Apollo Magazine

In Brussels, where the streets have new names

A competition to name 28 streets has come up with some surprisingly sensible and delightfully silly choices

The Royal Entrepot in the Tour & Taxis area of Brussels.

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Delightful news from Brussels, where plans have been approved to name 28 streets in the Tour & Taxis area after some of the country’s finest cultural exports. Belgian citizens were asked to send in suggestions, which resulted in some 1,400 options and the final decision being taken by city officials, heritage experts and the property developer who acquired the site in 1999.

Anyone expecting tributes to those famous Belgians Jacques Brel, Hergé, or Jean-Claude Van Damme may, however, be disappointed. The winning suggestions are tilted towards the country’s gastronomy (Passage du Speculoos, Passage de la Frite) and its 20th-century visual culture. The film director and artist Chantal Akerman has been honoured with her own street, while René Magritte is commemorated with a path leading past some disused railway sheds. In an inspired nod to his painting La trahison des images (1929), this undistinguished thoroughfare has been christened ‘Ceci n’est pas une rue’.

Artists are already well represented in Bruxellois road taxonomy: Rubens, Van Dyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Marcel Broodthaers and James Ensor all have streets named after them. But do spare a thought for figures such as Raoul De Keyser, Léon Spilliaert and Paul Delvaux who have yet to be celebrated in this way. The Rake suspects he may well be alone in lamenting the absence of Plastic Bertrand from the Brussels A–Z.

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