When Kim Claes (programmer for Cultuurcentrum Sint-Niklaas) visited the Visual Vinyl exhibit, a beautiful collection of artistic record sleeves, in Heerlen in the Netherlands a year ago, she was blown away. And because Cultuurcentrum Sint-Niklaas has been focussing on young talent, modern art and approaching a broader audience for a while now, Kim totally went for it.

She got in touch with the people of Kunstencentrum SCHUNCK* in the Dutch province of Limburg, who organised the exhibit with the help of curator Harry Prenger. That’s the man who was familiar with the art collection of Jan Van Toorn, in a previous life a postman and a big music lover. But when it comes to records, Van Toorn collects them for their sleeve designs. A very original approach to record collecting of course, and something Harry Prenger and SCHUNCK* wanted to show to the world. Hence the Visual Vinyl exhibit, now exclusively in Sint-Niklaas.

Great timing for the exhibit also, because on March 12 one of the most iconic record sleeves of all time, The Velvet Underground & Nico’s The Velvet Underground, turns 50. The record is awesome, but Andy Warhol’s design on the sleeve made it truly legendary. And that is what the exhibit is all about: a beautiful insight in how art and music come together on the sleeves of vinyl records.

The exhibit shows you 50 years of artwork, with a lot of variety and surprises. Also, it’s really cool to enjoy the art on the same 32x32 medium. Soothing in a way, and exactly what makes Visual Vinyl so special.

Obviously, Jan Van Toorn has an enormous collection of record sleeves, from which curator Harry Prenger could handpick the artwork he wanted. For the Belgian edition of the expo, Prenger, junior curator Danny Brassé and Kim Claes, went looking for all the Belgian artists in Van Toorn’s collection. Other pieces that really should be a part of the exhibit were added with the help of other collectors or even the artists themselves.

That’s why next to Van Toorn’s extensive collection you’ll find artwork by Sammy Slabbinck (Wallace Vanborn, Leonard Cohen), Dennis Tyfus (Dylan Nyoukis /Dennis Tyfus), Giovanni De Schampheleire (Logos), Luc Tumans, Rinus Van de Velde (STUFF), Berlinde De Bruyckere (Amenra/Madensuyu), Rudi Trouvé, , Guy Peellaert (David Bowie), Peter de Potter (Kanye West), Hans Op de Beeck (COEM) and Michael Borremans (dEUS). It’s safe to say Van Toorn’s collection is in good company. 

You’ll find the exhibit in an abandoned building on the Stationsstraat in Sint-Niklaas, the busiest street of the city and the connection between the train station and the biggest town square of the country. The location is unique because it’s not your usual gallery and it’s industrial nature (after the needed renovation obviously) fits Visual Vinyl perfectly. In short, the perfect atmosphere in which Kim Claes hopes to attract a very broad audience.

Good to know is that when you buy a ticket, you can visit the exhibit as many times as you want.

Of course, you’ll also be able to buy your favorite records in the exhibit’s shop. To make this happen, Cultuurcentrum Sint-Niklaas collaborates with book and record shop 't Oneindige Verhaal for new releases and with Ghent’s The Vinyl Kitchen for all your second hand needs. And of course, Red Bull Elektropedia’s Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier Pt.2 will also be available for purchase. 

Also for sale is Jan Van Toorn’s entire collection. Yes, that’s right. As he’s getting a little older and can’t take care of his collection the way he likes anymore, he’s selling everything. The pricetag of the collection, to be sold in it’s entirety, is unknown. Although, in a recent interview Van Toorn mentioned 800.000 euro. Luckily, people with a more modest budget can settle for the catalogue.

Good to know is that when you buy a ticket, you can visit the exhibit as many times as you want. And that’s awesome because of all the events Cultuurcentrum Sint-Niklaas and partners have planned of course. What’s happening, you ask?

Events @ VINYLFABRIEK (Partyspot- Studio- Meeting Point):

- HAVE YOU GOT IT COVERED? 11 maart 2017: Samen me Studio Brussel gaan we op zoek naar jouw favoriete hoes!
- RECORDLOVERS THURSDAYS: Artist Talks, DJ- Sessions, Food/Drinks & Friends. Mark already March 30, that night is hosted by Belgium The Vinyl Frontier.
- VINYL UNDERGROUND – FEEST @ VINYLFABRIEK: 11 en 12 maart: 50 bananen en een heel weekend creatief feest er ere van dit iconische album van ‘The Velvet  Underground & Nico’.
- I ❤ my vinyl - ERFGOEDDAG @ VINYLFABRIEK 23 april 2017 : HOE BEWAAR JE MUZIEKPARELTJES? Kom het te weten tijdens deze lezing over de conservatie van vinyl.