Grand reopening of the Fine Arts Museum Antwerp (KMSKA) in Belgium

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Editor-in-Chief Kevin Flanagan meets with H.E. The Ambassador of Belgium, Karen Van Vlierberge 

KMSKA

On Tuesday, 28th June 2022, I met with H.E. The Ambassador of Belgium, Karen Van Vlierberge, at her residence in Dublin.    

The occasion was to mark the re-opening of Antwerp’s Fine Arts Museum (KMSKA) on 24th September this year, after nearly 11 years of closure. Also there on the day was Anita Rampall, the Press Manager for VisitFlanders.  

It was a fabulous lunch and a great honour to speak with the Ambassador and members of the team that are involved in promoting the reopening. 

Kevin with H.E. The Ambassador of Belgium, Karen Van Vlierberge, at her residence in Dublin

There are, of course, many great reasons to visit Antwerp, but perhaps this is the most anticipated, because of its long-awaited re-opening.

As part of its renovation plan, a completely new wing was created from the museum’s former courtyard spaces. Now, finally, the ambitious renovation has been completed and Antwerp will, at last, be able to enjoy the return of its Fine Arts Museum. 

Paintings by Flemish primitives, such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling, and important works by Peter Paul Rubens, Amedeo Modigliani and Auguste Rodin are part of the collection, as are paintings by Quinten Massys, James Ensor and Rik Wouters. In its imposing building with freshly restored historical and redesigned rooms, the KMSKA now wants to make its rich art tradition and art-historical expertise accessible to a wide audience again – in line with its vision of enchanting, enriching, and connecting people. 

Madonna at the Fountain
by Jan van Eyck

Minister President Jan Jambon said, “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, but 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!”

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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. This creates 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.

Jan Jambon said, “In recent years, the Flemish government has invested over €100 million in the restoration and expansion of the KMSKA. In return, we get no less than 21,000m² of museum space. Compared to similar museum construction projects abroad, this is a cheap project. However, €100 million is still a lot of money. I fully support my, and my predecessors’, decision to continue investing in this building, in this place and in this collection.” 

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Luk Lemmens, Chairman of KMSKA vzw, said, “The KMSKA is extremely pleased with this new infrastructure that offers many opportunities. In the future, however, we continue to face considerable financial challenges. In recent years, we have often considered the business model together with the board of directors. We have international ambitions. And ambitions cost money. 

“The Government is in a difficult position, and we understand that. By positioning ourselves as true cultural entrepreneurs, we have found a lot of support from businesses. KMSKA is the first cultural institution in Flanders to achieve such a good result in this.”

A short glimpse of the museum can be viewed here:

Collection

With 8,400 pieces, the KMSKA’s collection is the largest and most valuable in Flanders. 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.

The Intrigue
by James Ensor
Contemporary works of art by Christophe Coppens include a giant camel that kids and adults can sit on

Carmen Willems, General Director said, “We have resolutely chosen to present the collection within two major periods. We show the old masters in the historic part, and 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.”

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Chairman Lemmens added, “For me, it is important that a museum is committed to experience. In this respect, the KMSKA team has done an incredible job. I would therefore like to invite everyone to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of the KMSKA.” 

For more info, check out www.visitantwerpen.be and/or www.visitflanders.com 

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