Capital of Culture 2007 (Luxembourg)


This time last week we were in Luxembourg which as I am sure you know is the current European Capital of Culture 2007.

Actually, I’m very aware that not many people have been following events in this year’s Capital or indeed last year’s (Patras). This makes me think that perhaps not all the eyes of the world will be on our city or even visiting here next year. This is quite a shock but really its not such a big deal is it, there’s a culture capital every year and they barely get a mention in their own national press never mind globally. Though, obviously, it is going to be a fantastic year here and I’ll enjoy the whole thing, we should not get carried away and over-estimate the importance of this 1 years event.

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Its the closing ceremony next week and like all good culture capitals there are still plenty of cranes on building sites and though all the important buildings such as the marvelous new Museum of Modern Art and the Philharmonic Hall were complete, they are still finishing off the surrounding landscaping.
To be precise its not just the city itself but also the whole Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as well as the French and the German-speaking Communities of Belgium, Lorraine in France and Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland in Germany. We only had 2 days so we stuck to Luxembourg starting with a visit to the lovely town of Clervaux in the north where ‘The Greatest Photographic Exhibition of All Time’ is exhibiting in Chateau de Clervaux. ‘The Family of Man‘ was realised in 1955 by Edward Steichen for MOMA in New York and is over 500 photographs by many great photographers from 68 countries and is divided into several themes such as love, family, birth, death, war and peace. Some very familiar images here and I’m delighted to have seen it.

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Luxembourg the country is very small so it takes less than an hour on the wonderful smooth, spacious, double-decker train to reach Luxembourg Ville in the south. I could happily travel on those trains every day instead of the tiny sardine tins we have to tolerate here.

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The buses are good too but the good and cheap transport is in contrast to the attitudes on things like smoking and hunting. We had to endure smoke-filled bars and restaurants (a stark reminder of how awful it was in the UK only a few months ago) and though the signage for the Capital of Culture venues is a big blue stag one popular pass-time here is to go out and shoot the real thing in the surrounding forests. There’s a lot of fur coats on display here.
Apart from the stags and a few banners on the high street there’s not a lot of evidence of the C. of C. – No big 07 Banners or ‘dressing’ of buildings or giant TV screens.

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Strangely, the biggest exhibition in the city (at the Casino Luxembourg) while we were there was all about shit. Honestly. ‘Cloaca‘ is Wim Delvoye’s project to recreate the human digestive system mechanically. He feeds food into one end, it passes through various bottles, pipes and machines to be digested and eventually exits as quite realistic faeces. The machine takes up a whole room and is interesting and amusing. You can even buy various Cloaca merchandise. The problem is Delvoye has created several versions of this machine over a few years and most of them are here, a different one in each room and some of them stink.

Across the tracks in what seems to be the ‘edgier’ side of town there are the Rotondes – two Roundhouses, one is used for performance and other for an exhibition called ‘Global Multitude’ which includes works by international artists such as Huang Yong Ping, Abel Abdessemed, Jimmie Durham and Shen Yuan.

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In the Museum of Modern Art (Mudam) there are several exhibitions including works by Glen Ligon, Francois Boisrond, the fantastic wax sculptures of Pascal Convert and large soap sculptures by Jan Wanggaard plus lots of others, a really nice cafe and shop too. I wish this place was in Liverpool.

Another interesting venue is the Am Tunnel which is 4 floors underground an office block. I don’t know why its there, its a long corridor which takes a few turns before you reach the end and have to walk all the way back. The walls are covered with photographic exhibitions – A retrospective of David Seymour and Classics of Werner Bischof.

We walked and saw a lot in our short visit and there’s a hell of a lot we didn’t see, I wouldn’t describe Luxembourg as a lively, buzzing place like Liverpool but there’s plenty for the cultural tourist.