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This is not a museum

A new Magritte Museum opens in Brussels.

BRUSSELS — Rene Magritte, Belgium’s master Surrealist, discovered home movies when he was in his 60s. But when he did get his hands on a camera there was no holding him and his fellow Surrealists back, as they filmed themselves cavorting around the small Brussels town garden with a Prussian helmet, sea shells and a tuba. A cache of these films is among the treasures at Belgium’s new Magritte Museum, which opens in Brussels June 2.

“We own 40 Super 8 films,” said project manager Virginie Devillez. “Magritte had given them to someone to edit, who made a mess of it. We painstakingly restored them to their original condition and digitized them.” Only eight films are on show in the museum, Devillez explained, because many include vacation footage — “three minutes of a gondola bobbing up and down."

Die-hard Magritte fans curious to see the bobbing gondola can view all the films (among other things) on a website that offers access to the entire Magritte archive and more. The website’s powerful search engine is one of the many items contributed in lieu of cash by the utilities giant GDF-Suez, adding up to 6.5 million euros ($9.1 million). The company also contributed expertise in such areas as photovoltaic energy, LED modules and “green” electricity.

The Magritte Museum is the realization of the long-held dream of Michel Draguet, the curator of Brussels’ Museum of Fine Arts, who handed over a 19th century building attached to his vast museum complex. The main problem for interior designer Winston Spriet was that the building was studded with windows. His solution was to create a double-skin to separate the rooms from the facade, with all the technical infrastructure inside it.

Displayed chronologically in the dimly lit dark coffee, sea green and Magritte blue rooms are such masterpieces as two versions of Magritte's "Empire of Lights," "The Return" and "The Domain of Arnheim" inspired by the story by Edgar Alan Poe, and a fine selection of works from his controversial Vache period, despised at the time but now loved by young artists. Outside, on the facade, by day and night, luminous Magritte-style clouds appear to drift inside the windows.