15 spaces for photography in Belgium

The days of fine art photography being relegated to the contemporary art world’s back alleys are long gone. Today, the art form has matured and prospered, seeping into the calendars of  grassroots neighbourhood projects and big-money public institutions alike. And the picture’s no different in Belgium – quite the contrary. Adding another chapter to our ever-ending quest to index the most exciting areas of the country’s creative web, we travel to Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Liège, Charleroi and even the tiny Wallonian town of Couillet to handpick 15 of the best addresses for photography in Belgium today.

Brussels

1. Contretype

Contretype is undoubtedly one of the country’s most established photography spaces. Founded in 1978 by Jean-Louis Godefroid, who sadly left us earlier this year, the non-profit organises exhibitions, hosts conferences, invites artists for residencies and even publishes its own series of photography books and portfolios. Before scoring a permanent space, Godefroid use to organise photography shows of his own and one of his firsts was Robert Mapplethorpe – indeed, it was he who brought Mapplethorpe to Belgium for the very first time. After ten years in St Gilles’ Rue d’Espagne, Contretype has made the stunning Hotel Hannon in the city’s Brugmann neighbourhood its home. Today, artists are selected by new artistic director Alain Jottard and a committee of curators, researchers and other photography experts, and its two levels and four rooms are currently showcasing the works of Belgian photographers Philippe Herbet and David Widart.

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Contretype, Avenue de la Jonction 1 Verbindingslaan – 1060 Brussels
contretype.org

2. Galerie Paris-Beijing

With branches in both Paris and Beijing, French-born Romain Degoul and Flore Sassigneux inaugurated their Brussels outpost last October with an exhibition of contemporary Chinese photography. With its latest show, New Photography in Korea, the pair once again demonstrate their penchant for Asian art, their version of bridge-building between east and west. Located in the gorgeous Hotel Winssinger, built in 1897 by Victor Horta, it comprises two rooms, one of which was designed by the famous architect, and one modern white cube. Photographers who’ve graced its walls include Martin Parr, Laurent Chéhère and Li Wei.

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Galerie Paris-Beijing, Rue Hôtel des Monnaies 66 – 1060 Brussels
galerieparisbeijing.com

3. Fondation A Stichting

Opened in October 2012 by Astrid Ullens de Schooten (who herself is the owner of an impressively large photography collection) and Jean-Paul Deridder, the former shoe factory that is Fondation A Stichting is another art notch in the buzzing Forest neighbourhood’s bedpost. The area is home to contemporary art center Wiels, the curator-run art space Komplot, cultural center Brass, and now, Brussels’ first private photography museum – with an exhibition space of 450 square meters – has opened its doors. Kicking off with an exhibition by American photographer Judith Joy Ross, the foundation’s mission is to “further the creation, knowledge and preservation of photographic images.” Apart from three-yearly exhibitions, Fondation A Stichting also organises workshops for young people. Currently on show are the works of legendary German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, to be followed by a show of Max Regenberg.

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Fondation A Stichting, Av. Van Volxemlaan 304 – 1190 Brussels
fondationastichting.be

4. Recyclart

Founded as a non-profit in 1997, Recyclart, located in the former train station of Bruxelles-Chapelle, is a multidisciplinary art centre whose photography program is led by photographer Vincen Beeckman. The centre attempts to promote social cohesion, particularly by involving the locals in unorthodox photography projects such as, for example, a travelling photo booth. Following an exhibition of works by Belgian photographer Julie Calbert, whose images you might recognise from The Word Magazine’s second best edition, it’s now time for Les vacances du père Philippe, a nostalgic show that commemorates the community work of Philippe Heymans.

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Recyclart, Rue des Ursulines 25 Ursulinenstraat – 1000 Brussels
recyclart.be

5. Box Galerie

Brussels’ Box Galerie came about in 2004 as the brainchild of Stefan De Jaeger, former adviser to photography collectors, and Alain D’Hooghe, photography historian, professor and founder of Cliché magazine. The gallery counts bigshot Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaert and Sarah Moon on its roaster whilst its  inauguration exhibition featured Spanish photographer Toni Catany. Located in the 100 square-metre space of an Ixelles backyard, the gallery’s next presents the group show “Afrique Africaine”, which comes hot on the heels of American photographer Michael Kenna.

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Box Galerie, Rue du Mail 88 Maliestraat – 1050 Brussels
boxgalerie.be

6. Bozar

Brussels’ celebrated Centre for Fine Arts, or BOZAR, was built by Belgian architecture icon Victor Horta. It first opened its doors in 1928 and hosted the first International Exhibition of Photography the year after. It has seven artistic departments – from music and cinema to dance and literature – and the medium of photography is included in the Bozar Expo branch, led by Christophe De Jaeger, an art historian specialising in photography and new media art. The institutions regularly features exhibitions of major photographers, like Canadian Jeff Wall and Belgian Charif Benhelima. The Bozar Photography Award is a celebrated annual event, as is the biannual international Summer of Photography, the next edition of which kicks off next summer.

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Bozar  Rue Ravensteinstraat 23 – 1000 Brussels
bozar.be

Antwerp

7. Stieglitz 19

Antwerp’s  80 square-metre Stieglitz 19 is celebrating its fifth birthday this year. Since its inauguration in 2008 it has quickly established itself as one of Belgium’s most exciting photography galleries, representing photographers such as Devin Yalkin and Lara Gasparotto. Founder Dries Roelens has taken a particular shine to Chinese contemporary photography, and he travels to China each year on the lookout for new talent which he then shows in his Antwerp townhouse. The gallery is currently showcasing the works of German photographer Jessica Backhaus, which will then be followed by the group show Chinese Spring.

