What would happen if the five million people who visit Bruges every year, suddenly decided to settle there permanently?
That was the hypothetical question asked to a select group of Internationally renowned artists including Nathan Coley, Tadashi Kawamata and Atelier Bow-Wow.
The creative answers to this conundrum are now on display at the 2015 Triennial Contemporary Art and Architecture event around the beautiful streets of this unique historical city.
From Nicolas Grenier’s excellent ‘Vertically Integrated Socialism’ models to Vibeke Jensen’s mirrored ‘DiamondScope’ located in the middle of Market Square the pieces are dotted along a fantastic art walk that culminates at ‘URB EGG’, a pop-up bar next to the water where a cold Belgium beer serves to aid the appreciation of Anne Katrine Senstad’s ‘Gold Guides Me’, a 3D word sculpture located on the adjacent roof of the Spaanse Pakhuizen.
My personal favourite is by Chinese artist Song Dong, entitled ‘Wu Wei Er Wei’ which translates as ’Doing Nothing Doing’. Situated next to St Salvator Cathedral, the piece is constructed from old window frames reclaimed from demolished homes in new Chinese development areas.
In interviews, Song Dong has compared the city of Bruges to a Bonzai Tree – the water around the city has kept its branches clipped, while 500 years of strict planning controls on anything and everything have kept the medieval buildings and canals frozen in time.
By looking out at Bruges from within Song Dong’s Bonzai shaped sculptures the relationship between the city and the art becomes symbiotic.
Fascinating too are Tadashi Kawamata’s ‘Tree Huts in Bruges’, built high into the trees in the courtyard of the Bruges Beguinage. With with no doors or means of access they both infuriate and delight.
Similarly each piece in the Triennial event (ranging from chocolate sculptures, light installations to a full size electricity pylon in the canal) holds an aesthetic and intellectual value which can only help to forge a dialogue between Bruges historic past and its place in the 21st century.
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(some of the artists involved include… from left: Nathan Coley, Annek Sensated, Song Dong, Taashi Kawamata)
Triennale Brugge 2015 is on until October 18th.
For more info visit www.triennalebrugge.be
Where to Eat in Bruges.
The Moule season runs from September to December, so if you’re in Bruges for the Triennial exhibition before then it’s a good opportunity to try something else. The central area around Brug square is populated by a large number of friendly, but mainly unspectacular ‘touristy’ bar/restaurant establishments, but if you head directly North you’ll find Assiette Blanche, a family run restaurant with beautiful wood paneled walls, great art and fantastic food.
Try the Avacado Gazpacho with vegetable salsa and sour cream starter, or a main dish of Clams, celery, onion, garlic with herb lava.The food is delicate, precise and delicious and the €22,00 fixed lunch menu is excellent.
Philipstockstraat 23, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
For more info visit www.assietteblanche.be
Gastronomic dining can be a pretentious, formal affair at times, but in the garden at Patrick Devos a short walk from the centre of Bruges the relaxed ambiance is matched with a delightful set menu (3 course €40,00) that includes North Sea Crab with tomatoes, frigola and basil sauce, Poached turbot and a Cremeux of chocolate with strawberries, chocolate ice cream and cream of calamansi.
Each dish is a piece of artistry in itself, seeking to surpass the previous delication and there’s not a frite in sight.
Zilverstraat 41, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
For more info visit www.patrickdevos.be
Incidentally another couple of restaurants I visited while in Bruges that I can also recommended are ‘The Pergola‘ (gorgeous location, owned by the Hotel on the opposite side of the canal two minutes from the centre) and the wonderfully named, Kurt’s Pan. A cosy family run place with hearty fish bouillon and a non-assuming frontage that is popular with locals.
Where to stay in Bruges
Located only 2 minutes from the central Brug Square, Martins Hotel (one of two in Bruges) is an ideal base from which to explore the Triennial exhibition from. Rooms are comfy, modern and start from just €95 per night.
Oude Burg 5, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
If you plan to visit some of the many attractions in Bruges, a Bruges City Card will give you free transport and free/discounted admission in 27 museums, plus discounts on bike hire, parking and many other things. The card costs €46,00 for 48 hours or €49,00 for 72 hours. For more info on the Brugge City Card visit www.bezoekers.brugge.be
Click to view images.
Bruges oozes authentic old-world charm and while it’s as popular as ever as a tourist destination, it’s still a wonderfully peaceful and relaxed place to visit with quiet spots around every corner.
For more ideas on things to do in Bruges visit www.visitflanders.com