The monumental work Magic City by Jean-Michel Folon, installed in the Montgomery metro station, suffers. Installed in the mid-1970s, it is in poor condition, undergoing internal pollution and above all damage linked to water infiltration.
Its restoration is a puzzle, mainly because the work is hung on the concrete of the station and therefore fixed there permanently. There is no way to take it down to store it and give it a new lease of life, especially as the major renovation project for the station is approaching between 2026 and 2031.
150 square meters
Some worry about this 150 square meter painting which we owe to a world famous artist, died in 2005. The work represents arcs of circles in the colors of the rainbow with a sun in the center that floods the composition. For Julien Uyttendaele, deputy PS, a restoration is necessary. It has been overdue for almost 15 years. “The infiltrations caused limescale deposits which were cleaned and a contract for cleaning any flows was concluded for three years while waiting to be able to restore the fresco.“, recalled this Tuesday the deputy in committee of the Brussels Parliament.
A cleaning but not yet a deep restoration. The work is not classified but “is part, like all the works of art in the metro and premetro stations, of inventory of regional movable heritage“, explains Elke Van den Brandt, Groen Minister of Public Works and responsible for Brussels Mobility. It is this administration which manages the metro stations of the capital.
“Studies and restorations that have been carried out in the past, since 1975. Budgets have been foreseen up to 50,000 euros in 2015. In 2019, specific specifications were provided for conservation and preventive maintenance for an amount of 26,000 euros, for a period of three years. ” The total amount spent for this work is 109,000 euros for the period 1975-2022.
The waterproofness of the Montgomery fountain?
But we have said it: the evil is deeper. Simple cleanings are not enough. We must find the problem at the origin of the deterioration of the work, namely the infiltrations. “Several tests have been carried out by different companies. Two avenues have been explored: that of the waterproofing of the fountain at Place Montgomery and that of a poor connection of the sewers.“
Conclusion: neither of the two! “The problem lies in the level of the overall tightness given that infiltration is perceptible in many places of the station. The sustainable solution is to achieve the overall waterproofing of the subway cover slab under the road.“
Frequent cleaning of the work is very delicate
A general cleaning contract for works of art in metro and premetro stations was signed at the end of February. The one relating to “Magic City” is being investigated: it should last three years. Nevertheless “frequent cleaning of the work is very delicate given the fragile nature of the central layer weakened by humidity. Hence the establishment of a specific conservation and maintenance contract.“
It should be remembered that at the end of the renovation of the Montgomery station, “Magic City” will be joined by its sister work, “The Magic City”. “The Magic City“is a monumental composition in ceramic tiles by the artist Jean-Michel Folon dating from 1981. Made for the former headquarters of Crédit communal in the center of Brussels, it was dismantled and stored by the Brussels Region which covers all costs .