Art has traditionally been an important part of the quality of life in Knokke-Heist.

In addition to almost 90 galleries and museums, there are also dozens of works of art in the public domain. These works of art have sometimes become genuine icons, the pride of our inhabitants and second-home owners. However, displaying contemporary art in the streetscape and on the beach also comes with various challenges. From 19 to 21 September 2022, five international experts spoke with political leaders and employees of the municipality in a so-called ‘charette’, a method that is often used to think about urban renewal projects. The central question was how art in the public space of Knokke-Heist can be further developed in the long term.

World-class and top quality
The experts, Dirk Snauwaert (director of the Wiels arts centre), Suzanne Swarts (director of the Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar), architect Paul Robbrecht, artist Thomas Lerooy and Griet Ivens (director of the Ter Dilft Cultural Centre), qualified 2 of our 48 monumental works of art as world-class: ‘The Enchanted Area’ by René Magritte in the Casino and ‘Le Dragon’ by Niki de Saint Phalle in Zoutelaan. They also gave 15 works the ‘top quality’ label. These include well-known works such as ‘Waving Crabs’ (Panamarenko, Zegemeer), ‘Safety Point’ (John Körmerling, Zeedijk at Lichttorenplein), ‘Ask the animals and they will teach you’ (Jeremy Deller, Van Bunnenplein), ‘AVL men’ (Joep Van Lieshout, A. Hansplein) or the ‘Mikado Streetlamp Tower’ (Tadashi Kawamata, AZ Zeno).

The experts also argued for the restoration or removal of ‘If you go down in the woods today’ by Fortuyn/O’Brien in the Joseph Stübbenpark, and of ‘Labyrinth & Pleasure Garden’ by Jan Vercruysse in the IJzerpark. ‘Western’ by Dirk Zoete on the corner of Dorpsstraat and Dudzelestraat in Westkapelle needs to be finished and the ‘Lifeguard's Chair’ by Kris Martin deserves an open place on the beach that is not masked by beach cabins in the summer.

Focus on top quality integrated within an urban planning strategy
Based on its history, heritage and target audience, the experts believe that Knokke-Heist should firmly adopt an art policy that makes even clearer choices in the future with a focus on top quality. Art does not have to be everywhere, but only if it has the potential to truly lend significance to a certain place. Good examples are the ‘Lemurs/Heads’ by Franz West in combination with the redesign of Rubensplein, or ‘Hospitality’ by Barry Flanagan in the Zwin and dune landscape. The team of experts therefore strongly advocates placing art integration within the context of an urban planning strategy to the greatest possible extent.