19th Anniversary of the René Magritte Museum

If the museum of Belgian Abstract Art is under construction, let’s not forget the original museum at the rue Esseghem dedicated to René Magritte. This week, the René Magritte museum celebrates its 19th anniversary. This institution opened its doors on June the 5th, 1999. This initiatives wouldn’t have been possible without the encounter between the curator André Garitte and Georgette Magritte (born Georgette Berger).

Georgette Berger in her garden at the rue Esseghem

Meeting with Georgette

The discovery of Surrealism dazzled the joung André Garitte during his youth. Eager to learn more about this movement, he contacted Georgette Magritte who modestly welcomed him in her villa at Schaerbeek, rue des Mimosas (north-east of Brussels). From this moment, the young art collector often visited Magritte’s widow.

When Georgette died in 1986, unfortunately nothing had been done to transform the last house of René Magritte into a museum. Georgette passed away before she had the chance to know any museum in honour of her husband, even thought she had dedicated the end of her life to diffuse her husband’s work.

In spite of everything, the will to create a place to celebrate René Magritte’s memory emerged from the encounter between André Garitte and Georgette, at a time where the official Belgian institutions didn’t realize the riches of Belgian Surrealism heritage yet. It was only after the discovery of the former painter’s house at 135 rue Esseghem (Jette, Brussels), and its historical importance that the young art collector André Garitte revived his project of museum.

André Garitte at Georgette’s funerals (on the far left). On the far right you can spot Harry Torczyner

A crazy project…which takes shape in 1999

The young collector bought the house at the 135 rue Esseghem, called the collectors who possessed original pieces of furniture, browsed the flea markets to find exact copies of the missing pieces, took contact with important witnesses like Jacqueline Nonckels (former neighbour and friend of the Magrittes)…

André Garitte with Jacqueline Nonckels at the grand opening of the museum in 1999 

From 1993 until 1999, André Garitte and a handful of loyal volunteers worked consistently to reconstruct the apartment. The result is impressive: a freeze-frame of the apartment where René Magritte had been living from 1930 until 1954.

Magritte’s bedroom before the reconstruction
Magritte’s bedroom after the renovation

Furthermore, a collector of art couldn’t do without a collection: on the floors of the house which were formerly occupied by neighbours, you can find a biographical collection about René Magritte: drawings, litho’s, watercolours, letters and original objects constitute this collection which helps to better understand the surrealist movement.

First floor of the exhibition

The René Magritte mueum was then born, in the former house that the artist occupied during 24 years and where he painted half of his work (800 pieces).

A tribute to Georgette for the 19th anniversary of the museum

Just this once, we wished to pay a tribute to Georgette for the anniversary of the museum.

In order to do this, we offer you an audio file about Georgette (in French). It’s a poetical way to come back to the life of Magritte’s partner and muse. You can listen to it here. (The translation will soon be available in English).

To be continued…

The museal project don’t stop there! During his lifetime André Garitte gathered an important collection of Belgian Abstract art. He wishes to open the first museum of Abstract art in Belgium next to the René Magritte museum, to show thereby an overview of the two most important Belgian Avant-Garde movements of the 20th century: Abstraction and Surrealism.

We want to open this museum for the 20th anniversary of our institution, next year, on spring 2019!


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