Opening of the exhibition

© Stanley Kubrick for Look magazine. Naked City. 1947. Museum of the City of New York. The LOOK Collection. Gift of Cowles Magazines, Inc., 1956. Used with permission of SK Film Archives and Museum of the City of New York. Tous droits réservés.



Over the centuries large cities have never stopped attracting artists. Considered cultural capitals, they are both a source of inspiration and a necessary step to launch an artistic career. Rome was a favoured destination during the Renaissance, in the same way Paris was from the second half of the 19th century, bringing together many painters who wanted to complete their training in the French capital. A century later, New York took over and became the world’s artistic capital. After the Second World War the artistic, film, musical and clothing culture created in the United States started to have a major influence in many countries, where Western references were now based on the American way of life. Photography became more widespread than ever thanks to illustrated magazines and was particularly booming in the American metropolis, a captivating place for street photographers interested in the city’s architecture, inhabitants, tensions, and contradictions. No other city in the world seems to have been photographed more than New York. In the 20th century, New York, the centre of economic power in America, exported its artists around the world and attracted those eager to increase their international visibility. Although other artistic centres, such as Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Paris, Düsseldorf, Milan and Berlin, strove to become contemporary art capitals for new generations, New York remains, thanks to its art market and institutions, the centre of a dynamic art scene while offering an instantly recognizable visual setting. In 2020, images continue to pour out from this famous American metropolis. They reveal a tension that the city has not experienced since the 9/11 attacks. During the lockdown New York was emptied of its crowds; tourists fled and most locals that could move away, did.  The city was a melting pot of social division and social unrest spilling into the streets. These images were widely shown in the media and on social networks. With the Covid-19 pandemic, which strongly affected New Yorkers, the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of African American George Floyd, and political tensions intensified by the American presidential campaign, New York is experiencing a tumultuous year. Through its exhibitions, MBAL invites visitors to immerse themselves in the urban hustle and bustle by bringing together different aspects of the city and those who inhabit it. We now see big cities from a quite different perspective, as are they still coming to terms with the coronavirus pandemic.


In order to respect the protective measures during the opening of the exhibition, you must wear a mask and your presence requires a registration by e-mail to mbal(at) or by telephone on 032 933 89 50.