There’s a reason that art galleries are usually designed as “white boxes”; while the neutral backdrop allows the artworks to be presented without distractions, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be bland and uninspiring. Case in point, Oever Gallery, a contemporary art gallery which recently opened its doors in the East Bank of Ostend in Belgium, a former industrial area that has been reborn as a mixed-use residential and commercial district. Belgian design studio 5AM drew inspiration from the city’s vibrant street art scene – an annual arts festival that has been attracting famous street artists from around the world since 2016 has turned Ostend into an open-air gallery – designing a minimalist, monochrome grey-toned space that is nevertheless both welcoming and enticing thanks to an interplay of contrasting textures that echo the city’s urban fabric. Surprising pops of colour and a modular display system of sculptural playfulness further enhance the gallery’s subversive appeal while a coffee shop and concept store seamlessly incorporated in the open-plan space offer yet more reasons to step inside.
Named after the Dutch word for shore due to its waterfront location, 5AM conceived the gallery space as a minimal, stripped-down version of the street artist’s canvas, namely the urban environment, hence the prominent use of raw concrete and grainy stucco, the combination of smooth and rough textures, and the mirror and brushed aluminium accents. A monochrome palette of grey hues that echoes Ostend’s predominant colour further enhances the urban concept and imbues the gallery with a calming ambience while splashes of aquamarine blue in the toilet and the iconic Bold chairs by Swiss design studio Big-Game for French brand Moustache offer vibrant visual jolts. A freestanding display system made up of different sized glossy rounded volumes offers flexibility and convenience, as well as playfully reinforces the urban jungle theme. As 5AM designer Amber Feijen says, “functionality can and should be beautiful”.
Running until July 31st, LET'S MEET, the gallery’s aptly titled opening exhibition, presents five contemporary artists whose colourful, Pop Art-informed artworks stand out against the muted surroundings as follows: Brooklyn-based Brazilian visual artist Marcela Florido paints feminine figures in lush floral backdrops; Portuguese artist Maria Imaginário creates whimsical, pastel-coloured paintings populated by cartoon-like creatures; Berlin-based Austrian multidisciplinary artist Ju Schnee makes high-gloss abstract sculptures and paintings inspired by augmented reality; Berlin-based Israeli painter Yam Shalev imbues domestic scenes with colourful exuberance; and Japanese artist Soichi Yamaguchi combines vivid colours and pop motifs in visually mesmerising 3D-like paintings. Sparsely displayed against Oever’s muted setting, the colour-packed artworks definitely pack quite a punch while artfully managing to underline the gallery’s cool personality.