Kunsthal Extra City has been a known institute and haven for contemporary art in Antwerp ever since its erection by Wim Peters in 2004 in the Antwerp harbor district. Then still named Extra City, the exhibition space aimed to present quality, in depth exhibitions and to bring in artists from outside of Belgium's borders. After the assignment of Anselm Franke as its new artistic director and moving to an appointed space in Antwerp-North, Extra City steadily grew into a genuine kunsthal, while further establishing its international character. Starting in 2011 and directed by Mihnea Mircan, the exhibition as a form of research became an apparent part of the institute and in 2013 it moved again, this time to an old industrial laundering factory, where there was room to expand with artist studio's, a small cinema, a bar and offices for partner organizations.
After a few more years, Extra City changed course once again. Artistic director Adinda Van Geystelen took over in 2017 and until 2019 worked heavily on creating an ambitious urban plan surrounding the exhibition space, while realizing exhibitions with a great deal of notion for diversification, integration and decolonization, and cooperating with local socio-cultural organizations. It was during that time the Kunsthal title was added to the name.
2020 marked the move of the institute to its present location, a former Dominican church and neighboring chapel, sharing the monastery behind them with artist ateliers and AAIR, Antwerp's artist in residency program. Now set, after a short construction brake, the new Kunsthal Extra City will have opened its doors on May 7th for the first time and under the guidance of Joachim Naudts, finally landing in what hopes to be a more permanent setting for the evolving Kunsthal.
The opening of the new Kunsthal Extra City definitely deserves its own moment. They'll be dedicating the weekend of May 7–9 to presenting three simultaneous exhibition projects, which will last during and past the Antwerp Art Weekend.
‘Radically Naive / Naively Radical’ is the first exhibition in the large halls of the Dominican church, a place whose context is all-encompassing, where meaning already hangs in the air before a single artwork is added. The Kunsthal is inviting artists to give themselves over to the space. And therefore to consciously situate themselves in a post(?)-religious, post(?)-colonial, post(?)-feminist and post(?)-materialistic world.
With 'Periphery', Kunsthal Extra City commissioned six artistic projects. Artists Geert Goiris, Imge Özbilge, Maëlle Dufour, Mekhitar Garabedian, Meryem Bayram and artist duo CMMC will enter into dialogue with the symbolically charged architectural space and each install a semi-permanent work in the periphery of the church and chapel. They will hide themselves away in aisles, forgotten back rooms and hidden interstitial spaces where their work can blossom in complete seclusion.
The Chapel will house Michèle Magema's first solo exhibition in Belgium. Titled ‘Watermarks, silent traces’, Magema takes inspiration from personal stories of the Congolese diaspora in the 1980s and 90s, examining the notion of collective intimacy. How do you put something into words that is not often spoken of? How do you capture the essence of a collective intimacy without completely exposing it? Through intimate experiences, Magema explores the silent traces left by a Congolese generation marked by its destabilized political context.
Find more information on Kunthal Extra City's full program right here.