Tucked in next to – and dwarfed by – The Grand Mosque, this tiny temple is a building that’s uniquely and eerily fascinating. Art lovers will know at least one of the names in its unofficial title, The Pavilion Horta-Lanbeaux. That’s right, celebrated Art Nouveau artist Victor Horta had one of his earliest commissions building this edifice resembling a Greek temple. Typically of Horta, everything is not what it seems. The columns and angles of the building are deliberately out of line or out of shape, in an attempt to confuse and confound. It gives the building a somewhat unsettling nature but that’s nothing compared to what awaits you inside.
The sculptor Jef Lambeaux, long forgotten, except for this infamous piece, shocked and appalled Belgian society at the turn of the 19th century. Lambeaux was something of an “angry young man” and produced a sculpture of some 12 by 8 metres, depicting the “Passions Humaines” or Human Passions. The art press of the day were not so gentle, describing it as “…a pile of naked and contorted bodies, muscled wrestlers in delirium, an absolute and incomparable childish concept.” And this was just part of a scathing review.
The temple, famous for being designed by Horta, seems to have fared better than the sculpture it hides within. Due to the controversial nature of the piece – which was open to the public, as the pavilion had no front wall in those days – it was closed three days after inauguration and, following a few stuttering attempts to revive it, remained closed until 2002. It’s now fully renovated and open to the public. Well, sort of. It’s only open for two hours and a bit, and then only on three days of the week. Check the times on these pages before you go. You can buy a ticket from the Cinquantenaire ticket office in the Museum.
Metro – Merode