What a beautiful Artotheque!
Despite the typical Belgian weather we went for a quick city tour starting from the train station, featuring an unfinished ruinous Calatrava project next to a free standing piece by Libeskind.
We enjoyed the first one as a paradigm of useless architecture (nothing against Calatrava) and happily disregarded Libeskind’s Congress Centre heading to the historical centre.
Climbing up the hill that eventually gives the name to town we soon arrive to the main church, the La Collégiale Sainte Waudru, an unfriendly fortress from the outside, very luminous and nice inside, available for a virtual visit on google street view.
Nearby the Cathedral our first destination: the Artotheque Mons. Built in the old chapel of the Ursulines convent, this is a haven of conservation of Mons’ heritage, home for the works of art and activities that accompany them. It is simultaneously a centre for storage, research, restoration and study of this heritage by gathering within its walls collections which are not permanently exhibited in other museums. This project was jointly funded by European Union, by the Public Service of Wallonia (DGO4 – Heritage) and by the French Community of Belgium.
Among the many challenges of the project by L’Escaut-Gigogne (temporary partnership) was the need to recover the residual historic value of a building which was bombed and damaged by improper use during the XX Century and, at the same time, ensure a fully functional exhibition, art storage and restoration centre.
Very few pieces of art are displayed here in a traditional way. Most of them are stored and all the one referring to the Mons public collections are digitally filed and available for consultation on large touch screens.
True that looking at a painting on a digital screen is normally pointless, this case is very different. The proximity of the work of art and the way they are reproduced in astonishing high resolution allows brings the perception of the work of art to the next level. This is the first time I experienced augmented reality.
This is a place for culture and research, rather than mass tourism, but how refreshing it is to see intelligence and passion at work, even when the subject is highly questionable!
There were not so many people visiting the Artotheke that Sunday and we were so lucky to get a visit to the whole structure, from the exhibition space, to the restoration workshops, technical rooms and roof terrace.
A quick walk to the city centre and main square.
The Passenger installation by Ame Quinze, also famous because of its collapse and re-construction.
At the edge of the city centre another cultural centre legacy of Mons2015, Arsonic by architect Etienne Holoffe. Very promising from the outside, a pity not to have time to enjoy inside.
Under the impression of so much culture, good management and forward way of thinking we decided to celebrate enjoying a good Belgian beer at a good old bar Au Bon Vieux Temps, featuring a dry animal-friendly aquarium.