What’s on: Face to face with people of the past in Antwerp


The wonderful Blind Date exhibition finally gets to open in Antwerp, while home entertainment continues with the Queen Elisabeth Competition’s new audio-visual site and Brafa Art Talks

Blind Date

The Snijders&Rockox House Museum is back open with a brand new exhibition. The intriguingly named Blind Date: Portraits with a Glance and a Blush invites visitors to imagine what might be on the minds of the paintings’ subjects, with their casual eye contact, barely concealed smiles, rosy cheeks or even stern looks.

It’s the museum’s way of guiding us through the rich history of portraiture and the ways in which it was used by its subjects – whether to prove their dedication to prayer, hard labour or charity or to record their wealth and beauty. The exhibition is in fact spread across several locations within easy walking distance of each other. Snijders&Rockox House hosts portraits of monarchs and wealthy nobility, across the street in St Anne’s Chapel are paintings of clergy and other religious figures, around the corner in Saint Carolus Borromeus Church visitors will finds portraits of children, and then a quick jaunt west towards the river brings us to the Vleeshuis Museum to see three paintings by Frans Snijders, after whom the Snijders&Rockox House is partially named.

The exhibition has been brought to life by colourful local fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck, an inspired choice: His bright yellow and white accents contrast sharply with the muted tones of the portraits, taking them out of their comfort zone. Like a blind date does. Until 31 December, Snijders&Rockox House Museum and other locations, Keizerstraat 12, Antwerp

Queen Elisabeth Watch & Listen

This year’s Queen Elisabeth Competition, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world for young classical musicians and singers, of course had to be cancelled. Rotating as it does every year among piano, violin, voice and cello, this year was dedicated to pianists. So the QEC has focused on some of the most beautiful moments of its past piano competitions on its new Watch & Listen page.

One can get lost on this page for quite some time, in fact, as it’s searchable by year, competition round and type of media, whether photo, video or audio. Check out the photo album dedicated to host families, for instance, or to the queens of Belgium (the official patrons of the event). Browse to your heart’s content through audio recordings dating back to 1951, digitised videos as old as 1967 and photographs that reflect the history of the competition since its origins in 1937. Of course, the violin, cello and voice sessions are well-represented, too.

Brafa Art Talks: Keith Haring

The Brafa Fine Arts Fair in Brussels thankfully took place in January so didn’t have to cancel this year’ edition. Now it’s busy putting the engaging Brafa Art Talks online. The most recent is dedicated to the late New York street artist and activist Keith Haring, the subject of a major retrospective at Bozar that had been extended until 21 July. Darren Pih, curator at Tate Liverpool, and Alberta Sessa, curatorial project co-ordinator at Bozar rap about Haring’s cult status, his rejection of the art industry, his invaluable contribution to Aids activism in the 1980s and the instantly recognisable style of his paintings, collages, posters and murals.

Brafa has posted videos of other lectures as well, including one dedicated to Michaelina Wauter, a Belgian painter forgotten for centuries, and the painstaking restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece. Most talks are delivered in French, but there are a few in English and Dutch. Click on “read more” to see the language of any specific talk.

Photos, from top: Jan Boeckhorst’s ‘Lady with Rose’ (cropped) ©The Phoebus Foundation; Kana Okada, 2016, © CMIREB/IMKEB Bruno Vessiez; courtesy Bozar