Together invited Dorka Demeter, an expert on the Art Nouveau movement, to wrap up what has been an extraordinary year
We are finally reaching the end of a year dedicated to Art Nouveau in Brussels. The reason for celebrating in 2023 is that in 1893, exactly 130 years ago, architect Victor Horta finished Tassel House. This building is considered to be the founding work of the Art Nouveau movement. The impressive modernity of its façade, its custom-made structure and the sumptuous interiors mark a milestone in the history of architecture – earning Brussels the title of cradle of Art Nouveau.
Did you know that in Brussels there are over 1000 buildings that feature Art Nouveau style? The current thematic year celebrates this remarkable heritage and has done more to make it accessible to the larger public. With the coordination of Visit Brussels and Urban Brussels, Art Nouveau is celebrated in all its diversity.
A rich, accessible and inclusive programme ran throughout the year and the good news is that it is not too late to make the most of the celebrations as we move into 2024. The major thematic exhibitions are running until mid-January, while the newly opened museums are waiting for you with doors wide open. The year was also used as the moment to renovate, refresh and generally polish-up this rich heritage. Here are the must-see highlights.
Avenue de la Jonction 1, 1060 Brussels
“A synergy between craftsmanship, cooperation and sustainability”
A landmark of the year was the opening of Maison Hannon as the latest Art Nouveau museum in town. Designed by architect Jules Brunfaut at the request of the Hannon couple, Marie and Édouard in 1902, the Maison Hannon is a ‘portrait-house’ conceived as a dreamlike, symbolist enclosed universe. It is not only an exceptional and unique example of the Art Nouveau architectural heritage, but a synergy between craftsmanship, cooperation and sustainability. Unlike a traditional museum, it is a whole concept!
Rue Américaine 27, 1060 Brussels
“Victor Horta’s iconic private house and studio is home to the Horta Museum”
Only 10 minutes’ walk from Maison Hannon, one can find architect Victor Horta’s iconic private house and studio, home to the Horta Museum. It is one of the four townhouses of architect Victor Horta that are part of UNESCO World Heritage: intricate forms and lines, incredible stained glass, the variety of materials and techniques are breathtaking. Maison Hannon and Horte Museum can be visited with a combined ticket at a reduced price. Making a reservation for the Horta Museum is obligatory.
Hôtel van Eetvelde
Avenue Palmerston 4, 1000 Brussels
Talking of UNESCO World Heritage townhouses of architect Victor Horta, Hôtel van Eetvelde is another one of them. This gem was hardly accessible these past years: any guided visit was instantly sold out. As part of the Art Nouveau Year, the house was restored and opened to the public. Furthermore, the adjoining building, former office of the owner, Edmond van Eetvelde, was acquired by the city last year. These buildings are now connected by an innovative project, the LAB·AN, founded on the occasion of the thematic year, and offers a contemporary look at Art Nouveau heritage. The buildings are open for visits on a permanent basis from Saturday to Monday. What better programme for a rainy weekend!
Avenue Louise 224, 1000 Brussels
In 1894, the chemistry magnate, Armand Solvay, engaged Horta’s services, granting him unlimited freedom of creation and unrestricted funding to bring to fruition the project of a home for his bride. The resulting UNESCO World Heritage townhouse was rescued by the Wittamer family who saved it from demolition in 1957. Although the facade is currently undergoing renovation, the house remains open for visits. It is imperative to book online.
Josef Hoffmann – Falling for Beauty
Until 14 April, Art and History Museum
“Discover an artist who understood beauty as an absolute requirement for individual and social transformation”
You must have passed by Palais Stoclet already on Avenue de Tervueren. It is a unique example of the Secessionist style, the architect was Josef Hoffmann. As part of the thematic year, a whole exhibition was dedicated to this Austrian designer and architect. The exhibition provides an exceptional opportunity to discover an artist who understood beauty as an absolute requirement for individual and social transformation. Unlike Horta’s characteristic curves, here you can discover a more geometric form of Art Nouveau.
Victor Horta and the Grammar of Art Nouveau
Until 14 January, BOZAR
What remains of Horta’s style if we remove the typical vegetal curves? This exhibition goes deeper into understanding this architect master. Archive photos, original moulds and forms, destructured buildings visually recreated – you can discover all in a special gallery exhibit space of BOZAR, which is also a fine example of Horta’s work. This exhibition nicely complements the exhibition ‘Victor Horta versus Art Nouveau.
ART NOUVEAU. Unique objects with a tale to tell.
Until 7 January, Belvue Museum
This exhibition puts on display incredible Art Nouveau masterpieces from the collection of the King Baudouin Foundation. Unique pieces by Victor Horta, Philippe Wolfers and Henry Van de Velde that vary from jewelry to furniture and ceramics. Don’t forget to pick up the booklet that guides you through the exhibition and tells a story about each object. Free entrance!
Privat Livemont – FLOWER POWER!
Until 10 March, Maison Autrique
Maison Autrique was the very first townhouse designed by architect Victor Horta. While the new Art Nouveau elements are clearly visible on the facade, the interior still keeps the traditional structure of the time. The museum-house hosts an exhibition about Art Nouveau poster maker, sgraffito artist and famous designer, Henri Privat Livemont, “the uncontested master of Belgian posterists.”
Resonances – Encounter between Art Nouveau and Plastic Design
Until 14 January, Design Museum
Resonances proposes a series of dialogues between the Plastic Design Collection and a selection of Art Nouveau pieces from a Brussels private collection. The apparition of metal in the everyday interior of the 1890s has many parallels to that of plastic during the industrial boom of the 1950s. The exhibition juxtaposes the two periods and asks questions about the integration of ornament into structure, both in craftsmanship and in mass production; the search for organicity, movement and lightness; and much more.
The suggestions above provide a mere taste of this rich cultural offer that highlights the Art Nouveau architectural heritage in Brussels. The full programme can be found on artnouveau2023.brussels. For daily Art Nouveau inspiration follow @artnouveau.brussels on Instagram. The Art Nouveau Pass and the Museum Pass by Brussels Museums gives you free access to many of the places mentioned above. Enjoy your visit!
All photos: © Dorka Demeter, except:
Yoichi R. Okamoto, Josef Hoffmann, 1954, MAK, KI 13740-5
Josef Hoffmann, salle à manger du Palais Stoclet avec la frise en mosaïques de Gustav Klimt Moderne Bauformen XIII, 1914
Josef Hoffmann, dessin pour une série de douze broches pour les Wiener Werkstätte, 1926 © MAK, KI 12144-45
Josef Hoffmann, Palais Stoclet, Bruxelles, 1905-1911, façade devant à l’avenue de Tervueren. Photo 1914 © MAK
Victor Horta, maison personnelle et atelier (aujourd’hui le Musée Horta), Bruxelles, 1901 © Maxime Delvaux
Victor Horta, Salle de spectacle de la Maison du Peuple, Bruxelles, 1895 (démolie en 1965-66) Photographie sur plaque de verre de Horta, ca. 1899 © Coll. Musée Horta Museum
Project for the façade of the Congo pavilion at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition, 1898 © Coll. Musée Horta Museum