The Boghossian Foundation’s exhibition How will it end? and events are accessible only on presentation of the Covid safe ticket

The Villa Empain is at once an essential meeting place of Brussels’ artistic and cultural life, and a remarkable testament to the Art Deco movement.

Built at the beginning of the 1930s by architect Michel Polak at the initiative of Baron Louis Empain, it has reflected the history of Brussel throughout its past lives as successively private house, museum, USSR Embassy, and headquarters of Luxembourg television channel RTL. Partially destroyed and vandalized, it was abandoned in a deplorable state at the beginning of the 1980s. The Boghossian Foundation acquired the Villa Empain in 2006 and began working on its restoration, a process which would take four years. This complex and delicate restoration project, carried out with meticulous respect for the building’s history, was crowned with the European Union’s Europa Nostra prize. The Villa opened in 2010 as a Centre for Art and Dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures.

A few historical landmarks

1929

On 24 December 1929, Baron Louis Empain buys a building plot on the Avenue des Nations in Brussels. The Avenue was later renamed Avenue Franklin Roosevelt.

1931

Louis Empain entrusts the design and construction of his villa to Swiss architect Michel Polak.

1937

On 22 September 1937, Louis Empain donates his property to the Belgian state in order to be used as a museum of contemporary decorative arts.

1937-1943

The National High School La Cambre manages the Museum of Contemporary Decorative Arts at the villa and organises several exhibitions there.

1940-1945

The villa is used by the Military Cartographic Institute and is requisitioned in 1943 by the German army of occupation.

1947-1963

At the initiative of Paul-Henri Spaak, the USSR embassy moves into the villa. Louis Empain questions his donation. “The Belgian state has deliberately chosen to ignore the condition subject to which the donation was made, by renting the building to the Russians, despite the protests made by Baron Louis Empain”. Camille Huysmans, Minister for Public Education and representing the Belgian state, helps annul the donation.

1963

Louis Empain regains ownership of his villa.

1965-1973

At the initiative of Louis Empain, the Villa becomes a cultural centre where artistic exhibitions and events are held.

1973

Baron Louis Empain sells his property to Tobesco s.a. (Belgo International Estate).

1981-1993

The RTL (Radio Télévision Luxembourgeoise) leases the villa and establishes its Belgian headquarters there.

2001

The Villa is registered on the Brussels heritage protection list.

2002-2005

The Villa Empain is partially destroyed and suffers many acts of vandalism.

2006

Albert and Jean Boghossian acquire the Villa on behalf of the Boghossian Foundation.

2007

In March, the Villa is classified as a heritage monument by the Brussels-Capital Region.

2008-2010

On 24 January 2008 the Boghossian Foundation requests planning permission for the restoration of the Villa Empain. This is granted on 21 November 2008. Architects Francis Metzger and Philippe De Bloos are entrusted with the restoration of the villa. Head contractors: Valens – Jacques Delens temporary joint venture and Dimension 7.

2010

On 21 April 2010, at the initiative of the Boghossian Foundation, official opening of the Centre for Art and Dialogue between the cultures of the East and the West – the Villa Empain. Public opening the following day.

2011

On 10 June 2011, the restoration of the Villa Empain is honoured with a European Union Heritage / Europa Nostra award. The prize is handed over by Ms Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Multilingualism and by Mr Placido Domingo, President of Europa Nostra.