Isabelle Willems

The Antwerp Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

To mark the release of our Warriors edition, we've teamed up with This is Antwerp to bring you 100 Antwerp Warriors, a 100-strong selection of local movers and shakers setting the tone for the neighbourhood of tomorrow. From design and architecture to contemporary art and politics, these are the creatives shaping the narrative of the future.

Isabelle Willems

Isabelle Willems

Head of communication, 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 Sterckshof location to its current 1,400m² space which houses a bookshop, a screening room, a large library and a publishing arm responsible for two annual publications: Extra and .TIFF (the latter, a lovely produced annual publication that focuses on emerging Belgian talent). The institution’s impressive private collection spans the entire history of photography – including works by Man Ray, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, William Klein and Andreas Gursky – whilst the institution also plays host to an array of lectures, workshops and portfolio reviews.

Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to.

I’ve been head of Communication at FOMU Antwerp for over eight years now. The FOMU photography museum is located in Antwerp’s Zuid neighbourhood, near the M HKA and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. You’ll find many beautiful design shops and art galleries around here. I’m very excited for the years to come for het Zuid, when the parking will turn into a park, when the Royal Museum of Fine Arts reopens again and we can turn this neighbourhood into Antwerp’s museuminsel.

How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Antwerp is a world city in pocket size. You have everything expected of a big city but smaller, closer by, more familiar. I keep discovering new things whilst at the same time whenever I go out I always meet friends.

How would you say has Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

I grew up in a small town. I definitely wanted to go to Antwerp to study and discover the city. Antwerp made me discover art, music, nightlife, urban landscapes, fashion, theatre, great coffee. A whole world opened to me and I decided I didn’t want to leave. Had I stayed in my small village, I wouldn’t have discovered so many museums and so much culture and probably wouldn’t have worked at FOMU.

fotomuseum.be
Photography Thomas Ost