Here at our renewed museum, we want to encourage everyone to look differently and in doing so to see more. One way to achieve this is to incorporate loans in our museum circuit. For the next five years, for instance, we get to host eight exceptional masterpieces from the Boijmans-Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, which has embarked on large-scale renovations of its own.
There’s no denying that we have a fine collection and that it was tough to choose which works to show when we reopened. But you can always do better and that’s precisely our intention. The wonderful loans from Boijmans enable us to set our collection in its wider context. Works by Salvador Dalí, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Peter Paul Rubens, Oskar Kokoschka, Jan Toorop, Marcel Broodthaers, Eugène Delacroix and Bill Viola heighten the impact of our themed galleries. Come and discover how!
Boijmans at the KMSKA
But how does a painting by Rubens help you to look more effectively at a collection that’s already well stocked with that artist’ work? Evening Landscape with Timber Cart is not one of the master’s religious paintings. Dating from Rubens’ late period, the scene is a forerunner of Romanticism, in which artists depicted nature primarily as an ideal refuge from the drudgery of everyday life. For that reason, we are showing Rubens’ beautiful evening landscape alongside spectacular paintings of untamed and menacing nature.
One very striking loan is Landscape with a Girl Skipping Rope by Salvador Dalí (1904–1989). The work hangs in the centre of the room devoted to the theme of ‘Evil’. What is a girl with a skipping rope doing in a gallery full of demons and strange, hybrid creatures? Is it because of the emptiness of the desert? The deafening silence? The secondary characters? Look, feel, compare and discover for yourself.
You can do the same with the work Unevipère, unvampire, unevitre, by Marcel Broodthaers (1924–1976), which we’ve placed in the same room. This Belgian artist is all about ambiguity and neatly complements the many visual riddles you can find here.
The Mandrill by Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980) is a favourite with the Rotterdam public. The wild brushstrokes and bright colours emphasize the animal’s untamed character. Yet the monkey has been detached from its natural environment. Just like many of the distinguished 17th-century citizens who flaunt their wealth against a plain, dark background in the ‘Image’ room. Will the mandrill be a hit in Antwerp too?
Kings of Egypt II by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) simultaneously evokes a dark sense of dominance and immense powerlessness. In the room with ‘Impotence’ as its theme, we surround the painting with Auguste Rodin’s tormented Pierre de Wissant and four lavish busts in white marble of former governors-general. Who will win this artistic battle?
Not all of the Boijmans loans are placed in confrontation with works from our own collection: in some cases, they form a perfect match with a piece in the KMSKA. Take the somewhat smaller Christ on the Cross by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), who paid two visits to Antwerp to study The ‘Coup de Lance’ by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641). His arresting sketch is perfectly at home alongside the altarpiece.
Man of Sorrows, a video by Bill Viola (1951), can be seen opposite works by Albrecht Bouts (c. 1452–March 1549) and James Ensor (1860–1949), which share its title. As you will see, this emphatically outward depiction of the theme of ‘Suffering’ has moved artists across the ages.
The New Generation by Jan Toorop (1858–1928), meanwhile, has been given a spot alongside The Fall of the Rebel Angels by his good friend James Ensor. With their bright pastel tones, both works bid farewell to Realism.
These long-term loans have been made possible by the closure of the museum in Rotterdam until 2029 for large-scale renovation. We obviously know exactly what that means. Boijmans is eager to keep its collection visible to the public as much as possible during the building’s refurbishment. Our two museums have collaborated on exhibitions in the past, and there are political and economic links between Antwerp and Rotterdam too – ties that will be further strengthened by this cultural exchange.
And the KMSKA itself has a very special relationship of its own with Rotterdam: the Dutch city is home to KAAN Architects, the firm that drew up the master plan for our recent renovation and alterations.