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Belgium celebrates 'year of Magritte' with art exhibits
René Magritte © C.H./ADAGP Paris, 2017.

BRUSSELS (AFP).- Fifty years after René Magritte’s death, the Atomium pays a unique tribute to one of the great figures of the Belgian Surrealist movement.

From 21 September 2017, the Atomium invites both the young and the not-so-young to discover René Magritte through a fun experience full of surprises. Certain key works by the major Belgian Surrealist artist will be displayed in an innovative scenography. Visitors will be immersed in the Surrealist universe of René Magritte, whose paintings will be transformed into exhibition sets, split into sections for close examination. Enter the magical world of Belgium’s greatest artist. Weave your way around his bowler-hatted figures, his clouds and birds. Discover the secret messages hidden in his paintings, explore the extraordinary and captivating settings depicted in his masterpieces.

The aim behind the exhibition is to acquaint visitors with the world of René Magritte and, in this way, to introduce them to Surrealism. With this in view, the experience will unfold as follows. Firstly, visitors will quite literally penetrate Magritte’s world, as they are plunged into the renowned artist’s Surrealist realm. Some works will be presented in 3D in actual size, as elements forming part of the exhibition scenography, and visitors will walk through the set like characters in a play, soaking up the atmosphere.

This will bring them face to face with the key elements in Magritte’s paintings: they will be able to linger awhile among the clouds, the famous birds will be suspended above their heads, and they will have green apples to use as seats. Music to suit the setting and theatrical lighting will provide the finishing touches to the overall ambience, reflecting the intention of making these artistic works of genius accessible to everyone. A fun yet educational experience, the exhibition brings to light certain details that have rarely been discussed, but which will be revealed through this particular way of perceiving Magritte’s work. Our aim is to show visitors the conceptual world between image, pictorial art, speech and reality. The carefully selected key works present Magritte’s world and the iconic elements that embody it in all its forms:

There is a strong link between the enshrouded face and Magritte’s own life story, but this is also an example of the double meaning so favoured by the renowned artist, as the faces are veiled by cloth.

Here we see the easily identifiable motifs so closely associated with Magritte: the bowler hat, the apple, the hidden face and the clouds.

The image is nothing more than a layer, a ‘film’ that may be cut out and repositioned, thereby covering a totally different, obscure image.

Alongside these paintings, displayed in sections, the exhibition will feature memorable quotes by Magritte – in relation to his art and to Surrealism – as well as screenings of a range of his paintings, illustrating other elements of his artistic realm. This original exhibition was proposed by the Atomium and will also be held there. It will take account of the striking architecture of this building, a symbol of Brussels and part of its heritage.

Just like Magritte’s work, the Atomium presents us with something that seems impossible, yet there it stands before us, its nine spheres hovering in the air. Magritte and the Atomium; what could be more typically Belgian than this particular union?

Educational workshops for schoolchildren will be held in conjunction with the exhibition. During the school holidays, courses for 6 to 12 year olds will conduct their own particular exploration into the world of Surrealism and Magritte’s iconic works. And for the adults, guided lectures and cultural activities are also included in the programme.

During the renovation of the Théâtre des Galeries (Galerie du Roi, in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in Brussels) in 1951, René Magritte designed a “cloud” fresco for the ceiling of the room. His initial project, known by a preparatory gouache, foresaw a sky in which many bells floated, one of the most frequent motifs in the language of Magritte. Magritte was asked not to put these ‘obscure’ symbols in his fresco. He made a painting for the ceiling, without bells, which was finally executed during the most recent renovation of the Théâtre in 2016.

The work of Magritte is finally visible for this Magritte year. The preparatory gouache can be seen at the Magritte Museum in Brussels.

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