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 founded Valerie Traan six years ago. Valerie Traan is a gallery that oscillates on the borders of art, design and architecture. I aim to help people break free of their comfort zones. I’ll ask an artist to make furniture, or ask an architect to create art in a different way. People are more audacious when they’re forced out of their comfort zones. I also didn’t want to be another art gallery, because I believe there are enough good ones in Antwerp already. I live in my gallery, and it wasn’t the easiest feat to find an ideal place to work and live simultaneously. I didn’t want to settle in the most fashionable neighbourhoods either. Hypes pass. I wanted Valerie Traan to be located in an area that combines popular and high culture. Which I’ve found here, close to Vrijdagmarkt.
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?
Before opening Valerie Traan, I lived in Ghent for 40 years. I moved here firstly because my partner is based in Antwerp, secondly I feel that this city has a more cosmopolitan feel, the creative breeding ground surrounding the Academy is astounding. I considered Brussels for a moment, where there’s an interesting scene and a large audience for the arts, but what the city has in offer it lacks in centre. Unlike Antwerp, it’s harder to get around Brussels, and galleries are spread out all over town. In Antwerp, you can reach most of them on foot.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?
For me this has a lot to do with the city’s fashion academy, famous all around the globe. It attracts creative crowds as well as people who are simply interested in the creative sectors. It’s a city by the stream, and streams always attract lots of movement and lots of change.
The creative breeding ground surrounding the Academy is astounding.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
Something Ghent has much more of – and something I miss around here: a dynamic and active performance arts scene. There are several theatre venues around here, but I feel like those in Ghent are more rebellious, and more present.
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?
You can say what you want about it, but you have to admit that MAS museum, when it’s your first time in Antwerp and you see it, its rooftop really shows the city and its diverse landscape. And there’s shopping galore, from Dries Van Noten’s boutique to the second hand stores. The Plantijn-Moretusmuseum is a bit of a hidden gem, and it recently underwent extensive renovations. If architecture and urban development is you’re thing than a visit to Het Eilandje is well worth the trip. Valerie Traan is also part of Antwerp Art Weekend, an organisation offering a comprehensive guide to all the high-quality galleries in town and is the perfect way to discover some areas of the city you’d otherwise ignore as a tourist.
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?
The Middelheim park, and the people running it, are amazing. With great exhibitions, Renaat Braem’s pavilion and the more recent Robberecht & Daem pavilion, it’s a true cutting-edge placing representative of Antwerp’s history and past.valerietraan.be Photography Miles Fischler