Today our “Who’s Who at Autoworld” section has the pleasure of introducing the man thanks to whom the museum truly turned into a living, dynamic and welcoming museum. Appointed Autoworld’s Managing Director just ten years ago, Sébastien de Baere loves to state that he is not alone in bringing life to the museum and that he is surrounded by a terrific team. True! But despite everything he is the driving force.
When arriving at Autoworld in January 2011 in my capacity of Managing Director of Autoworld, I had over a few years already built up a fair amount of experience in the field of events and saw the enormous potential Autoworld had to offer, a truly exceptional place. On the other hand, the museum part was another story. For me this was a considerable challenge, but I was young and naïve, and I accepted the challenge and then … I learned on the job. In hindsight I have come to realise that I was in the right place at the right time. I was fortunate to immediately receive the support and trust of the Board of Directors, of Mr Herman De Croo, the President of the museum, of Mr Marcel Seys, at that time the museum’s CEO, and especially that of Mr Roland D’Ieteren, who was my mentor.
My biggest challenge was to raise the team’s morale. I presented them new ideas, and a strategic plan for the years to come. I gave them a vision and I saw that they believed in it. In order for a strategy to work, one needs, on the one hand, the support of the directors and on the other, to generate a sense of pride and belonging within a team. We therefore set about rejuvenating the collection which retained somewhat too many pre-war cars, the creation of new zones and the organising of temporary exhibitions to keep visitors coming back several times a year …
Some eight years ago we also created the concept of “Friends”, a group of impassioned volunteers that meets at the museum once a month to spruce up the cars and receive technical information.
Another one of our achievements, of which I’m particularly proud, is the creation of a European network of museums displaying multi makes. A great way of getting people to talk about us abroad.
Organising temporary exhibitions is always a terrific adventure. We spend a long time working on these. Near on two years for the end-of-the year biennial exhibitions. The team is particularly creative and enthusiastic! We want to take our visitors by surprise and ensure that each major exhibition is even more ‘Wow” than the previous one. This places us under enormous pressure to always have to reinvent ourselves … but, when the inaugural night arrives, the doors open and the public goes into ecstasy…for me this is truly the apotheosis, a moment that invigorates me intensely. And when a personality such as Wolfgang Porsche tells you, during the inauguration of the exhibition dedicated to his grandfather, that it perfectly embodies and exactly mirrors what the history of the Porsche make represents and that he would have done the same thing himself … we are on cloud nine…
There are obviously many other magic moments. For instance when a spectacular car arrives. The truck stops on the Esplanade, opens its doors and the car reverses out … it gives me goose bumps each time. Did you know that more than 3000 cars have passed over the museum’s podiums in ten years? It’s fabulous! And yet there are still a horde of cars I would love to welcome to Autoworld. For example, an original Aston Martin DB4 GT dating from 1961 whose designer, Ercole Spada, we had the honour of welcoming here during a private party.
It would be impossible for me to rattle off all the extraordinary experiences I have lived through these last ten years, such as the day the American Ambassador came, accompanied by Jay Leno, the American star presenter of the “The Tonight Show”, an incredible enthusiast and collector of classic cars and an extremely approachable man.
It’s fabulous to make a living from one’s passion! There isn’t a day I have arrived at the museum dragging my feet. After ten years it’s always a pleasure to say to myself “what fun thing are we going to do today?” I’m truly fortunate.
I still have loads of dreams and plans for Autoworld. Deep down inside I dream of organising a ginormous and compelling exhibition that would attract visitors from around the world. An exhibition aimed at the general public, broader than the car, and whose tickets would be sold months in advance... I haven’t worked out the concept as yet … but it will come. I’m pretty confident :)