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Fans of René Magritte, surrealist art, and those with nothing to do at the weekends are all flocking to the newly opened René Magritte museum next door to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.
If you work in EU circles surrealism will be a part of your average working day, but back in the mid-twentieth century a businessman with an apple for a face would have raised more than a few eyebrows.
Magritte’s famous symbol of a pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe) can be viewed either as a profound statement on the nature of language (e..g it’s not a pipe, it’s a painting of a pipe) – or just a pretentious statement.
In other pieces he paints objects in unusual positions (e.g. a train emerging from a fireplace) or labels them with incorrect names, although as The Lobby’s companion pointed out, Magritte was still using conventional words. Why not just do what the EU does so well and make up words? (Such as comitology? Or co-decision? Magritte would have learned a lot from the Commission…)
The gallery itself is laid out extremely well on several floors, the dark light helping to bring out the artist’s work and use of colour.
The audioguide however is a disappointment. Unless you take a great interest in the continuous and apparently vicious struggles between the French and the Belgian surrealists (and who doesn’t?), you can save your money and spend it instead in the excellent café in the main museum. We particularly recommend the cactus and wood shavings (e.g. sausage and chips).
At the artist’s request, the puzzling art sculpture Entropa which has embellished the atrium of the Council’s building since the start of the Czech Presidency has been taken down, sparking off its latest controversy. David Cerny took this decision as he no longer wanted to be associated with the Czech government which he claimed is lead by a crew of “pirates” including communists.
This is the end of the saga for a sculpture which has sustained the hullabaloo of diplomatic and aesthetic controversy and has sharply reminded us of how insolence (and art? I leave it up to you to make up your own minds) can sometimes win over politics.
Yet, I found another reason to enjoy Czech humour when looking for the candidates for the next Eurovision contest. “SuperGypsy” (aka Radoslav Banga) will represent the Czechs on Saturday with “Aven Romale” (Let’s go, Roma) – a song making a mockery of the racist prejudices against his minority. He’s dressed up as a super-hero ready to perform an operetta and vaguely reminds you of Freddy Mercury. Art and derision now seem to both make up part of the Czechs’ international reputation.