Four exciting exhibitions in Brussels you cannot miss

Summertime is no cultural desert; here in Brussels there’s a clutch of must-see exhibitions pulling in the crowds. Here’s our pick of the best art currently on show in the capital. From modern and avant-garde, to classic and realist, we’ve got your next art outing sorted. Don’t forget, tourists and expats can benefit from a special promotion with Brussels Card.

Bozar: Facing the Future. Art in Europe 1945-68

In addition to the outstanding Summer of Photography biennial, the city’s flagship arts centre stages a pioneering exhibition by artists from Europe and the former Soviet Union. Many of the 200 works have rarely been seen before and together they throw new light on a critical period in modern art. Among the 150 artists, there are familiar names such as Picasso, Léger, Dubuffet, Appel, Moore, Sutherland, Broodthaers and Freud and a host of lesser-known artists, particularly from Eastern Europe and Russia. It was thought that the latter produced only totalitarian art, but here’s the proof that avant-garde movements were enjoying a resurgence as in the West. For the first time, it is possible to see that artists followed similar paths. The exhibition is divided chronologically into six sections, from the end of the war, plunging visitors into that dark period via symbolic images of death and destruction. This gave way to widespread shame and mourning, the backdrop of the Cold War, towards new realisms and idealisms as the threat of nuclear war and exploration into space. This is part of Bozar’s 2016 thematic, Power of the Avant-Garde, serving as a fascinating and insightful prelude to two major group exhibitions coming up in the autumn.

Until 25 September, 23 Rue Ravenstein

Musée d’Ixelles/Museum van Elsene: Photorealism. 50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting

Shining a light on the genre developed by post-war American artists in the wake of Pop-Art, this show pursues these visual critics of US consumerism. It follows the success of an exhibition of hyperrealist sculpture by Duane Hanson. Back in 1963, Robert Bechtle was one of the first to come up with a work that would later be dubbed "photorealist". The work of the first generation of photorealists took the form of distinctive still lifes produced in the US after the Second World War. The consumer society was flourishing and in their canvases, artists depicted skyscrapers reflected in gleaming Chryslers. The curator of the current exhibition, Otto Letze, has divided the 34 artists on show into three generations. In the ‘third generation’, European artists dominate, including the Italian painter Roberto Bernardi, whose dozens of compositions depicting sugary sweets that are difficult to distinguish from photographs. The Dutch artist Tjalf Sparnaay learned the tricks of the trade as a designer of picture postcards. His lifelike fried egg and hamburger look too good to eat, while his modern version of Vermeer's milkmaid is a similarly memorable image. His Fleamarket Milkmaid seems to be covered with a shiny layer of plastic, as if you had bought a wrapped reproduction at a flea market. "I want to impress someone with what he already knows; then you're a conjurer with paint, with illusion," says Sparnaay.

Until 25 September, 71 Rue Jean Van Volsem

Multiple venues across Brussels: 100 Masters

One hundred exceptional works of art are on show in 41 museums across the capital for precisely 100 days. The campaign is aimed at locals, expats and tourists to promote hidden treasures in the city’s permanent museum collections. Some 500 artworks were shortlisted and shown to a jury of cultural, tourism and art experts. The final selection – ranging from ancient to contemporary – include the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Bruegel, Juanma Gonzalez' painted shoes, a remarkably elaborate south Indian shadow puppet, the complete letters between Rimbaud and Verlaine during their Belgian stay, a Merovingian drinking horn, Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, Jan Fabre’s ballpoint pen mural L’Heure Bleue and an Ndop statue of a king from the Congolese Kasai region. Visitors are invited to vote for their favourite masterpiece via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tours for adults and children; in different languages on specific countries' national days; speed dates in various museums, slow art and apéro tours, and a ‘paint it blue’ Smurf day on 22 July at the Belgian Comic Strip Center.

Until 27 August, across Brussels

Royal Museum of Fine Arts: Andres Serrano. Uncensored Photographs

American artist Andres Serrano brings his provocative brand of photography to Brussels. Serrano’s irreverent, decades-long exploration of religion and excrement has earned him a reputation as an ‘enfant terrible’ of the art world. Uncensored Photographs is a retrospective of his entire career, including controversial works that have in the past been banned, vandalised or otherwise attacked. This exhibition proves that freedom can’t be censored. The museum does warn, however, that “some images may be disturbing” and are quarantined in a separate room. 

Until 21 August, 3 Rue de la Regence, Centre


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