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5 tiny but wonderful museums in Belgium

Belgium Culture

Today #MuseumWeek was launched on Twitter, a free-for-all where museums across the world share and exchange stories with the public, and it has already enjoyed huge success on its opening day. In honour of this great initiative, we listed 5 tiny but wonderful museums in our tiny but wonderful country:

 

1) Wiertz museum, Brussels

antoine wiertz

A French magazine recently listed this as one of the most beautiful museums in the world. And it is. The only problem is that the opening hours are maddening. It’s just about impossible to visit at a weekend, or during lunchtime. But persevere and you will find yourself more or less the only visitor in a perfectly preserved 19th-century artist’s studio once occupied by the romantic painter Antoine Wiertz. His paintings are vast and gruesome, like the one called Two Girls/La Belle Rosine shown here. (It was painted in 1847. © Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, photo: J. Geleyns). Check http://www.fine-arts-museum.be/en/museums/musee-wiertz-museum for info.

 

2) Museum Dr. Guislain, Ghent

museum dr guislain

Here is a strange and haunting museum on the edge of a lot of people's favourite Belgian towns. It occupies one wing of a model psychiatric institution founded in the 19th century by Dr Jozef Guislain. Visitors can wander through chilling deserted wards still furnished with iron beds and old medical equipment. One room contains a terrifying mechanical saw used in operations to remove the top of the skull. The temporary exhibitions are always fascinating, as is the extensive collection of outsider art. Almost no one leaves this museum untouched.

 

3) Paul Delvaux Museum, Sint-Idesbald

paul delvaux sérénité

The Belgian Surrealist artist Paul Delvaux lived most of his life in a whitewashed fisherman’s cottage at the Belgian coast. The little house is now connected to a museum filled with Delvaux’s haunting and disturbing paintings of empty train stations and melancholy nude women. We applaud the decision to install old wooden railway seats where you can sit looking at the paintings. The museum is now temporary closed to set up a new exhibition, but it will open again very soon, on April 4th 2015. Check www.delvauxmuseum.com.

 

4) Käthe Kollwitz Museum, Koekelare

kâthe kollwitz museum

A small but fascinating museum is located in a recently restored malting tower attached to an old brewery. It tells the story of Pieter Kollwitz, one of the many students who joined the German army at the beginning the war and died in the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ on 23-24 October 1914. His mother Käthe Kollwitz created the two figures of grieving parents in Vladslo Cemetery. The museum has 70 original drawings by Kollwitz on the themes of death and war. www.koekelare.be

 

5) Panamarenko's House, Antwerp

The strange helipad on the roof identifies Panamarenko’s house. The Antwerp artist live here for more than 30 years along with his mother, a parrot and a collection of aircraft parts. Panamarenko spent his life building unlikely mechanical flying machines and imaginery birds; you can admire his creations in the Antwerp contemorary art museum M HKA – you can visit the retrospective until March 29th. The house is only open to the public on a limited number of days during the year, to protect the fragile interior. You can book a tour in 2015 by following this link, but hurry, because almost all tours are full allready. For more info about the artist and his house, visit the M HKA website. (Photo by Wim Van Eesbeek.)

 

___ Texts: Derek Blyth