(toespraak bij de ontvangst van de internationale media naar aanleiding van de heropening van het Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten op het Zuid)
Dear members of the press, dear lovers of art,
A very warm welcome in Antwerp.
As vice mayor responsible for tourism I feel honoured to welcome you all, and I feel privileged to do so in such a magnificent setting.
It is often said Antwerpians are chauvinistic, tend to exaggerate when it comes to expressing pride in their city.
But there are reasons to be chauvinistic in Antwerp, believe me.
Let me quote from an independent source, British historian and broadcaster Michael Pye.
Just two years ago he published a book called ‘Antwerp, the glory years’, in which he describes Antwerp as Europe’s Babylon.
Michael Pye writes:
“Even before Amsterdam there was a dazzling North Sea port at the hub of the known world: the city of Antwerp.
Antwerp was sensational like nineteenth-century Paris or twentieth-century New York, somewhere anything could happen or at least be believed. For half the sixteenth century, it was the place for breaking rules – religious, sexual, intellectual. Thomas More opened Utopia there, Erasmus puzzled over money and exchanges, William Tyndale sheltered there and smuggled out his Bible in English until he was killed. Pieter Bruegel painted the town as The Tower of Babel. “
As you can tell from the quote from Michael Pye’s book, we owe a lot to our predecessors.
With the reopening of this museum Antwerp underlines its position as a place of culture, going back hundreds of years, with household names the likes of Rubens, Jordaens, Ensor, all of them presented here.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me ellaborate on Michael Pye’s description of Antwerp as ‘Europe’s Babylon’ :
I tend to describe Antwerp as a ‘pocketsized metropolis’.
Whatever you are looking for, don’t look any further. You will find it here.
Antwerp is an art destination,
Antwerp is a trade hub,
Antwerp is a destination for foodies,
Antwerp has the finest accomodation,
Antwerp has the historical heritage,
the innovative entrepreneurs,
the vibrant nightlife,
an equally vivid cultural scene,
Antwerp is a beacon of fashion, housing a world famous fashion academy and museum,
attracting designers and fashionistas alike,
it is a prime shopping destination,
and of course, ‘in Antwerp, we speak diamonds’
All of this and more, forming the A-typical brand which is Antwerp,
all of this and more, for you to discover.
Thanks, and enjoy the stay.