EUROPALIA: how art connects people and communities

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Painting of forest station

La gare forestière (the forest station) van Paul Delvaux. © Foundation Paul Delvaux

EUROPALIA has grown into a familiar name. Every two years, Belgium hosts a wide range of fascinating activities relating to art and heritage, dedicated to a specific country or theme. The most striking events are often the exhibitions in BOZAR and the Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels, but they also include theatre, dance, performance, film, music, literature and debate, all over the country and even in neighbouring countries.

Woman in colourful traditional Indonesian costume

Over the years, EUROPALIA has shifted its focus beyond Europe. Photo: EUROPALIA 2017 opening ceremony dedicated to Indonesia (Mont des Arts, Brussels). © Shutterstock

Diplomatic tool

Did you know that the FPS Foreign Affairs has been a loyal partner of EUROPALIA for many years? The very first EUROPALIA – dedicated to Italy – was organised in 1969 at the initiative of the head of the then Centre for Fine Arts. At that time, European unification was still in its infancy with the European Economic Community. The aim was to present the arts and culture of European countries in Belgium, the heart of Europe. Art could bring Europeans closer together and create a dialogue. EUROPALIA has now grown into one of the most unique biennials in Europe.

Our FPS regards EUROPALIA as an interesting diplomatic tool, as it too is a fervent supporter of European unification and international cooperation. For an open economy such as ours, cooperation with foreign countries is extremely important. A good relationship with other countries and a positive image of our country are essential, and EUROPALIA makes a major contribution to this. It should be mentioned that EUROPALIA has broadened its horizons beyond Europe over the years, and Japan, China, Mexico, Indonesia, India and Russia have already been featured.

Royal couple is shown around in exhibition

Our royal couple is shown around during the official opening of the exhibition 'Tracks to modernity' in the Museum of Fine Arts (Brussels). © FOD BZ/SPF AE


On this quite exceptional occasion, EUROPALIA is not dedicated to a country, but to the train. The train is obviously a pleasant and sustainable way to travel and to get to know other cultures. What is more, the train has helped to strengthen ties with our neighbours, has made a very tangible contribution to the construction of Europe, and it has allowed our country to flourish in the most distant continents.

It is safe to say that the rapid development of Europe's railways in the 19th century was a forerunner of European unification: people were connected, ideas travelled faster, art and culture became more accessible... This edition of EUROPALIA also shows how the train influenced art and culture in Europe.

This edition of 'Trains & Tracks' celebrates the 175th anniversary of the rail link between Brussels and Paris, the 40th anniversary of TGV, the 25th anniversary of Thalys, and the European Year of Rail 2021.

Activities as part of EUROPALIA will continue until 15 May 2022. And they will go ahead, even in this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with appropriate safety measures. Explore the extensive programme and don't miss the train!