Brussels: Renovations could close Cinquantenaire museum for a decade

Brussels: Renovations could close Cinquantenaire museum for a decade
© M0tty at Wikimedia

The famed Brussels museum in the Cinquantenaire Park is facing a thorough renovation that could see the museum closed for a decade, according to the master plan devised by new director Bruno Verbergt.

The Royal Museum of Art and History, to give it its proper Sunday name, is home to a stunning collection that many would rate on a par with the Louvre in Paris or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

But the collection is not the issue: the museum’s problem is the years and years of neglect it has undergone, which has left the issue of renovation something that can no longer be ignored. But the cost will be enormous.

“For years there has been too little thought about the whole, about how we should bring the museum into the 21st century,” Verbergt explained to Bruzz.

“The people of Brussels, Belgians and foreigners see that many museums are more contemporary and are a bit ashamed.”

Verbergt took over the helm at the museum in February this year, after a decision by science policy minister Thomas Dermine (PS) that brought to an end the ad interim directorship of Alexandra De Poorter, who had filled the space for six years.

He comes direct from the Africa Museum in Tervuren, where he was operational director, and which had also undergone a lengthy and complete renovation. His credentials appear impeccable; his mission appears clear.

He has now been charged with developing a master plan for the purpose of bringing the museum into the 21st century, but he has to be quick. His appointment is temporary, and involved no selection process (neither did that of De Poorter), as the law on federal appointments requires.

A thorough renovation would, according to today’s estimates, cost no less that €22 million, and could involve the museum being closed for a decade. That would be the ideal solution, but a phased closure, department by department, might also be possible.

“Sometimes the short-term pain is better, and ‘phased work’ means the work will take much longer,” said Verbergt.

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