Belgium is celebrating flowers and surrealism

If elephants are really known for their sense of direction, what are nine of them doing in the heart of Brussels, seemingly lost between the gothic and baroque houses lining the UNESCO-protected Grand Place?

As of Friday, nothing is quite what it seems as the Belgian capital celebrates the nation's love of surrealism. The nine life-sized wooden elephants were brought in from the Verbeke art center, about an hour's drive north of Brussels, to be the prime attraction of Flowertime, a biennial festival highlighting the nation's fling with flowers.

Only this time, surrealism adds a twist. And no symbol is more potent than Rene Magritte's pipe, subtitled, "This is not a pipe." It is a painting of a pipe, after all โ€” and it has come to define Belgian surrealism ever since.

Now a similar non-pipe โ€” a sculpture of a pipe โ€” graces the interior yard of City Hall, which for the occasion has been renamed, "This is not a city hall." On the pipe sculpture, flowers hang over the edges of the pipe's bowl, like smoke billowing out.


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