produced by five Antwerp art spaces, is a way of showcasing former and current HISK artists on what was once home turf. Flurin Bisig and Wesley Meuris will no doubt be stand-outs in this year’s stellar programme. Directly across the road, one of the co-producing spaces, LLS 387, will be exhibiting the work of Philippe Van Wolputte, whose sound performance on the Friday of Antwerp Art Weekend should not be missed.

‘wordswordswords’, 2017, installation view, Sofie van de Velde, Antwerp. Courtesy: Sofie van de Velde, Antwerp
Sergio De Beukelaer, ‘On.Titled’, 2017, installation view, PLUS-ONE, Antwerp. Courtesy: PLUS-ONE, Antwerp; photograph: MirrorMirror

‘wordswordswords’ and Sergio De Beukelaer
Sofie Van De Velde and PLUS-ONE
14 May – 15 August 2017 and 14 May – 25 June 2017

Two respected Antwerp galleries are joining forces and opening a new space together in the southern part of the city. After years of cultural exodus from the centre to its outskirts (Zeno X in Borgerhout, Extra City in Berchem), this collaboration marks an interesting return to Antwerp’s 1980s and ’90s scene, when prominent galleries clustered around the Fine Arts Museum in the South. To launch her side of the new space, Sofie Van De Velde will host a group show entitled ‘wordswordswords’, around the disruptive potential of language in relation to images. The impressive list of artists covers several generations, from Louise Bourgeois, Bernd Lohaus and Remy Zaugg to younger artists such as Sadaâne Afif and Jean-Baptiste Maître. On the PLUS-ONE side, founding director Jason Poirier dit Caulier will also take up the idea of disruption, with a solo exhibition of Sergio De Beukelaer titled ‘On.Titled’. De Beukelaer’s works will be the outcome of various forms of distortion, through external forces (such as reflection) or entropically from within.

Ben Rivers, Things, 2014, 16mm film still. Courtesy: the artist and Lux, London

‘Ways of Telling’
De Studio
19 – 21 May 2017

As with the 2016 edition, the headquarters of Antwerp Art Weekend will be De Studio in the city centre, a former bank that is now one of the city’s top music and theatre venues. The preserved vaults in the building’s basement could have been tailor-made for exhibitions of film and video, as demonstrated by last year’s superb exhibition, curated by Vincent Stroep. Expect the same high standards this year from curator Maria Palacios Cruz, who will take Liz Rhodes’ 1978 film Light Reading as a point of departure for a selection of films that have in common a concern with narrative and storytelling, including the artists Beatrice Gibson, Laida Lertxundi, Lis Rhodes, Ben Rivers, John Smith, Alia Syed and Corin Sworn. All the works in ‘Ways of Telling’ come from the extensive collection of LUX in London, where Palacios Cruz is Deputy Director. She will be in friendly territory in Antwerp, since before joining LUX she worked with numerous moving image organizations and festivals in Belgium, acquiring a reputation as one of the most astute film and video curators around.

The third Antwerp Art Weekend runs from 19 – 21 May 2017. For more current shows in Antwerp, visit On View.

Main image: ‘A Temporary Future Studies’, 2017, installation view, M HKA, Antwerp. Courtesy: M HKA, Antwerp

Antony Hudek is a curator based in Antwerp, Belgium, where he works at the Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA). He also runs the curatorial studies programme at KASK School of Arts, Ghent.