After attacks, Brussels' culture institutes struggle to draw visitors

Like the rest of the Belgian capital, Brussels' brand-new street-art museum was deeply rocked by terrorist attacks March 22

Though the building has since opened, three weeks late, the effects of the bloody attacks on the city's cultural and artistic scene remain palpable, with some museums reporting a 40-per-cent drop in visitor numbers. The situation has now even prompted one government official to get involved by proposing financial aid.

"It was a shock that will continue to reverberate for a while," says Raphael Cruyt. The 42-year-old says that he and the three other founders of the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA) had originally hoped to bring in up to 30,000 visitors in its first year.

The museum's inaugural exhibit City Lights features pieces by international street artists and collectives such as Faile and Maya Hayuk, with the entire basement devoted to works by the US artist Swoon, known for her life-size figures made using recycled newspaper.

MIMA, which can be found in a former brewery along the Charleroi Canal, is not the only museum having to adjust after the attacks.

Visitors at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium can observe the works of the internationally known artist and provocateur Andres Serrano, whose exhibit includes newer works depicting the homeless in Brussels as well as older ones portraying sex and violence that were vandalized during earlier shows due to their scandalous nature.

The exhibit opened March 18, the same day Salah Abdeslam - believed to be the only survivor from a group of terrorists who left 130 dead in one bloody November night in Paris - was detained by Belgian authorities.

After the deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels four days after Abdeslam's arrest, the exhibit was shut until March 25. The subjects depicted in the 65-year-old artist's works - death, violence and religion - certainly didn't make publicity for the exhibit easier afterward, says Samir al-Haddad, who works for the museum.

The number of visitors to the museum in Brussels' centre has fallen by 40 per cent, says Elke Sleurs, state secretary for urban policy and equality. She has proposed giving the museum a 50,000-euro (56,000-dollar) boost, and in total would like to free up 170,000 euros for four art and cultural institutions that have seen their visitor numbers fall in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Others would be helped through advertising and publicity, she added.

Last update: Tue, 24/05/2016 - 11:48

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