Antwerp’s Church-Based Slow Art Day Movement

Slow Art Day 2024 is coming soon and will be happening all over the world and in every kind of setting – including but not limited to museums, galleries, sculpture parks, colleges and universities, street art, and a small but growing number of churches.

Further, more cities are hosting citywide Slow Art Days – from Bloomington, Illinois to Philadelphia, PA, to Antwerp, Belgium, and for the first time, Rome (more on Rome next week).

Antwerp has a total of 8 museums and churches participating this year.

In fact, the churches participating in Antwerp represent the beginnings of the church wing of the Slow Art Day movement – for which we must give credit to Armand Storck, scriptor for Sint-Pauluskerk (St. Paul’s) in Antwerp, Belgium.

Storck has hosted *six* previous Slow Art Day events and passionately believes that churches are a natural home for Slow Art Day. “Not only are many churches brimming with works of art, but the locations themselves naturally invite reflection. The slow, sensory perception is a way to arrive at the (religious) meaning of a work of art. Time runs almost noticeably slower in our churches than in the world outside,” said Storck.

We at Slow Art Day HQ couldn’t agree more.

And we are happy to report that as a result of Storck’s efforts to evangelize Slow Art Day to other churches, this year there are *four* churches in Antwerp participating, each of which have gone through preparation and training coordinated by an organization called the Tourism Pastoral and Monumental Churches Antwerp.

Storck wisely decided to expand to more churches in Antwerp first and then find ways to bring more churches around the world into the Slow Art Day fold in future years.

Below is Storck’s description of what each of the four Antwerp churches are doing for Slow Art Day.

Slow Art Day in 4 Churches in Antwerp
by Armand Storck

Sint-Andrieskerk (St. Andrew’s) unveils the painting The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew by Otto Van Veen and compares it to his modello. Children go in search of the mother and grandmother of Jesus, at the altar of Saint Anne.  The sessions are free and start at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

St. Charles Borromeo focuses on the paintings of the St. Francis Xavier altar. Slow Art Day sessions will be held at 2:15 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. This activity is included in the entrance ticket to the church.

Sint-Jacob goes for three works of art: a sculpture, a funerary monument of the Marquis de Velasco (Pieter I Scheemaekers), a painting, triptych The Last Judgement (Jan Sanders van Hemessen) and a stained-glass window, The Last Supper (Draeck – anonymous). The Slow Art sessions are free and start at 2:15 pm, 3:15 pm and 4:15 pm. There will also be a unique viewing moment at 4 p.m., when the shutters of the triptych The Last Judgement will be closed for fifteen minutes, making the back exceptionally visible.

In St. Paul’s, the guides will bring visitors to the pulpit of the Antwerp sculptors De Boeck & Van Wint (see photo below). They became famous for their later Stations of the Cross, made the large church furniture in 1874 and decorated it with beautiful Bible scenes. Fascinating for young and old. The church (see second photo below taken during the 2024 Easter services) is open free of charge from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the guided sessions start every half hour (last at 4:30 p.m.).

We hope you have a wonderful Slow Art Day 2024 wherever you are in the world – and that you take inspiration from Armand Storck and his colleagues in Antwerp who are leading the efforts to expand our movement.

– Phyl

P.S. If you have not yet registered your Slow Art Day with us, then go to this page.

P.P.S. Our Annual Report is out. Read it and get inspired!

Sint-Pauluskerk Calls For More Churches to Join Slow Art Day

Sint-Pauluskerk in Antwerp, Belgium, called on more churches to join the slow looking movement (more about that in a moment), while, at the same time, hosting its sixth Slow Art Day this year.

For their 2023 Slow Art Day, they invited visitors to take a closer look at two statues, one in marble and one in oak, of Rosa van Lima (the first Latin American canonized saint).

Side view of Rosa of Lima in marble (Artus Quellinus, the younger, ca. 1670). Sint-Pauluskerk. Used with permission.
Front view of Rosa of Lima in marble (Artus Quellinus, the younger, ca. 1670). Sint-Pauluskerk. Used with permission.
View of Rosa of Lima in oak. (Willem Kerricx I, ca. 1680). Sint-Pauluskerk. Used with permission.

The slow looking sessions started with the marble statue, which depicts Rosa Lima holding Jesus as a child. Participants were encouraged to sit in chairs in front of the statue and look slowly for 10 minutes. They were provided the following optional, thought-provoking prompts to aid in the slow-looking, and were then encouraged to ask the guides about the person Rosa van Lima:

– What do you think the subject is?

– Why is the statue in this place?

– What did the artist want to say?

Next, the session moved to the statue in oak on the other side of the church, where visitors were invited to look slowly and discuss their impressions. The oak statue is part of a monumental depiction of the “Last Judgment: the ultimate baroque exhortation not to forget any sin during confession,” in the words of Armand Storck, scriptor for the church.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the team at Sint-Pauluskerk. Not only do they often send us the details in advance of their event, but, more importantly, they design events that take full advantage of the church environment to encourage contemplation and reflection.

To that point, we are also excited because, as mentioned, Storck and his team are taking a lead role in challenging more churches to join the Slow Art Day movement. In fact, Storck points out that while hundreds of museums participate in Slow Art Day, only three churches registered this year yet “what environment lends itself better to contemplative art experience than a church? “

We agree, and hope that more churches answer Storck’s question by joining our movement.

