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gevel met opschrift Strange
Jeroen Broeckx

MAS acquires LGBTQ+ heritage

Antwerp's oldest gay bar, Café Strange, closed at the end of 2021. The MAS, which itself keeps a collection of LGBTQ+ heritage, was able to obtain a few pieces from the bar at the auction to preserve and display. This way, a bit of the bar of Antwerp's icon and café owner Armand in Dambruggestraat is preserved for the future.

At the inventory auction, the MAS was able to acquire the famous light boxes with the soft-pornography photos of several young men, as well as the bar bell and several 'titillating' objects from behind the bar. Also the framed 'Law for the Moral Protection of Youth' and the 'Decree Law [...] on the Control of Drunkenness' could be secured. A slide carousel full of light images and a large list of all kinds of cuttings about the history of the LGBTQ+ community went to the Suzan Daniel Fund.

Café Strange was the oldest remaining gay bar in Antwerp and one of the oldest in Belgium. From 1954, men and women from all over the world came here. In 1980, Armand Everaert took over the business and the pub became the place to be for dances, parties or just for having a drink. Many came by before or after a visit to the 'Rue de Vaseline', as the Van Schoonhovenstraat was called in slang at the time. This street with its many kinky cafés and ditto darkrooms was known far beyond the Belgian borders.

After the golden years, café Strange continued to hold out for a long time at the edge of the neighbourhood around Central Station. In 2019, Armand was the chief guest on the float of the neighbourhood association Sint-Jansplein during Antwerp Pride. Seated on a golden throne and surrounded by LGBTQ people from the quarter, he rode in the annual parade through the centre. But during the corona crisis, owner Armand could no longer cope and debts mounted. On 30 October 2021, barman Palash Roy drained the last beers and the disco balls spun to the beat one last time.

The pieces that the MAS managed to acquire will first go into quarantine in the depot. Later, it will be decided where and when the pieces can be shown to the public.


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