Design and nature go together like, well, design and nature. We’ve rounded up two of our favourite Belgian destinations that combine these to impressive effect: Labiomista, in the city of Genk, and Verbeke Foundation in Kemzeke. Both are about an hour from Brussels, and Kemzeke is just outside of Antwerp, so you can easily visit both on your next trip to Belgium. Before you go, we want to introduce you to these magical havens of art and design, so you know what you’ll be in for.
Labiomista is the brainchild of Koen Vanmechelen, an artist who has been exploring the intersection of art, community and science for over two decades. His expression takes the form of various mediums: paintings, sculptures, videos, mixed-media and ‘living art’ installations.
Be transported into the unique world of an artist with a backdrop of bio-cultural diversity — a garden where order coexists with chaos; where culture meets nature. A unique collaboration between artist Koen Vanmechelen and the city of Genk, Labiomista is a 24-hectare park featuring an open-air exhibition of Vanmechelen’s art and installations.
“In an experimental way, Labiomista represents my vision on nature, society and life. It will evolve together with my work. Because it’s so all-encompassing, it could only have taken shape in a city as diverse as Genk.” — Koen Vanmechelen
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Half of Labiomista’s vast area consists of wild nature: the park section contains three animal compounds spread over more than 9,000 m² of space. The wildlife residents of the park play an essential role in Vanmechelen’s work. Here, you can spot llamas, emus, storks, dromedaries, ostriches, alpacas, and a unique species of chickens, among others. Labiomista also houses a number of remarkable structures, such as Vanmechelen’s studio and operational headquarters, named the Battery, and an imposing gateway building, The Ark, both designed in collaboration with noted Swiss architect Mario Botta.
Visit and enjoy the outdoor exhibition with numerous live artworks and installations, have a picnic or take part in creative workshops at LabOvo. At the edges of Labiomista, you will find the Hoge Kempen National Park, a unique and vast nature reserve of spread over 12.000 hectares of pristine, natural beauty.
“Our exhibition space does not aim to be an oasis. Our presentation is unfinished, in motion, unpolished, contradictory, untidy, complex, inharmonious, living and un-monumental, like the world outside of the museum walls.” — Geert & Carla Verbeeke
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Founded by art collectors Geert and Carla Verbeke, the Verbeke Foundation is a private art site open to the public since June 2007. A refuge for the arts, the foundation holds an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art and prides itself on offering exposure and opportunities to emerging artists. Geert and Carla Verbeke started collecting art in the early 1990, initially taking an interest in abstract painting. Later, their focus shifted to collages and assemblages, mainly by Belgian artists. In recent years the collection has been expanded to include contemporary and bio art. An exceptional array of about 6000 pieces, mainly collages from the twentieth century, is the beating heart of the Verbeke’s private collection.
Culture, nature and ecology meet at Verbeke Foundation. With almost 30 acres of scenic land and five acres of covered space, the Foundation is one of the largest private initiatives to support contemporary art in all of Europe. Artists have a possibility to reside, and exhibitions small and large are held at the museum on a continuous basis — the Verbeke Foundation resembles a living organism, a fluid and mutable body of art; a place where culture, nature and ecology intersect.