Thanks to all our visitors!

Thanks to all our visitors!

Newtopia: The State of Human Rights attracted 24,424 visitors over three months

The Newtopia exhibition of contemporary art in Mechelen closed its doors on 10 December 2012. For three months in 2012 this city event led up to the long-awaited opening of Kazerne Dossin, a new museum devoted to the Holocaust and human rights, which opened to the public on 1 December. 

Newtopia: The State of Human Rights lived up to expectations as a trailblazer for the museum. The third in a series of triennial city events in Mechelen, following Stad in Vrouwenhanden (2005) and City Visions (2009), it attracted 24,424 visitors and also succeeded in arousing the interest of tens of thousands of passers-by due to a specially commissioned video projection in public space by the celebrated Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko. Mechelen’s reputation as a city of contemporary art and culture, interested in social developments in today’s world, has been reinforced as a result. No previous cultural project in Mechelen has ever been given so much international media coverage as Newtopia. The exhibition was announced and reviewed by more than 80 international media. The Belgian media also paid it a lot of attention, with reports in newspapers and magazines, as well as on radio and TV.

Newtopia, curated by Katerina Gregos, was organised as a parcours comprising six cultural institutions in the centre of Mechelen. The artistic positions of more than 70 international artists in relation to the different aspects of human rights were presented to visitors in a thematically arranged exhibition circuit. The more than 200 works on display demonstrated the urgency of the discussion of human rights. At the same time, they also turned a spotlight on the promising results achieved by active campaigners for human rights.

The organisers made a conscious decision to move outside the customary exhibition locations, broadening their horizons and outreach of the exhibition. In that context, cooperation with our principal sponsor, ING Belgium, led to the presentation of the work of the renowned Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar in the ING Cultural Centre in Brussels – as a satellite exhibition of Newtopia. The Brussels exhibition attracted about 6,000 visitors; for some of these it represented an introduction to Newtopia Mechelen and it spurred them to travel to see it.

A very diverse public visited Newtopia: individuals and groups, art professionals and human rights activists, local residents and international tourists.

It was noticeable that many of those who visited the exhibition did so as part of a group: 30% of the total. No fewer than 236 guided tours were booked via the local tourist office (Toerisme Mechelen). Some 4,033 pupils and teachers from secondary and higher education in Flanders visited Newtopia in Mechelen.

Another noteworthy finding is that 1 out of 10 visitors to Newtopia in Mechelen came from the Brussels region. This striking statistic shows that it is possible for a medium-sized, centrally located city to attract a public from the metropolises of Antwerp and Brussels via prestigious cultural projects. This should undoubtedly be seen in the context of the collaboration with ING in Brussels on the presentation of the Alfredo Jaar exhibition.

Newtopia was an initiative of the City of Mechelen and was coordinated by a non-profit body, MMMechelen vzw. The city festival was generously supported by 21 public and private organisations. The exhibition was under the patronage of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. The internationally recognised human-rights organisations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were both partners of the exhibition.