Ultimas reward the best in Flemish arts and culture for 2019


Flanders’ culture prizes were awarded in Bruges yesterday, with some big names – like Luc Tuymans and Rachida Lamrabet – mixing with lesser-known artists and organisations for a vibrant mix of winners

In the limelight

The Ultimas were handed out last night in Bruges, with artist Luc Tuymans winning the lifetime achievement prize for Cultural Service.

The annual ceremony, sponsored by the Flemish Community in partnership with public broadcaster VRT, rewards artists, filmmakers, writers and other players in Flanders’s cultural scene. Tuymans, a world famous painter, was chosen for his overall contribution to Flemish arts and culture and in raising the profile of the region abroad.

A fervant critic of the government's budget cuts in the cultural sector, Tuymans chose not to attend the ceremony and announced that he was donating his prize money of €20,000 to the dance organisation Let’s Go Urban in Antwerp, where he lives and works.

Another Ultima prize winner is author and playwright Rachida Lamrabet. After years working as a lawyer, she published her first book Vrouwland (Woman Country) in 2007 to great acclaim and won the Flemish Debut Prize. “I like to tell the stories that not many Flemish writers are interested in telling,” she said to Flanders Today last year. “In Flemish literature, we have this single, Eurocentric gaze on our world. I want to look at that world from a different angle.”

Meet the winners

In the Music category this year, the prize went to a concert hall rather than an individual. De Centrale in Ghent, which puts cultural diversity at the centre of its programming, won the Ultima for how it “complements the other players in the landscape,” said the prize jury. “De Centrale is consistent in the principle of working ‘by and for’ and co-operates with programmers and others from diverse communities. This results in a great variety of repertoire, performers and collaborations, as well as a hugely supportive public.”

Other winners of Ultima awards were:

The Ultimas ceremony took place in Bruges’s Concertgebouw in the presence of culture minister Jan Jambon. Every year prizes are handed out in 12 categories as well as to a young, promising talent. Recipients are selected by a jury of experts in the sector and presented for approval to the culture minister.

The Cultural Service laureate receives €20,000, while the rest of the laureates receive €10,000. The Bill Award for young talent provides €1,000 to the laureate, as well as career coaching and a residency in the Destelheide creative centre in Beersel.

VRT is offering many opportunities to become familiar with the winners and their work this week. Tuymans will be a guest on radio station Klara’s Pompidou show on Thursday, for instance, and Emma de Swaef and Marc James’s short film Ce magnifique gâteau! can be viewed on canvas.be.

Photo courtesy Ultimas