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.

Sofie Van De Velde

Sofie Van De Velde

Gallery owner

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 run my gallery from my home in Antwerp’s Jewish neighbourhood. With about nine exhibitions per year, the gallery represents young as well as established contemporary artists. I’m happy to have a driven small team running the gallery with me. One of my assistants is a lingerie designer, making her an interesting addition to our team, as I’m all for cross-pollination of different disciplines. As a gallery, we try to invest as much time and space as we can with the people surrounding us. My parents have owned a gallery for over 40 years now, and just like them I started out in a neighbourhood that’s maybe less obvious, or more difficult. But it’s a way to incite dialogue between different worlds. A recent example was last year’s collaboration with the Jewish school across the street, where we placed a 6-metre large neon sign that stated ‘Most people never listen’. Then there’s also Borger, a series of nocturnes organised by a network of galleries and art spaces in the Berchem, Zurenborg and Borgerhout neighbourhoods of town.

How do you perceive Antwerp?

First and foremost, Antwerp offers tons of opportunities to its citizens. We find ourselves in an interesting triangle just a couple of hours away from Germany and the Netherlands, easily connecting art lovers all around. There’s a dynamic vibe here, and we’re forced to profile ourselves differently than Brussels, a city that benefits from its more central location.

What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?

We’re a small city with many influential creative people giving Antwerp its colour. An incredible fashion city, it’s the base for some of the greatest Belgian designers such as Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann De Meulemeester, AF Vandevorst and many others. And I’m not even going to start naming all the talented artists that find their inspiration in the city streets. Our history goes way back. And somehow there are still unknown places asking to be discovered. Whenever I take foreign clients or artists around town, I notice many instantly falling in love with it. Antwerp is a strong but silent force.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?

The obvious: more green spaces. And more Mercado’s, young entrepreneurs, and audacious projects.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

I’d hook them up with a room at Hotel Julien, an unparalleled B&B. Then take them for dinner Bij Alec before scouring around all the cultural events Antwerp has to offer (with an Antwerp Art folder under the arm). For shopping I’d never skip Garderobe National or the great second-hand boutiques such as Rosier 41. All this should be done by bicycle, I might add. Lastly, a journey to Linkeroever along the Scheldt River is essential. The entire area is an underestimated gem.
Photography Thomas Ost