News from Flanders for 2021

This region of Belgium, celebrated for its culture, cuisine and cycling, has exciting plans for next year

Detail of the Ghent Altarpiece 1
Detail of the Ghent Altarpiece

Here is a round up of what’s been happening and some of the exciting things to look forward to in 2021

Art and Heritage

A new Jacob Jordaen’s panel is discovered

A piece of artwork by Antwerp’s Jacques Jordaens (1593-1678) has been discovered at the Saint-Gilles City Hall in Brussels during an inventory commissioned in 2019 for a Town Planning office in Brussels. Believed to have been a reproduction, it had remained undiscovered in the office for approximately 60 years. Painted on a wood panel, it had previously been considered a mere copy and had remained undisturbed in the Town Planning and Development Counselor’s office. A detailed analysis even revealed that the wood of the Jordaens panel comes from the same tree that was used in several compositions by Anthony Van Dyck, confirming the theory that as young artists, Jordaens and Van Dyck were both active in Rubens’ studio. Wood taken from the panel matches other authenticated masterpieces by the painter. The work will now undergo a year long restoration by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) and will be displayed to the public, resplendent in its original form and colour in the Royal Museums of fine Arts of Belgium, at the end of 2021.

Jan Van Eyck Events Postponed until 2021

In 2020, the city of Ghent was supposed to celebrate Jan Van Eyck with a number of exhibitions, events and celebrations. Sadly, the pandemic took that thunder away and although some exhibitions did get to open, such as the acclaimed Van Eyck- An Optical Revolution, in the MSK Ghent, many other events were either suddenly halted, shortened or postponed. Thankfully, a number of the festivities were simply postponed to 2021 and below are a number of those events and exhibitions that will be taking place in 2021. Of particular interest might be the postponed opening of the St Bavo’s Cathedral Visitor Centre in March but there plenty of other events of note, to make a proper excuse to travel to Ghent in 2021.

Kleureyck open until 27 Feb 2021 at the Design Museum – Ghent

Kleureyck is an exhibition about the innovative and diverse use of colour, linking past and present. The starting premise of the exhibition is Jan van Eyck’s skilful use of colour, which is fully revealed in all its glory during the restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece. This exhibition has been open for most of 2020 and there is still a chance to see this before it closes at the end of Feb 2021.

Lights on Van Eyck continuing to 30 June 2021 at St. Nicholas’ Church, Ghent

This digital multi-media music experience in Ghent’s St. Nicholas church was created by British artist, Mat Collishaw. This digital musical reinterpretation of the Ghent Altarpiece was created with the help of the expertise of Van Eyck expert Prof. Dr. Jan Dumolyn. It offers an immersive video mapping experience which focuses on a spectacle of light throughout the church and impresses with dancing robot arms and a fire-breathing dragon. See more information here…

The opening of the Visitor Centre at St Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent – 25 March 2021

This long awaited visitor centre will finally open its doors to the public on 25 March 2021. Having undergone extensive renovation and enhancement, the new Visitor Centre will continue to house Van Eyck’s Mystic Lamb masterpiece, but in its newly created chapel area. The new centre will offer visitors the chance to view the painting in its newly renovated glory, but will also be offering guests the chance to enjoy the Cathedral’s new Augumented Reality (AG) holo-lens tour in the renovated Crypt area. The new AG tour, offers a truely immersive visual experience using detailed imagery and explanation. The new technology used for the AG tour is new and guides the viewer via GPS co-ordinates. Tours of the Mystic Lamb painting are possible without the AG tour, but to get the best out of the visit, and for the difference in entrance price, the holo-lens tour is well recommended. The new visitor centre offers a choice of tours, concessions for group visits and via its newly installed lift, full access for wheelchair users and other disabilities, which was not previously possible. More details about this much anticipated opening will follow in due course.

Van Eyck in Depth on until October 2021 at Ghent University Museum. Ghent

The Ghent University Museum opened in October 2021. Located close to the city’s Botanical Gardens, GUM as it is also known, investigates the relationship that Van Eyck had with the science of perspective. Theories that he was not familiar with it, had circulated amongst Italian contemporaries and this exhibition investigates this with the University’s architecture students via scientific analyisis with other contemporaries. This “must-see” exhibiition is a chance to see the newly acquired space for temporary exhibitions at the Museum.

Other Cultural Events in Flanders:

Ghent Floralies – 1 May to 9 May 2021, Ghent

The Ghent Floralies is considered the most important flower show, globally. Visitors are guided through inspiring gardens, art installations and floral creations on largescale path. An extensive supporting programme with workshops, guided tours, demonstrations and exhibitions completes Floralies. As part of Eyck Year, the international flower show is inspired by the van Eyck brothers Ghent Altarpiece, entitled “My paradise, my worldly garden”. Following the last Ghent Floralies show in 2016, Floralies 2021 , will return to the Floralies Hall and the Velodrom Kuipke on the grounds of the International Congress Center (ICC). An additional path leads to the Botanical Garden and to the plateau in Citadelpark.

Beaufort during May 2021 ( Dates TBC) – The Belgian Coast

Every three years, the Belgian coast proudly hosts a contemporary art festival that has been taking place since 2003. Artists are invited to create works that adorn the sea walls, beaches and dunes of the Belgian coast and some are bought and acquired permanently by the various coastal town councils. Those works of art either remain in their original locations or are assigned new venues. Today, the coastal region boasts the Beaufort Sculpture Park featuring 30 works of art in the public domain. It is the largest open-air exhibition taking place in the unique scenery of the Coast. More details to follow.

