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Streets Dept Visits: The Street Art of Belgium, Amsterdam, and Lille with Eric Dale

November 29, 2022

Streets Dept Visits, formerly known as Philly Travels, is an old Streets Dept series (which ran from 2013 to 2018) that we’re reviving as of today! It covers the street art that Philadelphians and their cameras find in their travels around the world. Today, we’re featuring a write-up by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale, who visited Brussels and neighboring cities in August:

A friend and I recently traveled to Belgium to visit our friend who moved there in early 2020. Yeah, she moved at a really unfortunate time. After two years of waiting, we finally had the opportunity to go!

While I naturally marveled at all the old buildings, canals, and wonderful foods (I’m looking at you, Belgian dark chocolate), I also, of course, trained my attention on the murals, street art, and graffiti of the cities I visited. And I visited a lot of cities! So that’s how I’m breaking down this post.

Brussels, Belgium

What better introduction to Brussels than a punny mural inspired by an enormously famous statue/fountain of a peeing boy? This painting is a play on “Manneken Pis,” the 400-year-old urinating statue that’s become an icon in Brussels and gets dressed up in tiny costumes throughout the year. It was painted by Belgian hip hop artist Fouad Hachmi, aka H.M.I., on the side of the building that used to house the boy’s outfits.

Brussels is also the home of Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who created the Tintin comic strip. There are Tintin-inspired murals all over Brussels, often on these narrow little walls where one building sticks out farther into the street than its neighbor. Kind of a unique theme!

I loved this mural by English artist Mr. Doodle. Looks like the future of Philly’s own Kyle Confehr if you ask me!

Here’s a mural by Sarajevo artist Rikardo Druškić.

And two pieces by LaDame Quicolle, a wheatpaster based in Lille, France. She creates portraits of ordinary women as a critique of the way that women are depicted as objects in both historical Western art and modern advertising.

Lastly, a little graffiti grotto!

Antwerp, Belgium

Of all the places I visited on this trip, Antwerp felt the most similar to Philly. Just the feel of the streets, the level of graffiti and stickering… it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes one city remind you of a completely different one.

But here are a few photos to give you an idea! Beginning with this mish-mash of mural, graffiti, stickers, installation, and wheatpaste.

Continuing with this hilariously wacky mural, on the same street.

And decorated utility boxes! Belgians: they’re just like us.

I also found a number of cool installations, which seemed to be a less common medium in other cities: a stork tile by PZE, a fading collage installation by Isabelle Dugénie, and a cute tile I couldn’t identify.

Lastly, this awesome paste by the Barcelona-based Qwert, whose work I also saw multiple times in Brussels. It’s amazing how fast you can start to recognize an artist’s work.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam was the most like New York of the cities I visited… so it’s fitting that I found two collab stickers by New York artists there! Robots Will Kill + City Kitty and Cheer Up + Doaz (ok, I guess he’s technically New Jersey-based).

I also found a sticker by Portland-based artist Rx Skulls! Stickers are so global.

In Amsterdam, I achieved a small goal I had set out for myself before the trip: to find at least one piece by a Philly street artist! Of course, it had to be Bines. Who else would randomly be up in Amsterdam?

While on a canal boat tour of Amsterdam, I noticed a hilarious phenomenon: people love slapping their stickers on the undersides of bridges as they pass underneath! They really go right above your head, so it’s a piece of cake to get up in these spots. And I doubt you’ll ever get buffed!

Here’s something else I saw on the boat tour. I guess yuppies are a bit of a plague everywhere.

I was very excited to also find an installation by Invader!

Last, a reminder from the city of Amsterdam about your priorities. Not sure who the artist is, but I doubt they care!

Lille, France

We briefly dipped down into France to get another country under our belts. Lille had a lot of wheatpastes, and I was excited to recognize more work by LaDame Quicolle, who, as I mentioned, lives there!

I also found works by Nebuleuz, Tonton, and Kawak Bot.

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent was my home base for the trip, so I had more opportunities to explore and find street art there. But despite this sampling bias, I really do think it might have had the most street art of the cities I visited!

I noticed a lot of commissioned and potentially non-commissioned (hard to tell) work by la.kus.

There were a lot of murals along the canals, like this one by Ghent native Magnus Mori via Wallin’. I loved catching a dude sitting in it! Never seen that before!

There were a serious number of murals in Ghent. I found a pike path connecting two blocks that had a whole row of about a dozen, and this one, by Nesh, was my favorite. My French-speaking friend explained that it’s actually a pun, because “vélo” means bicycle in French.

There’s also a graffiti alley in Ghent that acts as a free wall. My friend told me that it was created as a magnet to draw graffiti away from the more historic sections of the city. Seemed like it was also a magnet for tourists, but I managed to get a shot without anyone in it!

This billboard, on the side of the Ghent Design Museum, rotates every two month. This installation is by Boy Vereecken.

I couldn’t find the artists behind these last two, but I absolutely loved them!

I hope you enjoyed this sampling! I’ll be posting even more photos of street art from this trip on Instagram (@ericinphilly) if you’d like to follow along.

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