Kunstsammlung NRW

Liège: Emerging from Crisis with Art and Culture

At this moment, no one reporting about culture in Belgium can ignore the sense of shock: terror has struck Europe's very heart. Some people have even asked whether one should venture into this neighboring cultural paradise. But in this crisis, tiny Belgium – with its grandiose artistic and cultural treasures – deserves our solidarity!

For #32 worldwide, Claudia Posca reports on a trip to Liège.

And there is more to Belgium than Brussels: alongside the attractive town of Mons, which shared the title of Cultural Capital of Europe in 2015 together with the Czech town of Plzeň, and which is home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts Museum (BAM), Liège has been beating the drum lately to promote its cultural riches. The French-speaking Wallonian city, with just 200,000 residents, and just an hour traveling time away from Cologne on the Thalys, is enticing visitors with even more culture and ‘little France’ flair.

Not exactly what you might expect from slightly dingy Liège, known for the most part as the hometown of Georges Simenon and his crime thriller police commissioner Maigret.

Today, Liège – a city stricken for decades by the mining crisis – is preening itself once again. In ways comparable to the program of structural transformation known as "Cultural Metropolis Ruhr,2 this former mining town is betting on a new, more lustrous image. The ambitious plan: impressive cultural expansion and highly advanced infrastructural investment under the trademark "Liège together." According to an official statement, the town is "relying on its cultural assets and specialties" to promote development.

Among these is the futuristic TGV high-speed train station, the work of the world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, located in Guillemin district, outside of Liège-City. The station entered into operations in 2009, and is currently the setting for an adventure-oriented Dalì fantasyland exhibition. And there is more: a splendid and well-advanced renovation of the old town around the legendary Montagne de Bueren, a staircase with 374 steps that offers a marvelous panoramic view of the city from a height of 72 meters.

Among the town's cultural-historical treats of is the Grand Curtius Museum, covering an area of 10,000 square meters, the Museum of Wallonian Life, the Prince Bishop's Palace, and the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Paul, as well as many marvelous house façades in the Maasland Style.

All of which is acquiring a new radiance: Liège is even collaborating with the Louvre in Paris! The impetus here is the opening of La Boverie – a "Center for the Fine Arts," with more than 4000 m², devoted to exhibitions with international profiles. On May 5th, the museum will be inaugurated with the exhibition En plein Air, devoted to the motif of painted “open-air activities” beginning in the 18th century, and based on the permanent collection, complemented with loans from the Louvre.

This coup may have been possible because Paris wants to expand, and Liège is home to an excellent art collection studded with great names, from Lambert Lombard to Monet, Ingres, Boudin, along with artists such as Picasso, Signac, Ensor, and Marc. Here, the principle seems to be: If you have something to offer, you can expect loans in return.

Liège is sparing no expense in burnishing its new image: 23.5 million euros are being spent on the ambitious museum project, situated along the new urban axis between the imposing Calatrava train station and the Médiacité. The setting where the new La Boverie gleams is symbolically charged, and is adorned by a historic park complex. The Main Pavilion of the World's Fair of 1905, located there, has been optimally restored. This architectural monument has been extended by modern glass structure according to a design by French star architect Rudy Ricciotti. He is the fellow who gave the Department of Islamic art at the Louvre in Paris it strikes striking wave shaped roof.


Further information

Museum La Boverie

Le Grand Curtius

Visitez Liège (Tourismusportal)