Brussels Gets New Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art

Building goes from hosting grease monkeys to art junkies

The Citroen Building in downtown Brussels Photo: Peter Forret via Flickr

The Citroen Building in downtown Brussels
Photo: Peter Forret via Flickr

For years, Brussels has been better known for its scores of bureaucrats and elected officials than for its contemporary art scene. But, that’s changing. The gallery scene is flourishing, banking on deep pocketed diplomats and businessmen while supporting an increasing number of artists, thanks to Brussels relatively cheap rents. Art Brussels increasingly holds an important spot on the art world calendar. Experimental institutions like the Wiels Contemporary Art Center are bringing critical attention to the city, while standbys like the Magritte Museum provide historical weight. But, until now, the Belgian and European capital has lacked a major museum for modern and contemporary art.

That’s set to change, with a new museum for Belgium’s vast collection of modern and contemporary works from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts set to open in 2017. Brussels won’t be bringing in a hoard of starchitects to devise a new landmark location for the institution, however. Rather, the city has decided to retrofit an existing garage and warehouse owned by French car manufacturer Citroen, having reached a deal to purchase the 16,000 square meter (170,000 square foot) space for an undisclosed sum.

“We need to start playing in the big league,” Brussels regional president Rudi Vervoordt told the AFP of his government’s decision to purchase the building for the purposes of building the new museum. Citroen, who still actively use the building, will move their operations to the suburbs.

Vervoordt is far from humble about his plans for the institution, proclaiming, “We will have our MoMA, our Guggenheim.” By comparison, the new museum will be approximately a fifth the size of New York’s MoMA and slightly larger than MoMA PS1. The building is located along the Charleroi Canal, not far from Brussels’ Gare du Nord but nearly on the opposite side of the city as the Wiels center, the city’s other main institutional attraction for contemporary art lovers.


[Featured image © picture by Klaas Vermaas]

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