My secret life

Sorry, we're closed

I have lived in Brussels long enough to know that museum opening hours are harder to figure out than the Dead Sea scrolls. I remember the Museum of Art and History used to annoy tourists by closing half of its rooms one day and the other half the next day. So if it was Tuesday, you could look at the Mesopotamian art but you had to return on Wednesday to enjoy the Gothic sculpture.

The Museum of Fine Art can be just as irritating in its own way by closing the ancient art department from 12-1 pm and the modern art from 1-2 pm. Or is it the other way round? However carefully I read the times, I always arrive in Surrealist Art just as they are throwing everyone out.

The Wiertz Museum is even more annoying. This small museum is located in a beautiful 19th century artist’s studio just behind the European Parliament. The French magazine GEO recently listed it as one of the most beautiful museums in the world.

You can judge for yourself. Or you could, if the gate wasn’t bolted shut. Fermé, reads the sign. Gesloten, it says in the other language of Brussels, just to make it clear to everyone.

The opening hours here can reduce a tourist to tears. The museum is closed every day for lunch. And it is closed every other weekend. But they don’t tell you which weekend. Even on those weekends when it is open, you must book a group visit for a minimum of ten people.

Did I hear a scream? I’m not surprised. The paintings on show inside (which you of course will never see) are largely devoted to despair.

One painting shows a Belgian woman so gripped by hunger that she has boiled her baby in a stewing pot. Another work shows a man blowing out his brains with a revolver.

He may have been trying to get into the Wiertz Museum on a Saturday.