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Stieglitz 19, Klapdorp 2  – 2000 Antwerp
stieglitz19.be

8. FIFTY ONE Fine Art Photography Gallery

FIFTY ONE Fine Art Photography was founded back in 2000 by Roger Szmulewicz, who started taking pictures himself at the age of 16 – and who also happened to be the face, back in the days, for Ulrich Lang New York’s perfumes Anvers and Anvers 2. The gallery enjoys a firm presence on the international scene, thanks to its outpost in New York and its impressive roaster of photographers, which counts the likes of Ike Ude, William Klein and Seydou Keita. A ten-year anniversary exhibition recently presented photographs of Serge Gainsbourg, shot by the likes of Helmut Newton and Ulf Andersen. The gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of Steve McCurry’s works, to be followed by a show of Hans-Christian Schink.

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Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Zirkstraat 20 – 2000 Antwerp
gallery51.com

9. Ingrid Deuss Gallery

Ingrid Deuss, a freelance art buyer and producer working essentially in advertising and fashion, founded her eponymous gallery in 2011, making it one of the newest arrivals on the Belgian photography circuit. The gallery has gone on to establish a solid reputation for itself, owning mostly to its knack for acting as a platform for young talent to meet established photographers and show their works in spaces abroad. This collaborative streak has resulted in Ingrid Deuss Gallery partnering up with her counterparts in New York, where she is currently showing the works of Nicolas Karakatsanis. Next up in her Antwerp outpost is the exhibition Rosé by Annabel Sougné.

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Ingrid Deuss Gallery, Provinciestraat 11 – 2018 Antwerp
ingriddeuss.be

10. FoMu

Antwerp’s photography museum – known to locals as FoMu – opened in 1965 with the exhibition 125 years of photography. In October 1986 it moved from its location in Sterckshof to its current 1,400 square-metre venue. The institution boast an impressive collection of photographs and objects that span the entire history of photography – including works by Man Ray, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, William Klein and Andreas Gursky. The museum also plays host to an array of lectures, workshops and portfolio reviews, houses a bookshop, a movie theatre and a large library and even publishes two magazines: EXTRA and .tiff. The recent show You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet explored the relationship between music and photography whilst currently on view are, among others, the works Germaine Van Parys and Odette Dereze as well as the group show The Sochi Project.

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FoMu, Waalsekaai 47 – 2000 Antwerp
fotomuseum.be

11. Stilll Gallery

Stilll Gallery, an initiative founded by curator Thierry Vandenbussche and writer/actor Rudy Morren, originated in 2006 as a nomadic curatorial platform that spearheaded numerous solo and group exhibitions in Belgium and abroad. The latest arrival on the Belgian photography landscape, the gallery’s opening show in October featured the works of Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers in its 100 square-metre space which encompasses two rooms and a tiny library. Thierry and Rudy’s purported mission is to show photography that deals with asthetic, social and political questions; photography combined with painting, sculpture and performance. A dual show that presents the collaborative and individual work of Dominique Somers and Egon Van Herreweghe opens in December.

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Stilll Gallery, Laar 12 – 2140 Antwerp
stilll.be

Bruges

12. 44 Gallery

Photographer Luc Rabaey founded 44 Gallery three and a half years ago, bringing some much-needed fresh air to the smallish Bruges art scene. The intimate space opened in April 2010 with an exhibition by Karen Borghouts and since hosted an average of 12 shows a year. Rabaey pays particular attention to the Belgian scene, thus far having promoted new talent like friend-of-The-Word Maroeskja Lavigne, whose mesmerising Iceland series impressed us all. Currently on show are the works of Harvey Benge, soon to be followed by those of Paul D’Haese.

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44 Gallery, Genthof 44 – 8000 Bruges
44gallery.be

Liege

13. La Galerie Satellite

La Galerie Satellite was founded in November 2011 as part of the plastic arts department of Liège’s Cultural Centre, Les Chiroux, in collaboration with non-profit project Les Grignoux. Dedicated to promoting contemporary photography, with particular attention paid to photographers from Brussels and Wallonia, it’s all overseen by Anne Francoise Lesuisse. Following Jackie Nickerson’s Farm series, a collection of intimate and powerful portraits of African agricultural workers, you’ll be able to admire the work of Valerie Leemans.

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Galerie Satellite, Rue du Mouton Blanc, 20 – 4000 Liège
jackienickerson.com

Charleroi and surroundings

14. Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi

Located in a former monastery and founded in 1987, Charleroi’s photography museum has become Europe’s biggest – after it was renovated and enlarged to a size of more than 2,200 square meters in 2008. Its collection boasts more than 80,000 photographs, two million negatives, and documents charting all phases of photographic history, with an extensive library of about 13,000 books. Besides exhibitions, it also hosts workshops, film projections, talks and conferences. Under the tutelage of current director Xavier Canonne, there are four major shows a year, with White Noise by Michel Mazzoni (whose latest body of work we featured in our latest edition) being the latest. Shows of the works by Gilles Caron and Claire Chevrier are planned for January.

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Musée de la Photographie, Avenue Paul Pastur 11 – 6032 Charleroi
museephoto.be

15. Galerie Jacques Cerami

In 2001, Jacques Cerami founded an intimate gallery in a small town near Charleroi, opening with an exhibition of the works of painter Stéphane Vee. But being a multi-disciplinary art space, it was soon followed by a photography show by Véronique Ellena. “Photography asks more questions and tells more stories than other art forms,” says Jacques, who admits that it’s not always easy flying the photography flag in such a small rural town. “It’s much easier to show photography in Brussels or Antwerp than here,” he explains. Jaques represents photographers such as German Mirjam Siefert and Belgian Philippe Herbet, with exhibitions such as “Ceci n’est pas un paysage” opening in January.

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Galerie Jacques Cerami, Route de Philippeville 346 – 6010 Couillet
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