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Sculpture's removal causes tension between Brussels and Interparking

06:34 08/06/2021

The removal of a sculpture by Belgian artist and architect Jacques Moeschal from the entrance of the Deux Portes underground car park in Brussels has caused a disagreement between the city authorities and the owners.

The imposing ‘hashtag’ shaped steel sculpture recently disappeared from its position outside the Interparking garage on Boulevard de Waterloo. While it is not as famous as Moeschal’s towering monument at Hensies on the Franco-Belgian border or his sculpture beside the motorway at Groot-Bijgaarden, its disappearance has raised eyebrows – and questions, specifically over the sculpture’s future and the authority to remove it.

It appears that it is car park operator Interparking who is behind the decision to remove the sculpture, not the Brussels region which manages the capital’s roads. "This sculpture belongs to Interparking,” insists Roland Cracco, the CEO of Interparking. "This sculpture is about 50 years old and has been dismantled so that it can be moved for inspection and restoration."

"These sculptures, which are made of weathering steel, have been subjected to bad weather and pollution for many years,” Cracco continued. “As we have found on other similar sculptures that we own, these kinds of sculptures suffer from corrosion problems."

As a result, Cracco says, the sculpture could present a danger to the public in its current state. “As this sculpture weighs between three and 3.5 tonnes, the risk is that it could tip over in time" and seriously injure a person in the entrance of the parking lot. "It is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of this sculpture, given its position. On the other hand, we must ensure that after a good renovation carried out in respect of the art, it can be enjoyed for another 60 years."

Where the sculpture ends up after its renovation is, at the moment, unclear. Interparking owns several artworks by Moeschal, who died in 2004, and it is entirely possible that Boulevard de Waterloo may have seen the last of the ‘hashtag’.

Cracco does not rule out the rotation of the Moeschal sculptures it owns, "so that as many people as possible can enjoy them,” he says.

“For example, we have a Moeschal which is going to go to Florence, in a beautiful car park. Locals and tourists there will be able to enjoy it. Other sculptures by Moeschal that were displayed at car parks that have since been demolished have also been placed elsewhere."

However, the possibility that the sculpture from the Deux Portes car park could leave Boulevard de Waterloo, or even Brussels entirely, is not one that the city is willing to entertain. Pascal Smet, secretary of state for town planning, says there is no question that the sculpture must remain on Boulevard de Waterloo. "It seems logical to me,” he said, “It has been in this place for so long and must return," even after the boulevard itself has been redeveloped.

"We have already had contact with Interparking to find out why this sculpture was removed. Officially, it is for a restoration. Rumours, however, suggest it has been sold. This needs to be clarified. In the meantime, a report has been drawn up following its removal for breach of the Brussels town planning code. To unilaterally proceed with the removal of such a work of art is still bizarre to me. To my knowledge, this is a unique case."

The dialogue between the Brussels region and Interparking will remain private as the authorities do not want to cause a public feud with the operator, a major player in the city’s underground parking structure.

"It is not our intention, today, to sell the work," responded Cracco. "A future generation will, maybe. What is certain is that we instead intend to buy more sculptures by Moeschal to complete our collection."

Written by Nick Amies

Comments

Frank Lee

Wait, that was a sculpture? I'd always thought that the contractor who built the parking had left some extra metal beams lying there and forgotten to haul them away...

Jun 8, 2021 15:49