Rogier Van Der Weyden in M

Since a few years there was a big construction site shielded off right downtown: apparently the side of the old city museum was going through a big make-over. Over the summer the opening of the new museum 'M' got more and more publicity : the modern architecture, the opening exposition of Rogier Van Der Weyden was discussed in different media. A new stamp was released about the exposition, the Standaard newspaper had a full weekend edition dedicated to the exposition & museum, the city was full of big banners, ... An opening ceremony lead by the Belgian & Dutch princesses Mathilde & Maxima (M's...) accompanied with a parade and street festival & a for the occasion newly brewed Rogier beer added to the prestige of the new ambitious museum.

However Jan and I feared the masses in the beginning and figured we might as well wait a few weeks before going to the exposition. I did want to see the paintings from Rogier Van Der Weyden that had been brought together in the city, some of them especially restored for the exposition but there was no rush. The museum was only a 15 min walk from our house so we could go whenever we wanted, right?

Last Sunday I thought we had a nice afternoon off, perfect to head downtown and check out our new city museum and the successful ongoing exposition. Just before we left, I realized it was so successful you had to book tickets in advance for a specific entry time slot. That is practical and well organized, ...unfortunately last Sunday was already fully booked. As a matter of fact, the 2 remaining weeks of the exposition were almost fully booked despite some midnight openings in the coming week.

So I took our last chance and booked tickets for previous Thursday evening. I was very excited.

The entry in the new building didn't disappoint: the old pillars & pediment contrasted with the cool linear building behind, glass surfaces , staircases & squares. Hmm nice!

Inside the entire entry hall was packed with people. Most of them seemed uncertain where to go next, blocking each other's way. The personnel didn't really act to get the flow going. After following some arrows, multiple stairways up, we finally arrived in the horribly overcrowded exposition halls. Huh? Is this entry control? How many people did they allow inside in one time slot? You had to circle with your audio guide behind the many guided groups to get a glimpse of the small sketches, paintings or books displayed on which you are getting the explanation in your headphones. It really cost motivation to wait your turn to see something or to mingle yourself forward to check out some details on a huge wall tapestry etc... And when you finally were well in sight of a painting you could feel all of a sudden 20 pairs of eyes in your back and you can hear a guide telling "on the left you can see...., well unless someone's standing in front of it" or you got a push from other people working themselves forward.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrgh, such an incredible exposition (oh yes, there's no doubt about that) ruined by bad access management. What an incredible pity. I truly wish that I could be locked up inside for a few hours taking the opportunity to study the incredible small details on these old paintings or reproductions in more time.

Another thing that disturbed me: there's truly not that many original Van Der Weyden's to be shown as history has lost many of them. So the exposition was well balanced with contemporary art inspired by Rogier, reproductions and inspired sculpting. OK fine, that's reality.
But why...why name every painting " xxx" inspired by Rogier Van Der Weyden......if the painting is eg a Memling! A Memling! Wouldn't that be worth mentioning? Why not giving more information on the what and who and uncertainties and backgrounds of reproductions and derived art? All info was concentrated on a few masterpieces (hence the line-ups and over crowdedness) whereas information was scarce on the majority of the other displayed pieces.

Anyway, I've enjoyed the exposition but I also left with some serious disappointments. M, the new museum "with international" ambition has some clear learning to do.


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