On a mission to reconnect with Luxembourg’s contemporary art scene

dec 13, 2022 | Blog

If you follow us on instagram, you may have seen us promoting Finnish films screened at the Luxembourg City Festival this year (The Mission, Hatching, Force of Habit) and the performance by the Finnish a cappella ensemble Rajaton at the CAPE’lla voice Festival

But since COVID-19, we have felt a bit of a disconnect with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and thought it was time to get to know this little country that makes up the final puzzle piece in our area of work. On the 7th of December, the whole team headed south, to spend two days discovering the cultural scene in the city of Luxembourg and potential partnerships for the future.

3 photo collage. Image 1 shows three women laughing. Image 2 shows people walking through a glass walkway. Image 3 shows two women looking around a grand room.

Visiting Cercle Cité. Photos by Yohannes Henriksson / The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux

 

Cercle Cité

Cultural Programme Manager, Anastasia Chaguidouline, welcomes us into the exhibition space on the ground floor of the cultural hub, Cercle Cité. The magnificent building located in the centre of the city houses the exhibition space named after the old Ratskeller, reception rooms, a conference centre, the Luxembourg City library, as well as a restaurant. 

Anastasia and her colleague Camilla Cuppini, the Customer Relationship Manager at Cercle Cité, lead us through the parlours; Salon Bleu, Salle Flamande and the Salle des Dames, each as beautiful as the next. Eagerly waiting for the doors of the Grande Salle to be unlocked, we get a sense of the grand balls that must have taken place here at one time. 

The grandeur and wealth of the city are apparent at every turn, from the futuristic trams that are free (like all public transport in Luxembourg) to the magnificent Christmas markets. We are also impressed by this later, when we visit Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain, in the quality of the space it offers to emerging artists as well as its ambitious visitor assistance and educational programme. 

Back to Cercle Cité, Anastasia tells us more about their programme for 2023-2025, which in 2023 has a heavy focus on photography. The programme includes the photographic series Small Stories by David Lynch, the annual exhibition of Phototheque of Luxembourg City as well as the European Month of Photography – EMOPLUX organised bi-annually in Luxembourg since 2007. Next year’s theme for EMOPLUX will be Rethinking Identity and the theme partially coincides with Cercle Cité plans to launch a series of short film Screenings on Inclusion in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and CinEast, which will be a first.

In fall 2023, the group exhibition Hors-d’œuvre is planned to take place in connection with the exhibition All you can eat at Luxembourg City Museum, both covering the theme of food. It will be a nearly all women show, with 80% women artists from Luxembourg and neighbouring countries. The public program will include participatory cooking demonstrations, conferences, a classical concert and a performance.

“Performance as a medium will become more present in Cercle Cité’s program starting in fall 2023, with a performance commission to the Luxembourgish artist and choreographer Tania Soubry. We hope to integrate international performance art in our program in the future as well, and we look forward to collaborating with the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux in this regard” adds Anastasia Chaguidouline.

2025 will see the Luxembourg Urban Garden come to life, the first major horticultural exhibition in Luxembourg, that will last for 6 months and cover more than 20 hectares. The event will include an exhibition on the intelligence of plants. A shiver of excitement spreads through the room as we have quite a few keen gardeners in our team, we will definitely have some Finnish artists to suggest for this!

Before we head off to visit Casino Luxembourg, Anastasia tells us a bit more about the Luxembourg contemporary art scene and how it has only started professionalising in recent years. Yesterday, she tells us, Kultur|lx – Arts Council Luxembourg’s (founded in 2020 as a non-profit association) status was finally consolidated. 

We learn that there has been a buying frenzy recently and that many large, commercial galleries have dependents here due to favourable taxes. Luxembourg Art Week, perhaps an opportunity for us to collaborate? Or a gallery swap between young gallerists from Finland and Luxembourg? There seem to be many opportunities to engage and get involved in the upcoming years. Despite the three hour plus train journey, we are definitely starting to feel closer to the Luxembourg cultural scene.

At Casino Luxembourg, we visit the exhibition The Never Never by Jeremy Hutchison, curated by Evelyn Simons, curator and writer based in Brussels who runs the visual arts and performance programming at Horst Arts & Music, where we supported Benjamin Orlow this year.

