Press Release for Newtopia

1 Sep 2012

Welcome on the website of Newtopia, an international exhibition of contemporary art dedicated to Human Rights

Art and human rights?!

Be it the right to life, liberty, security and education; be it the right to free thought, conscience and opinion; be it it the right not to be tortured, not to be treated inhumanely or in a degrading manner; be it in Syria, China or North Korea, hardly any other subject influences public discourse as firmly and as permanently as human rights. More than sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the question of human rights is constantly gaining in importance.


Newtopia: the State of Human Rights is a major international contemporary art exhibition, dedicated to the subject of human rights. The exhibition takes place in six cultural institutions and in public spaces in the historic city centre of Mechelen, from 1 September to 10 December 2012.

Tracing artistic responses to human rights issues, the exhibition charts the development of the human rights movement and its evolving discourse since the post-war era, paying particular attention to the emergence of new human rights discourses and the 'rise of human rights' since the 1970s, and looks at their current state.

Newtopia includes work in diverse media by more than 70 international artists of different generations from all over the world. Many of these artists come from countries and regions where human rights have been – or still are – a particularly contested issue, such as the Arab world, China, Latin America, and the former Soviet republics; half of the artists come from non-Western countries.

Newtopia examines a rich variety of artistic responses in relation to the basic tenets of human rights and provides insight into the complexity and breadth of the subject and how it is bound to a myriad of social, political, economic, cultural, personal and collective issues. The exhibition, which features four thematic chapters and solo projects is curated by Katerina Gregos.

Newtopia will also feature a rich fringe programme including film, literature, music,  as well as conversations with artists, creating an appropriate framework in a city rooted in the humanist tradition of Erasmus and Thomas More – a city that, however, is not averse to dealing with the dark chapters of its own history.

Newtopia contextualizes the subject of human rights in present-day Mechelen: the exhibition precedes the opening of the Kazerne Dossin Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights.

Newtopia also extends its reach geographically, with a satellite solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar, at the ING Cultural Centre on the Koningsplein/Place Royale in the heart of Brussels, from the 10th October to the 10th December 2012.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are, together with MO* magazine, Newtopia's valued partners in this undertaking.