‘It beats aimless walking’: Mechelen’s streets become covid art gallery
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‘It beats aimless walking’: Mechelen’s streets become covid art gallery

Credit: The Brussels Times/ Jules Johnston

Several artists left displaced by the coronavirus pandemic have taken over the windows of coffee shops and bars in the Flemish city of Mechelen, effectively turning the entire city into an urban art gallery.

“This is the result of us trying to find a way to work under the circumstances,” Lieven Hendrickx – one of the co-organisers of the Prohibition Exhibition told The Brussels Times. “We’re trying not to let it die,” added Gijs Vanhee, the other organiser of the event.

Credit: The Brussels Times/ Jules Johnston

Both Hendrickx and Vanhee – like many other artists – have found their circumstances substantially altered by the coronavirus, forcing them to adapt to a world where exhibitions are near impossible in the traditional format.

“Many artists have had to cancel planned expos and lose their income as a result,” the duo explained. “The vacant catering establishments have made their business available as exhibition space. Together with other artists, we fill the vacant businesses with art ”

Working alongside fellow Mechelen artists, local coffee shops and bars all but shut under current measures, Prohibition Exhibition is trying to give people something else to do in the midst of lockdown.

Credit: The Brussels Times/ Jules Johnston

“This was all a little bit last minute,” Hendrickx explained. “We both had exhibitions cancelled in the last year and this was a way to still display our work.”

“When we started planning the shops hadn’t even reopened yet,” said Vanhee. “Now people have something to do after they have shopped when they would usually have stopped at a bar,” Hendrickx added.

The tour encompasses 13 stops across the city, with a focus on local Mechelen artists ranging from sculpture to prints in the windows of coffee shops open for takeaway and bars that haven’t seen regular customers in months.

“It beats aimless walking,” added Vanhee.”In the current situation, there’s a lot you can’t do, but walking is something you can.”

The exhibition is planned to last until the end of January, but could potentially extend as circumstances develop.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times