Belgium // Flanders //

Citadelpark and S.M.A.K.

From STAM, it’s a brief stroll southeast to Citadelpark, a large chunk of greenery which takes its name from the fortress that stood here until the 1870s, when the land was cleared and prettified with the addition of grottoes and ponds, statues and fountains, a waterfall and a bandstand. These nineteenth-century niceties survive today and, as an added bonus, the park seems refreshingly hilly after the flatness of the rest of Ghent. In the 1940s, a large brick complex was built on the east side of the park and, after many incarnations, much of this now houses S.M.A.K, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art;  http://www.smak.be), one of Belgium’s most adventurous contemporary art galleries. It’s largely devoted to temporary displays of international standing, and recent exhibitions have featured the work of Simon Gush, Paul Thek and Paolo Chiasera. These exhibitions are supplemented by a regularly rotated selection of sculptures, paintings and installations taken from the museum’s top-ranking permanent collection. S.M.A.K possesses examples of all the major artistic movements since World War II – everything from Surrealism, the CoBrA group and Pop Art through to Minimalism and conceptual art – as well as their forerunners. Perennial favourites include the installations of the influential German Joseph Beuys (1921–1986), who played a leading role in the European avant-garde art movement of the 1970s, a characteristically unnerving painting by Francis Bacon (1909–1992) entitled Figure Seated, and Panamarenko’s eccentric polyester zeppelin entitled Aeromodeller.