Bruges Triennial – Trauma – 8 May – 26 September 2020 at Bruges

Famed for being one of Flanders’ most popular art and contemporary art exhibitions, this year, the Bruges Triennial is entitled “Trauma”. Twelve international artists have been invited to exhibit their works in the city for just over four months, for this free to view, open-air exhibition. Trauma investigates what is going on behind those stately facades? In particular the medieval appearance of Bruges’ buildings and what is being experienced in them? Glimpses into backdoors, alleys and place off the beaten track are investigated in more depth. More information about the participating artists and architects and what can be expected are all available on the Triennial website.

Flemish Masters – new Museum Tours online to view

After the release of earlier “Stay at Home Museum” video’s this year, VISITFLANDERS has released a new series of videos to add to those already published, featuring some of the region’s most notable museums and attractions. During the tour, an expert from the museum provides information and insights about selected museum collections, and to provide a series of online documentaries that are guaranteed to be a unique and educational experience. The museum tours are short, stand-alone documentaries lasting 10 to 15 minutes in total. Whilst the films are narrated in Dutch, the commentaries are accessible via English subtitles. The contents will provide the ideal tool to help guide, and inform prospective museum visitors, when planning a future trip (when current travel restrictions are lifted). The new tours include St John’s Hospital in Bruges, The KBR Museum in Brussels, Mayer Van Den Bergh in Antwerp and St Peter’s church in Leuven.

The Big Bang Festival – 16 October 2021 – 30 Jan 2022 at Leuven

It is little known that in fact, the Big Bang theory, formulated by inventor George Lemaitre, was created in the city of Leuven, during the first half of the 20th Century. Lemaitre, who called his work the “Hypothesis of the Primordial Atom”, was a priest and a cosmologist and lived and worked in the city until his death in 1966. As a lecturer at the Catholic University of Leuven ( KUL), Lemaitre applied Einstein’s theory of relativity to cosmology. Now, to celebrate this ground-breaking theory about the origin of the Universe, the city of Leuven plans to celebrate it in a special cultural festival next autumn, entitled “Big Bang“. The Festival will present audiences with the story of scientific research and innovation with a number of events and artistic creations. The festival will also coincide with the Catholic University’s 6th century anniversary in 2021. This large-scale festival will work with locals who will be showcasing their talents and knowledge as ambassadors of their city. Good practice for Leuven’s proposed entry for Capital of Culture in 2030!

The Great War – The Flanders Field Pass Concept is created

VISITFLANDERS has teamed up with our partners in the West Flanders region to roll out plans for a new Flanders Fields Pass, as soon as travel restrictions from the UK to Belgium and France have been lifted. This exceptional visitor pass concept will be entirely free to visitors to the region. Discount vouchers will be issued to all visitors on arrival, upon the booking of accommodation including hotels, B&B’s , hostels and some holiday homes. Select WW1 museums will be entirely free to visit with the pass but visitors can also look forward to savings of up to 50% on other and non-WW1 Museums plus tours in the Westhoek region. Tours by minibus and private tours will be generously discounted, as well as the hire of bikes and e-bikes.Visitors will be encouraged to pre-book visits ahead of their stay but the special pass, created to kick-start travel to this popular region, will be available for a set duration ( to be confirmed in due course). Further news to follow shortly but please let us know if you’d like more press information when the pass is available to the public.

Gastronomy & Beer

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards – Antwerp

Due to have been hosted in the city of Antwerp in June 2020, sadly, all plans were halted due to the pandemic. Plans to re-schedule the awards in the city are now being planned for 2021. Stand by for more news about the new event. It is hoped, that the new dates, when announced will allow those participating restauranteurs and chefs, to have recovered from the impact caused to the hospitality industry worldwide.


The Flandrien Challenge is launched

On 16 November, VISITFLANDERS’ Cycling in Flanders brand launched a new cycling challenge in and around Flanders’ famous bergs and cobbles via a new Strava route. Entitled the “Flandrien Challenge – The Unbelievable Ride” it promises to offer the ultimate route via a gruelling 59 segments, to be completed within 72 hours, to tantilise cyclists worldwide. With no fixed timing, the challenge can be completed at any time and when travel to Flanders is safely available to all participants.. It will be possible for cyclists to view all 59 Strava segments not only via GPS, but also on the road surface, where the start and end of each segment is marked using lines and letters painted in white. To take part in the Flandrien Challenge, participants are required to physically ride all segments of this testing course, within Flanders in under 72 hours. Participation is free. Riders can ride these segments in any sequence, but to make it easier for them, there are three suggested routes.

Omloop Het Neiuwsblad – 27 February 2020 starting in Ghent

The famous Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race kicks off the start of the cycling season with its traditional start in Ghent via the Tour of Flanders routes down to Ninove at the finish.

UCI 2021 Road Cycling Championships – 19-26 September 2021 at Various Places

Celebrating 100 years of this prestigious race, Flanders is the host of the 2021 UCI Road Cycling Championships. There is no bigger cycling event for the year.Time trials will start in the coastal town of Knokke Heist and finish in Bruges whilst the road races start in Leuven and finish in Leuven. It is hoped to be the biggest cycling event of the year and with its September timing, it is hoped it will attract travellers from all over the world, after the period of travel inactivity during the pandemic.

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