Belgium waffles, stout and moules frites? You can have it all in Brussels. And the city is a hotspot for contemporary art.

Ars Musica 

For the last three decades, one of the biggest festivals for contemporary music and composition has been hosted in Brussels and this year Ars Musica turns 30. The program includes major orchestra performances of Debussy’s “La Mer”, film screenings accompanied by a live symphonic orchestra, avant-garde composer Philip Glass’ string quartets, and solo concerts, each time in a different setting, ranging from the philharmonic hall to off locations.

Changing locations, Nov. 2 – 29, 2019

Ars Musica Logo, Image via

“sorted, resorted”, Gabriel Kuri in WIELS

In 2016, the Mexican artist participated in the ICH-exhibition at SCHIRN, contributing fragile works constructed from everyday materials. A major Gabriel Kuri solo show is currently on at the WIELS cultural center in Brussels, with him busy re-ordering, sorting, and rearranging found and collected items. The nautilus conch already used in Frankfurt now, for example, encounters metal letterboxes and paper towel racks, added to which a large sand-scape will also be on display.

Av. Van Volxemlaan 354, until January 5, 2020

Gabriel Kuri, installation view, Courtesy the artist; Sadie Coles HQ, London; kurimanzutto, Mexico City, New York; Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; WIELS-Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; Esther Schipper, Berlin Photo © Andrea Rossetti
PhotoBrussels Festival at the Hangar Art Center

Elsewhere, collective emotional states are the topic – in Brussels one image genre is taken as the overarching theme: In its fourth edition, PhotoBrussels is focusing on the still life, which was of course never completely out of fashion, but is currently enjoying a bit of a Renaissance in contemporary photography. Between 100 and 200 works by just short of two dozen artists will be on show, ranging from the uber-kitschy Pop Art versions of the Baroque still life on a table of Dan Bannino through to the monochrome minimalist works of Giljung Yoon.

18, place du Châtelain, Nov 15 – Dec 21, 2019

© Dan Bannino, Neon Vanitas - Jesus Christ, 2019

This exhibition sets out to show just how idiomatically Punk interweaves graphic art and subculture: Countless flyers, posters, DIY album covers and other visual artifacts from a private New York collection are going on show in Europe for the first time. True to type, “Sex Pistols” co-founder John Lydon poked fun at the US counterpart, saying that after all “we didn’t have time to sit around and be that indulgent. We had to raise £20 to rehearse” and “I really have no idea what they view as ‘punk art’.” But he came to the show all the same.

Place de Belgique – Belgiëplein, Nov 20, 2019 – April 26, 2020


Other cities may be decked out in Art Nouveau (Jugendstil), but Brussels has the (sorry) better look: Art Deco. Jazz Café L’Archiduc has, for example, been welcoming its guests almost without interruption since 1937, as you can guess from the sagging, now very faded upholstery on the seats. Originally launched as a discreet speakeasy of sorts by Madame Alice, in the 1950s Stan Brenders moved in – and Jazz with him. In 1985 the current owner took over at the helm and since then the program has included not just concerts but also Burlesque shows and dance evenings.

Rue Antoine Dansaert 6

Studio visit at KOMPLOT 

KOMPLOT sees itself as a nomadic artists’ network but at present has a semi-permanent site in Brussels. There, visitors can at selected dates drop by to visit the studios and check out the temporary blitz exhibitions. In November, video and installation artist Benjamin Verhoeven and artist and curator Merzedes Sturm-Lie (she focused on the de/construction of history) will play the hosts. More details are obviously not available as everything is in flux and might change at the last minute.

13 Square Albert 1er, Nov 13 – 15, 2019

EU Mies Award at BOZAR 

The EU Mies Award is the European Union’s architecture prize for contemporary architecture. Named after Mies van der Rohe it is meant to “recognize and commend excellence in European architecture in conceptual, social, cultural, technical and constructive terms.” The results of this year’s call for entries covers six construction projects, including the redesign of Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, Albania; the brutalist-feel Terrassenhaus Berlin and the winner, the architectural transformation of a gigantic 1960s housing block in Grand Parc Bordeaux.

BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Rue Ravenstein 23, through Nov. 17, 2019

Le Trogloxène at Deborah Bowmann 

Radical utilization from floor to ceiling: At the Deborah Bowmann gallery collective everything can be purchased, including the respective exhibition design, which is reinstalled after each show. At present with unevenly grouted terracotta tiles and a dimly back-lit suspended ceiling it forms a reconstructed archaeological excavation site, of the depths of which pieces by a range of contemporary international artists can be extracted. The works of Thomas Ballouhey, Kevin Bray, Théo Demans, Carolin Gieszner, Sarah Montet and Erwan Sene resemble corals and animal cave dwellers, transforming the exhibition area into a mixture of paleontological reconstruction, office zone, excavation site, and paradoxical architecture.

24 avenue Jean Volders, until Nov 9, 2019

Le Trogloxène, Installation view Deborah Bowman, Courtesy of the artists
“Grotto”, Nicolas Party at Xavier Hufkens

Nicolas Party’s images slightly create the impression that they were painted by a contemporary René Magritte of sorts. It is no coincidence that cone-like tree tops that rise up over a stage-set sky, ravens on coffeepots and portraits in a Mannerist idiom do remind one of the master of Surrealism, who was a native of the city: To disperse all doubts, Party also dedicates an image-in-image to the topic (“Magritte parti”, 2018), which will likewise be on show here.

Rue Saint-Georges 6, Nov 15 – Dec 14, 2019

Nicolas Party, Still Life, 2016, Image via

Sean Landers at Rodolphe Janssen

US artist Sean Landers likewise resorts to the painterly medium of quotation and thus lands in the past, among others repeatedly relying on Magritte. At Rodolphe Janssen the painter is now presenting an equally popular painterly practice, namely that of the alter ego, in his case “Plankboy”. Can the friendly wooden plank as a parable being offer deeper insights into the awful entanglements that are involved in being an artist?

Rue Livourne 35,  Nov 7 – Dec 20, 2019