The first Antwerp Art Weekend took place in January 2015 and the Nacht van de Beeldende Kunst did not yet exist back then. Yet a party there was, from the need to come together, as the Antwerp Art Weekend was a signal, flared by the Antwerp art scene to let the world know that things are still happening after a sudden move and closing of several prominent galleries in the years before, and we wanted to celebrate that.
In preparation of the first edition, a party committee was erected and the result was a huge reception turning into a dance party at The Shop, an event hall located in the northern part of town, 't Eilandje. Cold as it was, the entire art scene was present, speeches were made by the president of Antwerp Art, the director of the M HKA, Bart De Baere, and the then minister of culture for the city of Antwerp, Philip Heylen, all emphasizing the glorious effort that was made to breathe fresh air into the fire of our art organizations and artists. And then we danced to keep ourselves warm at the nameless celebration. The first Antwerp Art Weekend was a fact.
When organizing the next edition of the Antwerp Art Weekend, a celebratory party for the arts became an unmissable piece of the puzzle and artist-curator Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx was tasked to collaborate with De Studio in creating a nightly event that incorporated artworks and -happenings in a clubbing experience. He started out by making a drawing, two eyes that looked into eternity, filled with possibilities, reflected in vibrant watercolors and called it: Nacht van de Beeldende Kunst.
It was also the first time that De Studio was a partner for the Antwerp Art Weekend and the building served as the main location and central hub, housing two exhibitions. The idea arose to have the art that was present viewable during the party and so the exhibitions remained open until 1am with additional artists invited by Benny, showing site specific commissioned works of which one is now permanently visible on the building's facade, a neon piece by Pascal Petrus. Other works included a light installation in one of the dance areas by Liesbeth Doms, a video installation by Stef Van Looveren and a wall piece by Daan Gielis, all of them present in the same space as the party.
Without music, no party of course. Ultra Eczema, the artistic and musical label by artist Dennis Tyfus, was asked to set up a musical line up with live performances and deejays that lasted until the early morning. Among the performers were The League of Mentalmen, Makoto/Pika, DJ Daniel and Roman Hiele. That night in May of 2016, art, music and partying came together and it was the first of many nights to come.
As we entered into 2017, Antwerp Art was undergoing a visual change with its new identity fully unrolled by design bureau Vrints-Kolsteren and also the Nacht van de Beeldende Kunst received a new look. In stark contrast to the color palette given to the Antwerp Art Weekend of 2017, Vrints-Kolsteren decided to abbreviate the Nacht van de Beeldende Kunst to NBK and go for black and white only.
A new curator, Nadia Bijl, invited 15 artists to each create a poster image, which would clad the walls of De Studio's entire ground floor, where the bar and party area are located. Those same artists came together in a group exhibition on the first floor, which would again remain open until 1am, next to two video exhibitions elsewhere in the building. In the basement, a video exhibition curated by Maria Palacios Cruz, director at LUX and a selection of video works by students of the HISK in one of the building's black rooms.
TRAP collective, a small Antwerpian organization residing in a vitrine space, underneath a set of stairs, was on duty to bring the beats with performers Rashad Becker, Das Ding and their resident deejays.
One of 2018's curators was ABC Klubhuis, a collective and gallery in Antwerp, run by Icelandic artists Baldvin Einarsson, Guðlaug Mía Eyþórsdóttir, Helgi Þórsson, Jóhanna Kristbjörg Sigurðardóttir, Kristín Karólína Helgadóttir, Ófeigur Sigurðsson and Valgerður Sigurðardóttir. They built a separate exhibition and hangout space on the first floor, with a catwalk for artworks, candid video footage of all participating artists and a tourist like shop where they'd sell cheap knock off items based on the art pieces.
Another video exhibition in the basement curated by Helena Kritis and Liene Aerts, with pieces by Laure Prouvost, Bruce Nauman, Kitty Kamp, etc, and an ongoing performance by Muge Yilmaz, invited by Federico Acal, completed the line up of things to see, all open until 1 am.
The music was taken care of by Ekster, a local label run by Victor Robyn and Roman Hiele, which so happened to celebrate their five year existence. They went all out with a night centered around sonic electronic explorations of some of their close associates, featuring live performances by TCF, SAGAT, Milan W and a strong closing deejay act by Nosedrip.
After working with different curators and programmers for four years, it was decided to look for a long term relationship. This also reflected in the choice to only work with one curator for the artistic part, who was Petra Heck. She focused on video and performance with her exhibition Conversing Motherboards showing works by Rory Pilgrim, Raphaela Vogel, Janis Rafa, Valerie van Zuijlen, and performances by Josefin Arnell and Amber Vanluffelen that started the Night of the Visual Arts.
There was the need for NBK to evolve into an entity of its own, to speak to a younger crowd that we know is interested in art and can be reached through music. De Studio and Antwerp Art found the perfect partner in Subbacultcha Belgium. One foot in the arts and one in music, the membership driven organization knows how to gather an audience and does so in the meticulous programming of the right acts in the right place.
NBK 2019 and Subbacultcha brought a stellar live act by Shygirl, a banging set by Mechatok and great deejay performances by Romi Luna, Yunobi and 9M-MRJ, genre swooping from sweaty R&B to Techno over the course of one night.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to finalize 2020's line up for NBK, since the Antwerp Art Weekend was forced to cancel its program altogether, but rest assured that Subbacultcha Belgium will be there next year to once more create a bridge between art and music at the Nacht van de Beeldende Kunst.