Please find driving directions and map below the main text
La Louvière was just a forgotten hamlet in the midst of the wealthy Borinage, the land of coal and steel. Until, in 1841, the Luxemburg brothers Boch spotted it as the perfect place to start a factory of ceramics, the ‘Manufacture de Keramis’. It’s the age of industrialised mass production, so they built eight huge brick ovens. Three of these early ‘fours bouteilles’ have survived and are now the heart of the new ‘Centre de la Céramique’, which opened in May earlier this year.
A contemporary concrete building with an odd outside decoration, like the skin of a grey giraffe, stands at the side of a huge empty square, which, unfortunately, is all that remains after the demolition of the factory buildings in 2010.
Keramis Boch has a really glamorous past. Besides producing utilitarian earth ware, the Boch family also looked for added value. They attracted famous artists to drive the development of decorative products: copy-Chinese, Delft-like but finally also original, contemporary creations.
In 1906 Boch Frères hired the French artist Charles Catteau, who started the ‘Atelier de Fantaisie’, the art department, which he supervised until his retirement in 1946. He managed a continuous high quality output with the heyday around 1923-1928, when they produced really beautifully decorated Art Deco ceramics. Today, Catteau-Keramis vases remain collectors’ items. After our visit you will recognize them at first glance in museums all over the world.
After a local Italian lunch (most locals have Italian roots), we drive to the nearby village of Le Roeulx (some 12 km).
In the context of “Mons, Cultural Capital of Europe 2015” an important exhibition of contemporary art – “Clouds” – is organised on the grounds of the ‘Château du Roeulx’, since six centuries the property of the family de Croy, one of the country’s oldest noble families. The house is nowadays the private home of Prince Olivier de Croÿ and the exhibition is therefore limited to the park, the Orangery and the stables.
Besides finding here a treasure of top creations from various internationally reputed artists (guided visit in English and Dutch), this is also a rare opportunity to have a look on the House and the estate.
By train: Railway station La Louvière-Centre. 53 minutes travel time from Brussels-Central, see NMBS time schedules. Ten minutes walking to the museum, situated between the station and ‘centre ville’, direction ‘maison communale’. Please inform the day’s organizer to arrange carpooling.
By car: 50 minutes from Brussels along E19, exit A501 La Louvière – !GPS: Boulevard des Droits de l’Homme. Lots of parking space around the big square, at Louvexpo or behind the ‘maison communale’