MAS Antwerp image taken by Filip Cop - found on unsplash
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Antwerp: a round-up of the city’s cultural surprises

A cultural walk around any city will guide you toward that city’s major historical landmarks and art institutions.

And while Antwerp in Belgium has plenty of those – MAS (Museum aan de Stroom, above), the Rubenshuis, the Cathedral of Our Lady, and the Museum of Fine Arts, to name a few – we’d like to turn our focus on the smaller-scale contemporary culture must-sees the Flemish city has to offer.

Tim Van Laere Gallery

Antwerp: a round-up of the city’s culture  | The Aficionados

What started as a single-room contemporary art gallery in Antwerp’s hip Zuid neighbourhood about twenty years ago, grew into a gallery of European renown, representing such artists as Kati Heck, Franz West, Jonathan Meese and Rinus Van De Velde.

Soon enough, Tim Van Laere was in need of a larger space, but he patiently waited until the time was right to design and build a new free-standing gallery that would fully reflect what he stood for. In 2019, he opened a minimal building designed by Office KGDVS in Antwerp’s recently developed Nieuw Zuid neighbourhood. Conceived as a collection of 5 concrete blocks of different sizes, it’s located near the river Scheldt.

Apart from gallery spaces, the new Tim Van Laere Gallery also comprises a sculpture garden and a roof terrace. It’s a totally different experience from visiting the former townhouse gallery in a built-up, residential area. Here, a kind of future Antwerp can be glimpsed: sustainable, low-impact, spacious and meaningful.


If you exit Antwerp southward, via the expressway, a large modernist building looms large: deSingel, an arts site for international theatre, dance, music and architecture designed by the renowned Antwerp-born architect Léon Stynen.

Here, the four art disciplines have cohabited in harmony since 1980. In 2007, the architecture was expanded by Stéphane Beel. Now comprising a mid-sized concert hall, a large hall for theatre and dance, an exhibition space, a music studio and a theatre studio, deSingel is an example of how a building evolves along with the city’s cultural scene’s needs, without losing track of its programmatic aesthetics.

Middelheim Museum

Antwerp: a round-up of the city’s culture  | The Aficionados Antwerp: a round-up of the city’s culture  | The Aficionados

In a park of over 600 years old, Antwerp boasts an open-air sculpture museum that features site-specific contemporary works by Robbrecht & Daem, Ai Weiwei, and Richard Deacon, as well as works of sculpture spanning a century.

It became an art institution only under mayor Lode Craeybeckx, who, in 1950 decided to turn the public park into a permanent open-air museum for sculpture.

Some works are in the permanent collection, some are part of temporary exhibitions – the program changes often – but the strength of the Museum lies in the soothing greenery that stimulates contemplation.

But there’s more to it, too. In this sculpture park, one is allowed to organize a picnic, play badminton, walk one’s dog or make a snowman. This mix of old and new, of art and life, reflects the dynamism of Antwerp as a city with superior quality of life, and a breath of cultural goings-on to discover.

Where to Stay

The fabulous boutique Hotel Julien, with its mansion-house pedigree in the heartlands of old-town Antwerp, is a self-confessed curator of the arts, designer pieces, antiques and mid-century furnishings, which adorn the handsome salons and rooms in comfy elegance. 

Alternatively, opt for a spot of design at Hotel August - created within a former Augustinian cloister and chapel, was designed by one of Belgium's most acclaimed architects, interior designers, and product designers, Vincent Van Duysen.


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