Belgium’s best art bookshops
This was originally supposed to be a Top 20 list, but the sudden closure of our beloved Bozarshop has left a gaping hole on our list, as well as on Brussels’ cultural shopping landscape. Bozarshop was not only one of the city’s major cultural hot spots, but also host of The Word’s first ever event and the Grey Album party. It will be sadly missed. Moving on… here’s our hand-picked selection of the country’s best art and photography book shops, nineteen artful emporiums that’ll hopefully be sticking around for quite a while longer.
The bookshop attached to Brussels’ contemporary art paradise, Wiels, tries to promote young, up-and-coming and not-yet-famous publishers of graphic design and art books. Owner Wim Clauwaert, who opened the shop in 2011, also stocks related magazines, postcards, and rare fanzines. While at first clients were mostly museum visitors, many now come for his innovative bookstore alone.
Théophiles papers is a project by French book passionate Théophile Calot and designer Valerian Goalec. Their moveable platform, which features a very personal selection, changes location every few months, and right now they’ve set up shop in a little cozy space in Brussels’ Forest neighbourhood. The project is applauded for its very original interior, which changes from place to place, as well as its distinctive selection that ranges from fazines to APE edition publications.
Brussels MAPP store is one of our favorite places for renewing our wardrobe, but it’s also home to an amazing selection of magazines and books. This very personal selection is handpicked by owner Emmanuel, who says he sells what he would like to buy himself. On his shelves you’ll find Elephant, Apartamento and ‘SUP magazine, as well as books by Jeremy Deller and Julien Guinand.
Montana was opened in 2006 by a graffiti artist and specialises in publications on everything related to street art, urban art and neo-graffiti. You can get books as well as paint and insider tips from the owner himself. Right now a part of the shop is under construction with the goal of expanding the entire bookshop part in order to have enough space for exhibitions.
Peinture Fraiche has been around for more than two decades. It’s run by a married couple with a big passion for and a deep knowledge of books, and they like to share their obsession with their customers. They’re especially interested in books about Japan, which is their second passion, and offer a selection of publications they personally like. The classical music playing in the background and no cell phone policy make it a serene space that all real book nerds should appreciate.
Filigranes is one of Brussels’ largest general bookshops but manages to keep a cozy atmosphere despite its sprawling size. Reading corners and a snack bar beckon; customers are invited to have a sit down and chill out. Their art and photography section is quite extensive, as is their magazine selection.
Sterling Books features English-language publications only, and an art section that includes all kinds of art books and magazines from Damn and artforum to Hypebeast and Flaunt. Reading corners and a very quiet and genial atmosphere make it an inviting spot.
The TASCHEN flagship store only features TASCHEN editions, which we especially appreciate for their affordability. The shop’s interior was designed by none other than Philippe Starck; another special feature is the gallery out back. Plus, the packaging is very important: here you’ll get to see the actual book covers, not just the spines.
Tropismes, located at the center of Brussels, is an impressive bookshop with a beautiful interior full of golden ornaments and mirrors. The general bookstore has six levels, with the art department on the mezzanine. It offers a very wide selection in every category from fine art to photography while focusing more on content than stylish packaging.
Cook&Book, opened in 2006, is a completely novel concept: a bookshop with an attached restaurant where you can eat an read in nine different rooms, each one decorated in a different style. Their art book selection is ever-surprisng, with publications from all over the world for an international clientele.
Librairie Saint-Hubert is located in a 19th century art nouveau house that used to be a pharmacy. The bookshop specialises in visual arts, with a particular focus on photography. You can get your hands on publications by big shots like Dennis Hopper but also newcomers like Belgian rising start Lara Gasparotto. From time to time the shop also organises photography exhibitions.
Waterstones is another reputed English-language bookshop which mainly focuses on literature but that also has a nice art section and a big magazine selection. And if you’re a homesick Brit or a curious local, you can even stock up on English jam and Cadbury’s chocolate and other British specialties.
The shop connected to Antwerp’s renowned FotoMuseum, opened in 2004, offers a mixture of standard must-have art books, some rarer editions and exhibition catalogues. Here you can also get your hands on the lovely FOAM magazine or lomography accessories.
This shop, located in one of the museum’s pavilions, features looming windows and a beautiful view. It not only sells art books, but also decorative items, publications for children and postcards. Make sure to check out the book “The making of the Mas” and the special corners dedicated to Antwerp and Belgium.
The MuHKA bookshop has been around since 1993 and focusses on Belgian contemporary artists and architects. All publications are in some way related to the museum, and include books about Guillaume Bijl, Panamarenko and Luc Tuymans.
Antwerp’s spacious Copyright store, with its black marble interior, covers everything from architecture and design to fashion, offering a very large selection of popular as well as more specialist art books. Featured publishers include Phaidon, Thames&Hudson, Mer, Lannoo and Roma publications. It also has a nice selection of magazines (El croquis, 2G, A+, Oase Journal, (h)Art) and fanzines available.
Copyright Ghent specialises in art and architecture, focussing on contemporary artists and smaller publishers from Ghent, though you’ll also find the more popular books (Gestalten, Hatje Cantz, Poligrafa, …) It’s the perfect place for art lovers and is particularly popular among students from the nearby Sint Lucas art school.
The bookshop in Ghent’s famous SMAK museum for contemporary art features the 100 must-have books (and exhibition catalogues), according to SMAK. It also offers a good selection of magazines and fanzines. And the visual experience is all important here: all books are displayed by their front cover.
Leuven’s M store mainly features books that are linked in one way or another to the exhibitions happening in the museum. The shop gets updated every three months, just like the expos. There’s a nice view and a cozy reading corner. Lectures are organised frequently.