On Saturday, 24th September, the renovated Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) finally reopened its doors. After 11 years of construction and renovation it once again welcomed the public. Flanders’ leading museum has been undergoing a radical rebuilding and expansion gaining 40% more of exhibition space. The exceptional art collection has also been given complete restoration and conservation treatments. The masterpieces will once again resume their place in the museum rooms and from this week, the public will be able to explore seven centuries of outstanding art in a completely new scenography.
“The opening of KMSKA is the cultural highlight of 2022. Museums are important in a society. They are not only the living memory of generations past, they are also places that respond to developments in society. Museums are at the very summit as beacons of confidence and hope. In these uncertain times, they have an increasingly significant role to play. The KMSKA houses the largest art collection in Flanders. At last, after a long world tour, our Flemish Masters are back home!” – Minister President Jan Jambon
For 11 years, the KMSKA was closed to the public. During that time, the historic building was renovated and a new pure white volume was added. The new addition is an infill in the historic patios, creating a 40% additional exhibition space. Dikkie Scipio of KAAN Architecten created two worlds in one building. Even before its opening, the museum as a building was already winning awards.
“Renovating and extending a monument is quite a responsibility. It requires understanding the new use, it requires knowledge of and respect for the past and a vision for the future. The overall result is a building that both balances and challenges. The rebuilding was a unique experience, which did not follow the ordinary paths of an architectural project in any way. A great many people contributed, with their hands and/or heads, to the result that we can now celebrate and for whichI owe everyone many thanks.” – Dikkie Scipio, KAAN Architecten.
It has just been announced that eight top pieces from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam will be exhibited for five years in the reopened KMSKA. Not only has the building been renovated; attention has also been given to a renewed collection presentation. To place the Antwerp collection in a wider context and to increase the impact of the themes among the public, it is being enriched with eight long-term loans. Works by artists such as Dalí, Kokoschka, Jan Toorop, Delacroix and Bill Viola stand out during the long-awaited reopening. This exceptional and long-term loan has been made possible as the museum in Rotterdam will be closed until 2029 for a major renovation.
The KMSKA Collection
With 8,400 pieces, the KMSKA’s collection is the largest and most valuable in Flanders: seven centuries of art from Flemish Primitives to Expressionists with world-famous masters including the largest collection in the world of James Ensor and Rik Wouters.
The collection is the result of the eclectic tastes of collectors and directors from different eras. The oldest work dates from the early 14th century. While the KMSKA owns art mainly from Belgium and the Southern Netherlands, it also has a good number of international masterpieces of exceptional quality.
“We have resolutely chosen to present the collection within two major periods. We show the old masters in the historic part, the moderns in the new volume. At the pivotal point is situated the artist James Ensor. We have the largest collection of Ensor in the world. He will be allocated an entire wing.” – Carmen Willems, general director
“The KMSKA is too often still only associated with old masters. Thanks to the space gained, our fantastic collection of modern art gets the place it deserves. Moreover, we can now display works by James Ensor and Antwerp artist Rik Wouters. We also possess the largest collection of Wouters worldwide.” – Luk Lemmens, chairman KMSKA vzw