Who can forget the famous heist scene in the 1999 film remake of The Thomas Crown Affair? With Nina Simone’s song “Sinnerman” as the soundtrack, Thomas Crown’s accomplices—all sporting the signature bowler hat from the Magritte painting hanging in Crown’s Manhattan home—race through the Metropolitan Museum of Art to confuse the police as they try to nab Crown. Needless to say, Magritte’s painting plays a prominent role in the film. Crown’s love interest, investigator Catherine Banning, says it depicts “the stereotypical faceless businessman.” Indeed, the famous surrealist paintings inspire all kinds of conjectures among viewers. Here’s how Magritte himself described the painting called “The Son of Man”:
At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.
To get an up-close look at Magritte’s oeuvre, check out the Musée Magritte in Brussels, a cutting-edge exhibition space housed in a restored 19th century building on Place Royale in the heart of the city. Opened in June 2009, the Magritte Museum contains the world’s largest collection of works by Belgium’s “famous Surrealist son” including movies, photographs, and paintings. Magritte’s favorite subjects-- the signature bowler hats, birds, and pipes-- are featured in canvases displayed against black backdrops, the better to ponder Magritte’s profound influence on 20th century art. Open from Tuesday-Sunday; tickets cost 8 euros.
Note: The Brussels Card is a great way to visit the city. Available for 24, 48 or 72 hours, it offers free entry to over 30 museums, free use of public transports and exclusive offers in designers boutiques, shops, exhibitions, restaurants and attractions.