This is THE museum you have to add to your visit-list in 2016. As the brand new little brother in the Brussels museum scene, the MIMA is offering the general public a chance to explore the history of culture 2.0. Situated along the Canal in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, the MIMA devotes four floors exclusively to this emerging culture, making it a unique contemporary art museum in Europe.

Culture 2.0?

In fact, the 2.0 is more a state of mind than a tangible artistic movement. “You don’t have to go to college, drag ‘round a portfolio, mail off transparencies to snooty galleries or sleep with someone powerful, all you need now is a few ideas and a broadband connection. This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count.” The words are judicious and well chosen, and spoken by Banksy, the elusive street-art artist. Driven by rapid globalization, cultures are becoming mobile, which in turn leads to the emergence of a new kind of cosmopolitanism. The artists stemming from this movement claim that creation should be de-compartmentalized and hybrid, using all kinds of media, whether or not tangible. If you find this attempt at an explanation still unclear, the City lights exhibition will no doubt provide you with a visual answer to the questions you may have been asking yourself recently. Four worthy representatives of culture 2.0 have been given carte blanche for this first. Until 28 June, they have taken over the brand new MIMA with as common denominator the fact that they stayed in New York, more precisely Brooklyn, at some point in their lives.

City Lights: American class

Like many other artists of her generation, Swoon first made a name for herself in the street before gradually making her way into museums and galleries. At the MIMA, the American was given the cellar. Rather an honour than an insult, since the arty-squat housed in the basement of the former Bellevue Brewery is quite impressive, conveying an undeniable underground feel to the museum, water infiltrations and all.

Between graphic and abstract art, featuring archetypal figures and architectural elements, Swoon’s collages are otherworldly, and resolutely street art. Incidentally, their future in these dark alleys is quite uncertain: they might end up torn off, left to degrade naturally or covered up by the works of other artists; qui vivra verra…  During out visit, some members of the press are stunned by this revelation. Indeed, that’s what street art is all about.

We climb back up to the light and discover on the first floor the works by collage artists’ duo Faile, with their post-punk pop designs: their huge Tibetan prayer wheel is an eye-catcher. Symbols are scattered all over their work – private jokes or elements revealing their journey – like “1986“, the year of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, and the event which would spark their artistic creation. In this case, too, the approach is primarily inspired from the street: not surprising since the duo feeds on sign painting, an urban craft crystallized in 1950s USA.

A minute to remind the assistance that Arkadia will be in charge of guided tours, and we’ve arrived in the space transformed by MOMO … He has his own signature, scratched on the walls. Usually inventing his own tools to create his polychrome murals, the American artist spends his time exploring colours. He also likes to drop hints as to the secrets of his creative process. His abstract works inspired by his travels produce a soothing atmosphere, turning the space into a colourful Eden.

And after that, how can we describe the room painted by Maya Hayuk, high priestess of murals?! Maya has leveraged the architectural configuration of the room – its ridges especially – to create a work that breaks out of its boundaries and transforms the second floor of the MIMA into a funky chapel, to the glory of the visible spectrum. The walls are dripping with colours, both literally and figuratively.

Difficult to know how she got this divine inspiration: like the other exhibited artists, Maya takes her ideas from various sources to create her own hallmark style. One constant: music, very present in her work. The artist can’t even imagine creating without responding to the rhythms of music. With loud music playing in the background, this is how Maya paints her murals, as long as she is left to make son p’tit bordel, her little mess.

A bonus: the artist set up benches in the middle of the nave to allow visitors to chill out and enjoy her work. Nice & Smooth, Miss Hayuk.

What now?

Having discovered this first exhibition under the US banner, the neutral observers are satisfied. For all generations, today was a good day for art… And that’s not all, the MIMA also has a promising permanent collection laid out on two levels, which is based on long-term loans by collectors and which will rotate regularly.

Following the Brussels terrorist attacks, the grand opening of the MIMA – initially planned for 23 March – took on a significant symbolic meaning. This fact, amplified by the Belgian and international press, puts undue pressure on the venue which it should not have to bear: social fabric cannot be miraculously rebuilt with a museum, however fresh it may be. However, if the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art wants to spread its cosmopolitan message, it will have to leave its gorgeous building and expand its empire beyond its comfort zone. In this respect, the tagged banks visible from the panoramic terrace seem to be a perfect testing ground.

Let’s reassess the situation in a few months: if the MIMA is still serious about its mission, it has everything to become a major cultural player. It’s up to the founding quartet to avoid clichés and to open the Road to Glory, by giving the MIMA a unique identity in the Brussels cityscape. Who will stop them? Certainly not the 4G…

City Lights
Mima
33 quai du Hainaut 
1080 Molenbeek-St-Jean
Until 28 June 2016
Wednesdays – Sundays, from 10:00h to 18:00h
http://www.mimamuseum.eu/

Faile MIMA

Faile, MIMA, 2016, photo Pascaline Brischoux & MIMA Museum

Faile Mima 2

Faile, MIMA, 2016, photo The Pickles & MIMA Museum

Maya Hayuk Mima 2

Maya Hayuk, MIMA, 2016, photo The Pickles & MIMA Museum

Maya Hayuk MIMA

Maya Hayuk, MIMA, 2016, photo The Pickles & MIMA Museum

Swoon Mima

Swoon, MIMA, 2016, photo The Pickles & MIMA Museum

Swoon Mima 1

Swoon, MIMA, 2016, photo The Pickles & MIMA Museum

MOMO MIMA 1

MOMO, MIMA, 2016, photo MOMO & MIMA Museum

MOMO MIMA

MOMO, MIMA, 2016, photo The Pickles & MIMA Museum

Swoon Mima

Swoon au MIMA, 2016, photo The Pickles & MIMA Museum

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