The Flemish Masters come in all shapes, sizes and eras. Van Eyck, Bruegel and Rubens set the world ablaze in their respective time periods. Today, their successors, such as ROA and A Squid Called Sebastian, are bringing colour to our cities. Flanders: home of heritage, a canvas for street art.
“The world is but a canvas to our imagination”, wrote philosopher Henry David Thoreau over 150 years ago. A new generation of artists is taking inspiration from this quote, and creating some sensational works! For centuries, the art followed a few clear, unwritten rules. Brushstrokes were applied to the canvas in a deliberate and technically perfect manner. The canvas would then be installed in a cathedral or church, a museum, or a private collection. Today, there are new rules.
The modern masters use the street, the city and the world as their canvas to express their art and imagination. Large blank walls, secret corners, slightly rundown street furniture or the façade of a grand townhouse: they all serve as canvases for a new generation of Flemish Masters, such as ROA, Bué The Warrior, KAS, A Squid Called Sebastian and dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of others.
Long live the old masters
Whether in monochrome or brightly coloured, their creations give Flanders a new lustre. They never fail to give the occasional nod to their predecessors. In Ghent, some of the world's best street artists pay tribute to Jan van Eyck's mythical Ghent Altarpiece. And as if this unique street art route wasn't enough to pique your interest, there are several hundred more visual amuse-bouche to enjoy. This detailed city plan helps you find your way to all the big and small masterpieces dotted around the city.
Bustling Brussels is also brimming with street art, with much of it taking inspiration from the Old Masters. The artist collective Farm Prod has designed a route in honour of Pieter Bruegel. On this route, you will discover unique frescos on a multitude of facades in the famous Marolles neighbourhood. You can find out more about the huge artistic offering in Brussels at Parcours Street Art, which lists the capital's artistic assets.
The streets of bustling Brussels are also teeming with street art, with a nod to the old masters. In the popular Marollen district, you can see 11 magnificent murals dedicated to Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Learn everything there is to know about all the other amazing street art in Brussels thanks to Parcours Street Art, which provides a good overview of all the capital’s assets. a
Open-air gallery by the sea
From the beating heart of the country, we now travel to the coast. Ostend, a jewel of the Belle Époque, can perhaps be considered Flanders’ largest open-air gallery. In 2016, The Crystal Ship dropped anchor in the city for the first time. Ever since this vibrant street art festival has gifted the city a dozen new pieces each year created by renowned street artists. The Crystal Ship has, almost literally, left an indelible mark on the city. Some works can be found in small corners, others on huge walls, but either way they are always worth a look.
In Antwerp, there are two main areas where you can stumble upon street art. There is the inner city and the outskirts of the port. In urban Antwerp, you can find a delightful mingling of historical heritage and stimulating street art gems. Street Art Antwerp has mapped out the masterpieces and keeps you up-to-date on new developments.
Artistic ghost village
Those who venture outside of the city will be rewarded with a unique spectacle on the outskirts of the port of Antwerp: Doel, a village with diverse treasures. There is a 17th-century windmill, an eerie view of the nearby nuclear power plant, and an abundance of street art. Half a century ago, Doel was threatened with demolition as part of the port's expansion. Although it is still standing, the village has gradually been abandoned over the years. Today, it is an almost completely deserted ghost town. Among the melancholy of those buildings inhabited by squatters and houses with boarded-up windows, a marvellous mish-mash of street art has arisen. It is a unique sight to behold; there is no doubt about that.
Our cities are living proof: even centuries after Van Eyck, Bruegel and Rubens, there is still life in the Flemish Masters. Whether big or small, urban or in a practically deserted ghost town, Flanders’ street art has a lot to offer.