Charleroi, the black city, was already avoided by visitors for decades and often called the ugliest city of Belgium. There is some truth in this, Charleroi is poor, scarred and grey. But recently the local government is trying to make a change. New initiatives pop up, areas get a clean up and companies are attracted with some tax reductions. We might not see the results of all these efforts in the next few years, but at least a wind of change tries to blow away the dark ashes of the past. But don’t wait to pay a visit to Charleroi, as now is a great moment to discover two of their wonderful museums : The recently renovated BPS22, contemporary art center and the world-renowned Photography museum. Both institutions now host an interesting exhibition linked with the Mons 2015 Cultural Capital of Europe year. Let’s have a closer look.
Musée de la Photographie : The Photography museum of Charleroi is considered as one of the most important and biggest photography museums of Europe. It houses a stunning collection of 80.000 prints and over 3 million negatives, of which 800 photographs are on display in the permanent collection. The collection gives a beautiful overview that covers the entire history of photography from the 19th century to the present day. It opened in 1987 in a old Carmelite Monastery and got a nice new wing in 2008. The 6000 m2 of exhibition space is quite overwhelming and the permanent collection alone can keep you busy for a whole day. Luckily there is a pleasant café to take a break in between. While you get a more chronological overview in the old monastery, the recent works are presented in thematic presentations.
They often change the presentation, making a return visit worthwhile. Besides the permanent collection there is also space for several temporary exhibitions. The main one on display now is the work of famous Belgian photographer Stephan Vanfleteren. The last few years Vanfleteren made a lot of visits to Charleroi to make a beautiful series about the city and its people. They depict the poverty and sadness, but at the same time shows the warmth of the people and the hope of a beter future. The series is made in Vanfleteren’s sober black and white style and is more than worth a visit (until 06 december 2015). Missed it, don’t worry, the museums temporary exhibitions are always interesting, so check out their website to keep updated.
Address : Avenue Paul Pasteur 11, 6032 Charleroi (Mont-sur-Marchienne)
Opening Hours : The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, between 10.00 and 18.00.
BPS22 : While the photography museum is a bit outside the city centre of Charleroi, BPS22 is really in the heart of town. BPS22, the Hainaut Province’s Museum of Art is especially dedicated to art forms focusing on current social issues. They form international collaborations with renowned art institutions and often display international artists who deal with greater global issues. The exhibition space is housed in a stunning industrial hall, built in 1911 and formerly part of the University of Work. It was called the Solvay Provincial Building, hence the name BPS. The building was recently renovated and celebrates this with the current opening exhibition : The Worlds Turned Upside Down (Until 31 January 2016). The 40 works on display all borrowed some elements of popular and folk culture and show that artists are still inspired by old traditions, legends and customs. The name of the exhibition refers to an old english folk ballad written in 1646. And symbolizes the overthrow of the leading order. Famous contemporary artists as Marina Abramović, Wim Delvoye, Kendell Geers, Carsten Höller, Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy are represented here with some of their works. A truly nice exhibitions that would attract big crowds in other cities. So now it’s up to you all to give it the attention it deserves. Enjoy !
Address : Boulevard Solvay, 22, 6000 Charleroi
Opening Hours : from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. / Closed on Mondays, 25 December and 1 January.