‘Oever’ is Dutch for shore or bank - the concrete kind. A new gallery of this namesake is located in the East Bank harbour area of Ostend, the only genuine city by the Belgian coast. Popularly called ‘Bruxelles plage’, it was historically linked to the capital of Belgium, where many beau monde of Brussels loved travelling there for a seaside getaway. Today one can still feel the faded glory of what once was a rich city. This city is a haven for creatives and even has its own street art festival - the perfect, fitting location for a contemporary art gallery with its own in-house coffee shop and store concept.
The founders of Oever gave 5AM design studio carte blanche for the spatial design of this space. Creating a strong link with graffiti, street and urban art to form the basis for the interior concept, the challenge consisted in keeping the gallery a space for creative experiment, inspiring a new generation of artists on the one hand, but also radiating an inviting energy for curious passers-by wandering inside for a coffee or read a book. 5AM decided to flip things around and recreated the typical street artist’s canvas - the concrete jungle - in a minimal, stripped down version inside the gallery. The monochrome grey palette refers to the city’s hero colour and roughness. Contrasting smooth and rough city textures are altered. Urban art often functions as cultural commentary, regularly infused with bold shapes and colours, pop-art inspiration and recognisable cartoon characters, combined with a signature streak of sobering humour. All these elements were integrated in a subtle yet undeniable way.
The overall use of grey highlights the pure and calming function of the space. The material mix of raw concrete, rough stucco, mirror, brushed aluminium and high-gloss bold shaped display objects offers contrast and guidance in a subtle way. Oever has personality, but doesn’t steal the thunder of the artists on display. A hint of signature colour was added by the use of aquamarine blue in the toilet and in the iconic Moustache Bold chairs. Meanwhile, the open plan space can be divided in different zones by using a smart freestanding system which offers full flexibility and can easily be assembled or expanded whenever and wherever without the need for tools. Display elements and backgrounds in different sizes and colours can be added accordingly. “We created zones by using a flexible system and focal points that serve each activity individually. The overall grey shell and textured material mix provides a full experience. Functionality can and should be beautiful.” states 5AM’s designer Amber Feijen.
Oeuvre Gallery’s opening exhibition consisted of five contemporary pop-artists: Ju Schnee, Yam Shalev, Soichi Yamaguchi, Maria Imaginario and Marcela Florido.