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Antwerp: A Creative City

Entrance on Wapper

Garden pavilion

Ionian white and gold and an oculus in St Carolus Borromeus

With a finish like a finely woven English tie of silver silk squares or similar but here of Indian inspiration.

Artist's impression of new port building



Antwerp is a good destination for Easter. The city authorities keep open the museums and many other attractions on the bank holidays and the open spaces of the city soak up any number of visitors without ever seeming to outnumber the locals.

The opening of Rubens In Private was the star event of Easter 2015. Subtilted 'The master portrays his family' this exhibition draws together dozens of paintings and drawings of Rubens and his family, mostly by him, in his own house on Wapper.

This exhibition deserves a review of its own but since the catalogue is only in Flemish a stab at it will not be made here. Since it is of international stature (it has the most famous of the Rubens self-portraits, loaned by H.M. The Queen, for example) and continues to run until the end of June it can still be visited.

Nonetheless, any visit to the Rubens Huis deserves some attention paid to the grand buildings of his house and studio, a curious mix of Flemish and Italianate design, some by his own hand (the portico, garden pavilion, sculpture gallery and studio).

One of these is the garden pavilion which is due to undergo some renovations and so deserving of some examination in case something changes and as one of the few buildings by Rubens as opposed to facades.

A facade only by Rubens, probably his most successful, can be found nearby at the church of St Carolus Borromeus. It may surprise some, but the rest of the church is entirely by others.

Facade of St Carolus Borromeus

Also really not to be missed was fashion designer Dries van Noten's Inspirations, which runs until mid-July at Antwerp's ModeMuseum, better known as MoMu. This is the first time his work is displayed as a static exhibition and covers inspirations for his extensive lifetime work. Exceptionally for MoMu, there is no catalogue at all.


An unintentional play of light but an 'Antwerp hand' appears disembodied

The exhibition space is kept in the dark, the exhibits largely lit by spotlights and with some limited use of audiovisual.

Gold inspiration

The oeuvre is displayed alongside decorative and fine arts to highlight his stylistic vocabulary and the range of his techniques.

Dries van Noten was one of the first to bring an enterprise to the Willemdok in the regeneration of the Het Eilandje district. He operates from a gigantic dockside warehouse near the MAS museum.

MAS or Museum Aan De Stroom (Museum on the River)

Antwerp is not just culturally rich. It is the world's biggest diamond trading centre, has Europe's largest petrochemical complex and its second largest port.

To understand the city one has to learn about the port, which can be done either by visiting the permanent exhibition about it in the MAS or by going to see the real thing.

A new port authority building is rising just behind the Hansa House at the end of the Kattendijkdok.

Its lattice structure echoes a diamond, its concrete support the keel of a boat. Along with the MAS some really exciting contemporary architecture is rising at strategic points in the old docks.