Red car panelling displayed on the floor of a white exhibition space.

From the exhibition “The Never Never” by Jeremy Hutchison at Casino Luxembourg. Photo by Ela Suleymangil / The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux

 

Woman looks at a large screen in a red shadow.

Laura Boxberg at Casino Luxembourg. Photo by Yohannes Henriksson / The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux

 

Lëtz Rise Up

The next day we meet Sandrine Gashonga, co-founder of Lëtz Rise Up, a feminist and anti-racist association working in Luxembourg and a member of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). Sandrine tells us about the current situation in Luxembourg, referring to the Being Black in the EU report, published by the ​​European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). Unfortunately, this is where we find something in common, with both Finland and Luxembourg listed as two of the countries with the highest levels of discrimination. There is much work to be done, and Lëtz Rise Up is doing crucial work both at the local level, through workshops at schools and festivals and by partnering in European level projects, such as their current project, Sexpowerement.

Sandrine is impressed by Healing & Dealing, our programme piloted last year, that consists of two mirrored events; Dealing focusing on anti-racism training for white cultural workers and institutions and Healing bringing together black cultural actors to take a break from the racist power structures that surround them and focus on self-care. “I’m not sure if people are open enough or ready for that here” she comments. 

Sandrine tells us about the Festival of Migration, Cultures and Citizenship by the Comité de liaison des associations d’étrangers (CLAE). Attracting more than 30.000 attendees, she suggests that this could be an interesting festival for us to take part in next year. We recommend a possible collaboration with #StopHatredNow, an intercultural and anti-racist platform organised in collaboration with several art and intercultural organisations in Finland.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality are keywords in the Institute’s programming. In order to integrate inclusive ways of working and planning in terms of the Institute’s programme content, it is important to meet and connect with strong partners with the same cultural aims in all of the countries we represent, and look for ways of working together.” shares Head of Programme, Malin Bergström.

Sandrine Gashonga from Lëtz Rise Up together with Institute staff smile at the camera.

Sandrine Gashonga from Lëtz Rise Up. Photo by Ela Suleymangil / The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux

 

TROIS C-L

Our final stop is right around the back of the train station, in a curious looking building with the words Banannefabrik written across on it. “Are you sure it’s here?” asks a colleague.

International projects manager Coraline Garnero greets us at the door of what used to be a fruit warehouse (bananas included) and shows us the many dance studios that are housed within its walls. Together with the Administrative Director, Mathis Junet, they introduce us to what goes on at TROIS C-L – Centre de Création Chorégraphique Luxembourgeois, Luxembourg’s leading organisation for contemporary dance. TROIS C-L fulfils several roles on a nationwide basis: supporting and producing artistic work, developing a contemporary dance network, providing continuing professional training and raising awareness.

JoJo, Oulu Dance Centre, is one of their oldest partners that they have been working with for over 10 years. Oulu?! We immediately suggest connecting them with Oulu2026, the European Capital of Culture, and developing their collaboration there. 

We learn that TROIS C-L has international residency exchanges with France, Ireland, South Korea and Australia while also working with organisations in Germany and are part of several dance networks: such as https://www.ednetwork.eu/, Aerowaves, Grand Luxe (which includes the Belgian association Grand Studio (Brussels).

Among their plans for next year a meeting for professionals is planned, which we hope to take part in. 

Collage of three images. Image one shows posters of dances on a wall. Image two shows staff from TROIS C-L and the institute smiling at the cameras. Image three shows the lighting used in the performance space.

With Mathis June and Coraline Garnero at TROIS C-L. Photos by Ela Suleymangil / The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux

For a small country, Luxembourg has a vibrant contemporary arts scene that has expanded dramatically in the last ten years. Luxembourg clearly recognises the social and cultural impact of the creative industry. With good train connections from France, Germany and Belgium, I definitely recommend everyone to visit – one could really find exciting things to see and experience” shares Laura Boxberg, Director of the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux.

See you soon Luxembourg, it was an absolute pleasure!

Check out the highlights from our Study Trip on our instagram and TikTok.

 

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