Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Down to earth

The painting you're looking at (click to biggify) is The Fall of Icarus, a magnificent painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder which as I write is housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. But perhaps not for much longer.

Air Libre is an association of residents of the outer suburbs of Brussels who fall under the flight-path of the majority of aircraft taking off from the national airport at Zaventem. They have battled through the courts to oblige the government to do something about aircraft noise, and they won. At a price, mind you: new rules on noise levels caused DHL to promise to up sticks and move to Frankfurt, which is a disaster for the local economy.

As of last Tuesday, a deadline set by the courts, Air Libre had the right to claim damages from the government of €5,000 for every offence against noise-levels rules. To give an idea of how often that happens, the group went with a bailiff to one spot and measured noise levels in one afternoon, and thereby made itself a tidy €50 grand.

The government has no intention of paying, so Air Libre has had the brilliant idea of taking their payment in goods. And they have their eye on Breughel's painting, which was the subject of a great poem by WH Auden, which you can read here. It would be hard to think of a more fitting outcome. And the idea of one of the masterpieces of Western art hanging above some family's couch as the planes continue to thunder overhead fills me with delight. So long as they make their livingroom available to the art-loving public at a convenient hour every once in a while, I can't see any problem with the situation at all.