There is the incredible situation in Brussels now where the Brussels City Government want to build a brand new space for their superb collection of modern art (modern in this sense meaning roughly 1789 to 1939) but the Belgian Government which officially owns the art says no way, it must go back in the old building where it always was. Brussels had a wonderful Museum of Modern Art, containing its entire collection from those 1789 to 1939 years, but then they decided to break the space up into two new Museums, the Magritte Museum containing nothing but Magrittes and the Fin De Siecle Museum containing nothing but art from the 1890s, and everything that did not fit into these two narrow bands disappeared back into storage never it seemed to be seen again! Some of my absolutely favourite pieces, David’s Death of Marat, Geef’s Genie du Mal, Dali’s Temptation of St Anthony, the entire room of Paul Delvaux’s, all therefore vanished. They have been planning to open another Museum, the Modern Museum, to put back on display everything pushed out by the Magritte and the FDS but that meant finding a brand new space for it: for a while they were going to put it in a building by the Grand Place, now they say they are buying the old Art Deco Citroen showrooms by the canal (opposite Fifth Avenue hooker bar, an interesting idea); but the Belgian government has said no, over their dead body, they will not countenance the sublime modern art collection going on display anywhere except in its original location, under the same roof as the Magritte and FDS, and Old Masters. So essentially Belgium wants their entire collection of modern art, Magrittes and 1890s included, all in one building—why, just like the original Museum of Modern Art! Why on earth they destroyed and split up the original Museum of Modern Art I will never know. It was a desecration. And now the Belgian Government is insisting it all goes back under one roof again. Well there is no space for any new rooms, so does this mean the Magrittes, 1890s and everything else is going to have to be mixed again? We are STILL waiting to find out. And meanwhile all those incredible treasures from 1789 to 1939 remain in storage and we are left with the desperately boring, samey, Magritte after Magritte after Magritte (a little Magritte goes an awfully long way with me; too much of him becomes boring incredibly quickly) and the scandalously awful anaemic, appallingly lit Fin de Siecle display (how on earth they can make the Fin de Siecle seem boring is quite a wonder in itself). Give us back our original Museum of Modern Art please, with the 6 or 7 Magrittes that it always had, yes, with its wonderful 1890s treasures, yes, but all mixed into the one collection that it used to be. You had a wonderful Museum of Modern Art about 5 years ago; why on earth did you fuck it up?
The Magritte Museum has ruined Brussels. Five or six Magrittes in one place is enough already. His clever, tricksy paintings become too much very quickly when you have got more than that. Because Magritte has been given all that space that used to be occupied by the wonderful Museum of Modern Art (covering pretty much 1789 to 1939), we have been denied the pleasure of so many other treasures that are now packed away in storage where nobody can see them. The Magritte Museum has succeeded in turning me against Magritte. We hereby commence a series of art works currently hidden in storage because of the disastrous Magritte and F–king Disaster Siecle Museums.
“Why Brussels’ new Fin De Siecle Museum disgusts me so much. The old Museum of Modern Art was an erotic lodestone for me, as it was where I started all my journeys across Europe. I wrote in 2003 ‘There is one spot I can stand in and see Figure Tombale, Genie du Mal, Tresors de Satan and Alfred Stevens Salome all at the same time and this may well be my favourite spot in the entire world.’ In the new FDS, the Genie du Mal and Salome are nowhere to be seen; nor is the Death of Marat; nor are the room full of Paul Delvauxs which always used to give me an erection. The heartrending Figure Tombale is stuck against a wall all on her own; the Tresors de Satan is stuck in a corner at the top of a flight of stairs like an afterthought. There is no intensity, no electricity between the different works of art. I feel a real excitement in Munich’s Neue Pinakothek, a real excitement in Berlin’s Alte National Gallery, something about the FDS leaves me totally cold and unmoved. Is it the abysmal weird curving walls? More regular square box-shaped rooms might restore some intensity. The lighting seems appalling, often making most of the paintings invisible from a lot of angles. Just look at the wonderful Charles Hermans At Dawn painting, ruined by the lighting. I think you need intensity—a lot of paintings all stacked together all around each other. Here they seem too spaced out. The walls are perhaps not tall enough to allow one painting above another. I am convinced I could do a better job of arranging the hangings. Where are the Delvauxs, the Death of Marat, the Genie du Mal? Are they there and I just never found the room they were in? The “circuit” may have confused me as well; perhaps they are all still there but I missed them on both visits? No. I now realise all the missing pieces come from outside the Fin de Siecle 1890s period that is the narrow remit of this museum, and so are in storage, waiting ANOTHER new museum to show everything that does not fit in to the Fin De Siecle or Magritte Museums! Just put everything back into one Modern Art Museum, 1789 to 1939, the way it was before, you fools! You vandals! You don’t need a whole museum devoted to Magritte, 7 or 8 of his paintings is enough! It is a disgrace!”
Great paintings absolutely obliterated by the lights; Louis Dubois’s La Roulette Table de Jeu, 1860, top, followed by three shots of Charles Hermans’s At Dawn, 1875. F–king. Disaster. Siecle Museum, Brussels
I have just found some more notes, written on Berlin Plaza hotel notepaper, from June 2005, which will need to go into my soon to be published 4th book of Journals, Casanova (Lost Wanderings):-
[This sheet of paper gives some idea of how quickly I burnt through money in those days, my first “golden age” of travel (which came to an abrupt end when I fell in love with my future wife in February 2006). On my first night in Berlin, June 2005, I spent: 2 euros on a bus ticket, 24 euros in the Sarah Young videokabins, 5 euros in Hanky Panky (Stuttgarter Platz), 35 euros in Mon Cheri (Stuttgarter Platz), 30 euros in Golden Gate (Stuttgarter Platz) and 73 euros in Monte Carlo (Stuttgarter Platz) where I had sex with one of the Bulgarians, Vanessa I believe. It also shows how the red light scene in Berlin has been decimated as it has in London and Vienna: of the places I just listed only Monte Carlo still exists.]