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Clean-up plan proposed to free Mont des Arts of unwanted graffiti

The view from the platform above Mont des Arts, looking towards the Grand Place in Brussels (Free image/no licence)
08:18 14/02/2022

The Mont des Arts in Brussels has the reputation of being the most graffitied place in the capital. With its permanent flow of tourists, local visitors and its large walls, it has everything to seduce graffiti artists. But that could soon change: the Secretary of State for the Federal Building Agency Mathieu Michel has promised to clean up the popular heritage site.

About 10 years ago, the city of Brussels decided to reserve one wall on the Mont des Arts for free expression. The hope was that the graffiti artists would take advantage of these 60 square metres of blanks canvas and not touch the rest of the site. However, this hope was soon dashed and the experiment was stopped. Since then, anti-tag teams have been passing by regularly to clean the walls, but this was not enough.

It also did not solve the problem. "Cleaning the surfaces just attracts the taggers to come because the place is now spotless again and can therefore accommodate new graffiti,” explained a spokesperson for Bruxelles-Propreté, the city’s cleaning department. “It's an endless struggle."

Who cleans up what?

An additional – and very Belgian – problem is that various areas around the Mont des Arts are controlled by different public authorities. For example, Brussels Environment is responsible for the park area, Bruxelles-Propreté for the walls. If trees are tagged, then it’s the Environment department’s job to clean them. Other areas fall under the authority of other departments.

"We are called upon to clean the tags on the stairs," explained the spokesperson from Bruxelles-Propreté. “Except that the Federal Building Authority now says it has  responsibility for the stairs, as well as the walls that surround the park.”

New action plan

Mathieu Michel, the man currently in charge of the Federal Building Authority, says the Mont des Arts deserves better. He has a new plan for his department to clean it up and eventually deter the taggers.

"We have decided to clean everything at once," he explained. “We will have to rehabilitate the entire site. In parallel, we will work on a maintenance contract where, every week, a team will come to clean the graffiti. The idea is to wear the taggers down."

Michel says that this plan will go ahead despite the possible conflicts of competence. "If we have to clean up territory that does not belong to us, we will confer with the authorities responsible for maintaining this heritage how to act in a concerted way,” he said. “When there's paper on the floor, we pick it up and put it in the trash. We don't wonder who is responsible for it."

The Secretary of State has promised that the new cleaning plan will be put into action before the summer.

Written by Nick Amies