On September 24, 2022, the museum will open its doors after eleven years of construction and renovation. But first the collection will be brought back home. A complex process of relocation. The Baptism of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens has the honour of being the first work of art to be displayed again. In the monumental Rubens Hall to boot. A milestone that we were awaiting with bated breath.
The collection is returning home
Since March 2013, Peter Paul Rubens' "Baptism of Christ" has stood safe and sound in the internal depot of KMSKA. Because this painting is so large, it was kept in the museum along with a number of other giant paintings for the duration of the works. As a new museum was being built and an old museum remodelled around the centrally located internal depot, a large number of our masterpieces remained on site. The storage conditions are being monitored continuously. There must be no vibrations or climatic fluctuations. Thus, during the entire construction process, the presence of this concealed art in the museum had to be factored in.
The remainder of the collection was moved to an external depot. There, our industrious atelier concurrently restored just over 130 paintings and sculptures. We have gained an amazing depth of knowledge about the artists' creative process from those restorations.
Now all the works are returning home. Both the sculptures and works on paper have already been moved back to the museum. The paintings will follow shortly.
In fact, the works of art of the KMSKA have not been under lock and key in the depots for all this time. The museum collection has been travelling around the world. Nearly 4,000 works of art were exhibited in museums worldwide. They were admired by as many as 6.7 million visitors. If you add to that the individual long-term loans within our own country and in neighbouring countries, this figure rises considerably.
The 'Baptism of Christ' back home at last
The large altarpieces are hoisted directly up into the Rubens Hall via hatches in the floors. These slots have often been useful to the museum. This is how the collection was brought to safety during the World Wars.
Once again we are hoisting the monumental works aloft. All other works of art are conveyed to the appropriate floor by means of the new painting elevator. This enormous elevator, together with a new loading dock, ensures that art is transported to the various floors in the safest possible conditions. This not only provides the museum with opportunities to display a more dynamic permanent exhibition. It also creates the conditions for ambitious international loan requests.
Other old and modern masters will follow after the Baptism of Christ. This will be done according to a strict plan. Soon, some 650 works will be displayed on the walls of the restored and new museum halls. The works that are not on display are on view in the digital collection catalogue.
We know exactly where each work will be mounted. Our curators and restorers, in collaboration with experienced art transporters, will ensure that this extremely delicate undertaking is brought to a successful conclusion. It will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting moments of the entire construction process. At last we will get to see how the art and the renovated building interact.
And we have some more news! We are bringing forward our opening date by one day. That way we will have an entire weekend to celebrate. We will be breaking out of our museum walls with a grand festival in and around the museum. Expect spectacular performances, contemporary and interdisciplinary shows, surprising crossovers and fun workshops for children, youngsters and families.
The opening of the KMSKA is made possible thanks to the support of the Flemish authorities and the city of Antwerp.