Just one day after the grand unveiling of Brussels’ newly-restored Stock Exchange building or Bourse, a statue has been damaged.
Lions and torchbearers
At the entrance to the 19th-century building, two statues portray lions and men bearing burning torches lighting up the way in. Now, in less than a day, only one statue still bears his torch – the other having broken off when a drunken Irish tourist clambered on the monument for a photograph.
The recent renovations to the Stock Exchange represent years’ worth of work and cost 90 million euros. Re-restoring the torch alone will now cost in the region of an additional 17,600 euros.
Will the culprit pay?
Brussels Stock Exchange management are reported by Het Niewsblad as seeking to recover costs from the tourist.
The alleged culprit was arrested in a fast-food restaurant a short time after the incident, supposedly unaware of having done any damage, according to Het Niewsblad. Video footage filmed by passersby suggests otherwise, showing a person climbing on the statue, leaning heavily on the torchbearer’s arm, and watching as the torch snaps off.
What is the Stock Exchange?
The Bourse palace, as it was once known, was built in 1868 on the site of the Butter Market, in a blended neo-Renaissance Second Empire style that suited the wide elegant avenues that came with the Brussels’ growth. Having been a seat of finance and then abandoned, it has now been opened to the public once more, in the form of museums, co-working spaces, and impressive public plazas. Artwork includes sculptures by Rodin.
City centre behaviours
A recent analysis by CNN looks at the example of Italy as a ‘living museum’ with which the public must learn to live differently to conserve priceless artefacts. The way Italy is perceived as a ‘place with no rules’ does not, it is argued, help the cause.
In Brussels, similarly perhaps, perception about behaviours in the city centre, could be key. The renovations of Bourse may be (almost) complete, and they come amid a green pedestrianisation of the city’s main axes where the foliage is finally beginning to soften the edges.
Nonetheless, changing the public’s relationship with and behaviour around a building and an area that has for some long been associated with homelessness, begging and public drinking will not happen overnight. In the meantime, is more damage what we should expect?