And we certainly look forward to what storck and team design for Sint-Pauluskerk’s seventh Slow Art Day in 2024.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

Slow Art Day at Sint Pauluskerk in Antwerp

On April 2, 2022, Sint Pauluskerk in Antwerp, Belgium held their fifth Slow Art Day – bringing together about 500 people for an in-person event in their Calvary Garden.

Calvary Garden, Saint Paul’s Antwerp, Belgium – credit Sint-Pauluskerk Antwerpen
Calvary Garden, Saint Paul’s Antwerp, Belgium – credit Sint-Pauluskerk Antwerpen

The garden, populated by prophets and saints and sheltered by the church wall and private home, contains 64 statues and architecture that dates from the 1700s.

It is a place of reflection, an oasis of peace in the center of the busy port city, and as such a perfect spot for a Slow Art Day.

For this fifth Slow Art Day, they had volunteers (“St. Paul’s friends”) in the Garden to help answer questions and guide participants. Importantly, they also made the Garden free of charge from 2pm to 5pm on Slow Art Day, helping to welcome hundreds of people into this outdoor art-filled sanctuary.

As noted, their in-person afternoon was very well attended.

Additionally, they generated great online engagement including hundreds of Facebook and Instagram likes.

Saint Paul’s Antwerp, Belgium, guide Leo Vereecken during Slow Art Day 2022, credit Sint-Pauluskerk Antwerpen
Saint Paul’s Antwerp, Belgium, guide Leo Vereecken during Slow Art Day 2022, credit Sint-Pauluskerk Antwerpen

We must admit that we are big fans of the team at Sint Pauluskerk. They are an inspiration to all of us around the world who care about building this movement based on slow looking, reflection, and love.

– Robin, Ashley, Phyl, Johanna, and Jessica Jane

P.S. Please help us welcome a new Slow Art Day volunteer, Robin Cerio. Robin has a Master’s in art history, has worked in museums, and is going to help us with our big backlog of 2022 reports. In fact, she drafted this report. Welcome, Robin!

Two Resurrections: Slow Art Day at Sint-Pauluskerk

Sint-Pauluskerk in Antwerp, Belgium, hosted its fourth Slow Art Day event with a focus on the theme of “Resurrection”.

The event featured a comparison between the “Resurrection of Christ” by Aenout Vickenborgh, and Peter Paul Rubens’s painting with the same title, both of which are on display in the church.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Resurrection of Christ, 1611-1612.
Oil on panel, 138 x 98 cm.
Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.
Aernout Vinckenborgh, Resurrection of Christ, 1615-1620.
Oil on panel, 223 x 166 cm.
Courtesy of Saint Paul’s church, Antwerp.

On April 10, church visitors were invited to participate in a guided 45-minute session to view the paintings. The session featured slow looking, which was followed by discussion and detailed comparisons of the paintings by the guides. Due to continued pandemic restrictions, sessions were capped at 10 visitors per group, with only 15 people allowed in the church at the same time.

The church also created a short documentary for those who could not come in person. This was shared via email to their 1,500 subscribers. The documentary was also shared to the church’s Facebook page.

Below is a link to the video, but keep in mind that it is available only in Dutch.

Armand Storck, scriptor for Sint-Pauluskerk, hopes that their planned video production for Slow Art Day 2022 will include English subtitles to reach an international audience.

“Der Verrijzenis” (in English “The Resurrections”) created by Sint-Pauluskerk, 2021.

The in-person event was attended by 45 people in total, and the documentary video has been viewed by 2,500 people via Facebook and YouTube combined. Viewers of the video responded positively.

“Nicely presented, informative, pleasant. Thanks to the volunteers and to Armand for the introduction.”

“Incredibly beautiful, congratulations to the whole team!”

Participant responses to the “Der Verrijizenis” video on Facebook (translated from Dutch).

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love that Sint-Pauluskerk opens its doors for Slow Art Day with a theme that fits the church calendar. The alignment of slow looking exercises with the reflective period of lent works beautifully. We hope that more churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious organizations are inspired by their approach.

We look forward to another event from Sint-pauluskerk in 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, and Ashley

Rubens for Lent at Sint-Pauluskerk

For their third Slow Art Day, the Sint-Pauluskerk in Antwerp, Belgium, produced a slow-panning video of Peter Paul Rubens’ painting ‘The Flagellation of Christ’.

Narrated by Wilfried Van den Brande, with text by Rudi Mannaerts, the video features the stunning inside of the church and a commentary on Rubens’ artwork (click on the photo below to watch).

The nave, or central part, of Sint-Pauluskerk

Previously on loan to the Doge’s palace in Venice, the painting returned to Antwerp in time for the Slow Art Day event. Since Easter fell on the week following Slow Art Day this year, the painting’s theme of Christ’s suffering fit in well with the pre-Easter church calendar.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Flagellation of Christ, 17th century. Sint-Pauluskerk, Antwerp.

Many thanked the church for sharing the video, and several explicitly talked about how much they missed visiting the actual church. The Facebook video was viewed 2,535 times.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are delighted that the thoughtful connection between the event hosted by Sint-Pauluskerk and the Easter holiday was so well received.

We hope that Sint-Pauluskerk will be able to open its doors for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley