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What’s on this week: 16 to 22 February

Bright Festival Brussels
10:40 15/02/2024
Brussels turns its lights on in the Bright Festival while carnival fever hits the capital ahead of the launch of Belgium’s celebration of Surrealism via a series of high-profile exhibitions.

Annual light show Bright Festival spotlights Europe in a nod to Belgium’s current presidency of the EU council. So the city’s royal quarter and EU neighbourhood host the installations and the fun. Alongside the immersive and multisensory installations, a fringe programme in local museums and stores offers guided tours, live entertainment and heritage illuminations. A new children’s zone is located in Place d’Espagne, while older ‘kids’ can party until the wee hours at the Disco Bright Party in Ravenstein gallery. In Cinquantenaire park, a Bright Market sells lamps of various kinds, and performances pop up around the city, including an illuminated roller skating parade. Until 18 February, across the city


Fans of Asian pop-culture are heading to Tour & Taxis this weekend for new event Japan Con/Brussels Manga. The special convention is packed with activities, from cos play, concerts and dance to drawing workshops, gaming and a display by the Belgian Dragon Ball team. 17-18 February, Avenue du Port 86C


What better topic to symbolise Belgium during its six-month EU presidency than surrealism? Bozar celebrates the avant-garde art movement’s centenary by focusing on 60 years of contributions by the country’s artists in Histoire de ne pas rire. Surrealism in Belgium. From founder poet Paul Nougé to world-famous surrealist master René Magritte, the highly-anticipated show highlights international interactions, hence the inclusion of foreign artists such as Salvador Dalí and Georgio, and thankfully the movement’s overlooked women artists.  21 February to 16 June, Rue de Ravenstein 23

Max Ernst, The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism) (1937), Private collection  © Sabam Belgium, 2024

For its contribution to the country’s centenary celebration, the Fine Arts Museum presents the international touring exhibition Imagine. I00 years of International Surrealism. With 130 artworks on display, it promises to be an immersion in a poetic dreamworld, exploring the unknown and the subconscious. Leading surrealists such as Max Ernst (The Fireside Angel, pictured), Joan Miró, Giorgio de Chirico and Man Ray lead the way in this study of the movement via a symbolist perspective.  21 February to 21 July, Rue de la Régence 3

3.Jean-Michel Folon, Sans titre, aquarelle, sd. © Fondation Folon_ADAGP_Paris_2024

In the year-long homage to singular Brussels artist Jean-Michel Folon, a series of exhibitions plus an art trail showcase his creative universe. In Magritte-Folon. The Dream Factory a dialogue with the works of René Magritte contributes to the city-wide celebration of Surrealism while exploring both artists’ unique imaginative worlds. Folon’s discovery of Magritte’s The Enchanted Domain series was a revelation that inspired his illuminating work. 21 February to 21 July, Magritte Museum, Rue de la Régence 3

James Ensor, Squelettes se disputant un hareng fumé ou hareng saur (L_art Ensor), 1891. Huile sur panneau, 16 x 21,5 cm. MRBAB, 11156 © J. Geleyns - Art Photography

Although Belgian painter James Ensor is inextricably linked to his home city Ostend, Brussels played a crucial role in his artistic development. For the 75th commemoration of his death, the Royal Library stages the exhibition James Ensor. Inspired by Brussels. Discover how the capital influenced his quirky and colourful visual style in this display of 18 paintings, 24 drawings and 33 prints from the collections of the museum and the Museum of Fine Arts. 22 February to 2 June, Mont des Arts 28

Peer Gynt & Sibelius

The Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra whisks you to the Nordics with its latest concert Peer Gynt & Sibelius. Henrik Ibsen’s suites from Peer Gynt tell a poetic story that transports you into a world of Scandinavian legends. Jean Sibelius’s violin concerto, meanwhile, is performed by the star Lithuanian violinist Rasa Vosyliuté (pictured). And the orchestra adds a Belgian touch to the programme, which is rounded out by 19th-century composer César Franck’s Eolides. David Navarro-Turres conducts. 17 February 20.00, Royal Conservatory, Rue de la Régence 30

Antitapas (c)Edoardo Genova Photography

Get to Antitapas Carnival Night early because advance tickets are sold out, and entries at the door are limited. If you are into parties, you don’t want to miss this one: Concerts and DJ sets range from Caribbean and trans African to Gipsy punk, and there’s also acrobatics and dance and complimentary food and drink. The costumes are suitably festive, and you are invited to wear your own carnivalesque creation. Tell them at home to not wait up! 17 February from 21.00, Studio CityGate, Rue de la Petite Île 1A (Anderlecht)

Leon Spillaert (c)Courtesy Patrick Derom Gallery

Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert’s dark, dark world intrigues viewers as much today as it did in the first half of the 20th century. Wanderer Through Silence brings together 21 pieces from the collection of the artist’s family, some of which have never been put on show. They span his entire career and highlight the painter’s occasional splashes of colour. 16 February to 13 April, Patrick Derom Gallery, Rue aux Laines 1

Fiesta Latina

Book now: Fiesta Latina Carnival  What Brussels lacks in carnival parades, it makes up for in parties. Get into the colours, sounds and moves of the season with the good people of Fiesta Latina. Their carnival edition is no less spectacular than their annual autumn event and features costumed dancers, live music, 40+ food trucks, dance workshops and … wait for it … parades! Family-friendly during the day, pumping beats and drinks all night. 23-24 February, Tour & Taxis, Rue Picard 7


Kortrijk Festival (c)Gregory Vlieghe

Festival Kortrijk kicks off the Festival of Flanders series of classical and new music, which takes place in cities across the region all year long. Kortrijk is dedicating this year’s edition to Greek mythology, delving into the adventures of the gods, demigods and fallen heroes who have inspired countless artists and composers for centuries. Check out the programme asap, tickets to performances are going fast. 21-25 February, across Kortrijk

Marcel Raymaekers

While you may have never heard of him, Belgian architect Marcel Raymaekers was a pioneer in circular construction. He built some 100 homes in his 50-year career, using materials salvaged from not just from condemned buildings but from ships, churches, slaughterhouses and even fighter jets. Not beloved in his time, he created eclectic mishmashed constructions both inside and out. But they have stood the test of time, now considered not just visionary but super cool. The still-living Raymaekers is currently in the international limelight thanks to a new book on his work and an exhibition at deSingel. Until 17 March, Desguinlei 25, Antwerp


Whatever the season, embrace the outdoors and experience the enchantment of Tervuren’s Arboretum in a Homeward Bound Forest Therapy session. George Biesmans, a trained guide, leads groups in the woodlands to help people reconnect with the natural world. Forest therapy is the practice of slowing down, awakening the senses and listening to your body. 18 February & 2 March, 9.00-12.00, Tervuren


After a three-week residency in Charleroi, US artist Banks Violette takes over the BPS22 contemporary art space with a major solo exhibition The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (2005-2023). It marks the grand return of this once enfant terrible of the contemporary art world. Explore some 40 historical works, including monumental installations, shown in dialogue with new creations that are a collaboration with fashion house Celine. The artist habitually employs materials such as metal, mirrors, screens and tubes to create large-scale black-and-white installations that reflect a darker side to American society. Until 5 May, BPS22, Boulevard Solvay 22, Charleroi

Grand feu de Bouge

Annual carnival ceremony the Great Fire of Bouge boasts links to pagan and Christian rites; the burning effigy of a winter man atop the roaring fire traditionally ushers in spring. After months building the giant bonfire on the hilltop on the outskirts of Namur, it will finally be set ablaze in a symbolic lighting ceremony accompanied by folklore processions, singing and dancing and fireworks. Six other bonfires in other strategic locations overlooking the Meuse valley will also be lit in sequence. As with any carnival fun, there’s no shortage of snacks and refreshments. 18 February, from 18.00, Rue de L’Institut, Bouge (Namur)

Discover more upcoming events at The Bulletin's events page.

Photos: (main image) courtesy Bright Festival; ©René Magritte "The Cut-Glass Bath" 1946 © succession Magritte – Sabam Belgium 2023-2024; Max Ernst, The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism) 1937, © Sabam Belgium, 2024; Antitapas ©Edoardo Genova Photography; Leon Spillaert ©Courtesy Patrick Derom Gallery; Kortrijk Festival ©Gregory Vlieghe;  Banks Violette, Sunn O))) repeater (decay coma mirror) 2006. Collection de la Province de Hainaut, dépôt au BPS22. Photo Leslie Artamonow

Written by Sarah Crew and Lisa Bradshaw