The European Quartier in Brussels is home to the headquarters of the European Union and its institutions. Amidst the neighbourhood's buildings and public space are sculptures, street art murals and even a number of pieces of the Berlin Wall. These genuine historical monuments are dotted around the area's streets, parks and squares.
What is the story behind these works? Who are the artists? This is what we invite you to discover below through fourteen emblematic European Quarter artworks.
1. Bust of Robert Schuman, Nat Neujean, 1964 (Cinquantenaire Park, by the entrance on rue de la Loi)
Schuman was a French political figure. He is considered to be the original "father of Europe". Involved in politics from the end of the First World War, Robert Schuman, as French Minister of Foreign Affairs, took a very active part in the preparation of all the major treaties of that period. The bronze bust of Schuman - declared a heritage piece in 1976 - was placed at the entrance to Cinquantenaire Park in 1987.
2. Wounded But Still Standing in Front of the Inconceivable, Jean-Henri Compère, 2017 (rue de la Loi, between Schuman roundabout and avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée)
“Wounded But Still Standing in Front of the Inconceivable”, was the overriding phrase from the conception of this piece. This sculpture by Brussels artist Jean-Henri Compère commemorates the terrorist attack of 22 March 2016, a few short steps away, on a train at Maelbeek metro station, which killed 17 people and injured more than 100 others.
3. European Citizens, Suzanne Boerner, 2017 (behind the Berlaymont building, on the crossroads of Rue Stévin, Rue Franklin and Rue Archimède)
In 1957, 6 countries signed the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), which preceded what is now the European Union. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the neighbourhood's shop owners' association, with the support of the City of Brussels, had 15 human-sized steel sculptures by German artist Suzanne Boerner installed at the back of the Berlaymont building.
4. The Kennedy Piece - section of the Berlin Wall, inaugurated in 2015 (rue de la Loi, 200)
In 2009, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To mark the occasion, a dozen or so sections of this former territorial and ideological frontier were set up in Brussels, on Place du Luxembourg. A few months later, all but three of them left for Germany. In 2015, the piece featuring former US president John F. Kennedy was acquired by the European Commission, which had it restored and installed in a glass structure on the esplanade of the Berlaymont building.
5. Monument for Robert Schuman, Hardouin, 1968 (in front of the Berlaymont, rue de la Loi, 200)
The 4 sides of this rock monument bear an inscription expressing Schuman's key role in the construction of European unity, in the languages of the countries that made up Europe in the 1960s.
6. The Muses, René Julien, 1996-1998 (rue de la Loi, 170)
These eight female characters reflect sculptor René Julien's passion for anatomy. They also exude lightness, youth and a carefree spirit, which are important assets for the construction of Europe.
7. The Future is Europe, NovaDead, 2017 (rue de la Loi, 103)
Atenor, a property development company in the European Quarter, offered up this enormous 530 m² gable wall on one of Brussels' busiest streets as a canvas. The work was entrusted to NovaDead, an artist with a background in graffiti. Symbolically, a bird represents the values of peace and freedom, while the yellow and blue colours refer to the colours of the European flag.
8. Stepping Forward, Hanneke Beaumont, 2007 (rue de la Loi, 145)
The Council of the European Union, housed in the Justus Lipsius building, welcomes visitors with an imposing bronze sculpture of a man "taking a step forward". The artist, of Dutch origin, added a new dimension to his work: the necessary search for balance, as Europe remains a young institution in search of stability…
9. Europa Riding the Bull, Léon de Pas, 1997 (rue de la Loi, 175)
Our continent owes its name to Greek mythology. Europa was a princess kidnapped by Zeus who, in order to go unnoticed and thus better accomplish his misdeed, took on the appearance of a bull. This theme has been extensively used throughout the history of art. The sculpture by de Pas, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the birth of Europe, is made up of a skeleton of copper and steel tubes, covered with bronze plates.
10. Unity in Peace, Bernard Romain, 2003 (square van Maerlant)
This creation is the result of a collaborative work, carried out by a French artist, with the help of visually impaired children from numerous countries. The symbolism here is quite obvious. 2003 was devoted to two main themes: people with disabilities and the enlargement of the Union towards the East. The many different coloured arms support a united Europe, surmounted by the symbol of peace par excellence: the dove.
The work is over 5 metres long and weighs 800 kg.
11. Ariane, Jean-Paul Laenen, 1991 (Footbridgepath over rue Belliard)
The artist placed two statues of Ariadne, which extend a thread across a footbridge. In Greek mythology, Ariadne's thread helped Theseus to escape from the labyrinth. Since then, Ariadne's thread has been seen as a guiding thread, a reassuring landmark to follow. This artwork reflects how Europe, a relatively young institution, is searching for its identity, but is giving itself the means to find its way.
12. Berlin Wall, 100m world record, 1994 (rue Wiertz, by the Hemicycle)
This section of the Berlin wall recalls an international event that took place after the fall of the wall. The graffiti depicts the 100m world record being set in Switzerland in 1994 by an American athlete.
13. Europa, May Claerhout, 1993 (Espace Léopold, rue Wiertz)
This bronze statue magnifies the back of the European Parliament. Once again, it depicts Princess Europa, supported by bodies and arms, symbolising the different countries of the Union. Europe wears a €, inspired by the Greek letter epsilon, ancestor of the E.
14. 16 metres high painting, Guillaume Bottazzi, 2017 (place Jourdan)
Bottazzi is an artist who loves gigantism. His painting on Place Jourdan - 16 metres high and 7 metres wide - was executed in the style of the ancient painters. 2017 was a bit gloomy, with the capital still reeling from the terrorist attacks of March 2016 and then the Brexit referendum in the UK. According to Bottazzi, he hoped his work might "activate zones of pleasure".