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Palais Stoclet comes one step closer to opening its doors

14:44 25/02/2024

Brussels’ Palais Stoclet – the beautiful and iconic building on the Avenue de Tervuren near the Montgomery roundabout – is arguably as famous for its impossible access as its incredibly luxurious exterior and interior.

The palace was built by Austrian architect Josef Hoffman between 1905 and 1911 for the banker and art collector Adolphe Stoclet. It was classified in 2009 by Unesco as a “masterpiece of the creative genius of the Viennese Secession”, a kind of Austrian adaptation of Art Nouveau.

“A symbol of constructive and aesthetic modernity in the West at the beginning of the 20th century,” the palace had “a considerable influence on the birth of Art Deco,” Unesco said.

Indeed, designed without financial or aesthetic limits, the palace and garden ensemble forms a total work of art, with a marked geometry that shows a break with Art Nouveau.

But despite several pleas, its owners, Stoclet’s descendants, have continued to refuse entry. They argue that a steady stream of visitors would risk damaging the palace’s stunning works of art that include Gustav Klimt mosaics, Fernand Khnopff paintings and exquisite Art Deco furniture.

In the latest attempt to make the heirs change their mind, Brussels' Council of State has approved a proposal for a draft ordinance that would make the palace at least partially accessible to the public a few days a year.

“This ordinance respects the balance between the principles of Belgian and international law linked to private property on the one hand and the collective interest of culture and heritage on the other,” Brussels secretary of state in charge of heritage Ans Persoons said.

“We are now working on modifications to the text so it can be adopted in second and third reading by the Brussels government,” she said, adding: “We always remain ready and willing to talk to the family to move towards the opening of the palace.”

While further disputes are likely if not inevitable, Persoons still sees this ruling as “a new step toward promoting and rediscovering this Brussels jewel, part of our collective heritage”.

Her ultimate aim is to allow everyone to visit this incredible building covered by white marble and topped by Franz Metzner’s gleaming copper statues of muscular males.

While you wait, until 14 April you can visit Brussels’ Art and History museum’s fascinating exhibition ‘Falling for Beauty’. Detailing the life and work of the man behind the Palais – Josef Hoffman – it includes ‘Stoclet 1911 – Restitution’.

This side exhibition and digital reproduction, presented as a film, takes visitors on a tour of the Palais Stoclet interiors – so finally you can see the jewels, paintings and furniture inside.

Written by Liz Newmark