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    KANAL attracts nearly 22,000 visitors in its opening weekend

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Brussels’ newest contemporary art museum KANAL – Centre Pompidou (following a collaboration between the Belgian capital and Paris’s flagship modern art museum) welcomed 21,716 visitors in its opening weekend, its director Yves Goldstein tweeted proudly yesterday after the centre’s 36-hour non-stop première (Saturday midday to Sunday 6pm). “The launch was a mad bet, but today we can only be happy at the success of this first stage,” Goldstein said. However, the former head of Belgian Socialist Rudi Vervoort’s cabinet warned this was only the beginning; and, “the big challenge will be to make this new space come alive for 400 days.”

    Indeed, KANAL, set in the stunning Art Deco building of the former Citroën Yser garage, will stay open in this preview year until 10 June 2019. And the standard entry fee shoots up to 14 euros, instead of the five paid on its first two days.

    But visitors will be rewarded with several art and architecture exhibitions, large installations and ten brand new works of Brussels-based artists. The permanent collections include big names like Alexander Calder – one of America’s most important 20th century sculptors. And fans of the museum’s former inmates can even enjoy a retro Citroën artwork.

    The giant 35,000 m2 site stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, to 10pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 8pm on Sunday (Tuesday its day of rest). And it will also house the vast collections of the CIVA Foundation of architecture and urban planning as well as workshops and course throughout the year.

    But not everyone is rejoicing. The museum, opening just over two years after the successful MIMA (Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art) opened at nearby Quai du Hainaut 44, is after all based in Molenbeek – Belgium’s poorest commune – and some locals are feeling pushed out.

    Only hours before it opened, the cultural centre was tagged by one or many individuals clearly hostile to the project: “Stop gentrification, our town is not for sale, bourgeois get out,” announced the message – which organisers had to wipe off at the last minute Friday evening, reported Indymedia.org, a collective of independent media organisations.

    Liz Newmark
    The Brussels Times