Bruges Triennial 1968
Bruges Triennial 1968

First Triennial of Plastic Art in Belgium

For more than twenty years, Bruges has been strongly committed to contemporary architecture in harmony with the existing city center. Concertgebouw Brugge, for example, opened its doors in 2002. More recently, the BMCC (designed by the Belgian architectural firm META, together with Pritzker Prize winner Eduardo Souto de Moura) opened its doors and in 2026 BRUSK will also be open for visitors. But attention to contemporary art and culture bubbled up much earlier, including in the minds of town alderman Fernand Traen and author Paul de Wispelaere. They therefore founded the Independent Cultural Forum Raaklijn in 1957.

Under this impulse, the First Triennial of Plastic Art in Belgium was opened in 1968 by then-Mayor Pierre Vandamme. With a large-scale exhibition, contemporary, Belgian artists, including such resounding names as Marcel Broodthaers, Jef Geys, Panamarenko and Roger Raveel, were given a platform to the general public.

Despite good visitor numbers – 12,851 people visited the exhibition – the First Triennial of Plastic Art in Belgium was also criticized by some. For example, the local press regularly expressed incomprehension of some artworks, and particularly targeted was Grande Casserole de Moules by Marcel Broodthaers. But there was also criticism within the art world itself, especially about the selection of artists and the way this was carried out. This indignation culminated in a veritable counter-exhibition called Kontra-Punt, which opened on the same evening as the triennial. That exhibition also worked with a selection of artists which led to plans to organise another exhibition with the twice-rejected artists. This exhibition ultimately did not take place.

Thus, the First Triennial for Plastic Art in Belgium caused a small landslide in Bruges' cultural landscape and laid the foundation for subsequent editions.