PRESS RELEASE 15 March 2022
On 24 September 2022, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) will open its doors to the public after eleven years of construction and renovation. The installation of the art in the exhibition halls is an important milestone in the run-up to the reopening. 'The Baptism of Christ' by Peter Paul Rubens is the first painting to be mounted, and it is also one of the KMSKA's absolute masterpieces.
“I am happy that we can keep to the previously announced opening date. In fact, we are bringing it forward by one day. The work on the museum was challenging and complicated. And not just the renovation. All technical functions had to be sufficiently tested before the art could be displayed again. The climate control system now meets all requirements. The KMSKA and the Flemish authorities are now preparing for the long-awaited reopening. The city is also backing this event. It will be a celebration for everyone,” says Jan Jambon, Minister-President of the Flemish Government.
During the closure, the art collection of the KMSKA was kept in both an internal and an external depot. From within the external depot, an active operation was set up. Thus, almost 4,000 works of art travelled around the world. Internally, a hard-working atelier simultaneously restored just over 130 paintings and sculptures.
“Thanks to the intense cooperation with museums worldwide, our works of art have been admired by no fewer than 6.7 million visitors over the past eleven years. If you add to that the individual long-term loans within our own country and in neighbouring countries, that amounts to quite a number. The museum may have been closed to the public, but the works of art of the KMSKA have not been under lock and key. We are nevertheless pleased that we can now finally display them again in our museum. The Flemish Masters are returning home at last,” says Luk Lemmens, chairman of KMSKA vzw.
The reinstallation of the works will be done in phases and according to a strict plan. An outstanding selection of 650 works of art from the total collection of some 8,400 pieces will soon be on display. The works that are not exhibited are made accessible by the KMSKA via the digital collection catalogue on the website.
“We know exactly where each work will be hung or placed. Our own team of curators and restorers, together with experienced art transporters and art handlers, will ensure that this extremely delicate undertaking is brought to a successful conclusion. These will undoubtedly be the most exciting moments of the entire building process. Now, everything will be falling into place. We will finally see how the art and the renovated building interact,” says Carmen Willems, general director of the KMSKA.
On 15 March, a sample will be unveiled. A first monumental Rubens will be moved from the internal depot to the exhibition hall. Due to its size, this painting had remained untouched in the museum for ten years. Subsequently, the other old and modern masters will follow. The result: seven centuries of outstanding art in an intriguing architecture and compelling mise en scène.
"In recent years, our Flemish Masters have been travelling around the world. Now they are finally returning home. With 'The Baptism of Christ', the first of many masterpieces is once again gaining a place in Flanders' finest museum. I am eagerly looking forward to 24 September, the moment when we can welcome back the world to Antwerp and Flanders, and proudly display this and many other masterpieces painted by our Flemish Masters," says Flemish Minister of Tourism Zuhal Demir.
The opening of the KMSKA is made possible thanks to the support of the Flemish authorities and the city of Antwerp.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) is the largest art museum in Flanders. With absolute masterpieces from the Flemish Primitives and the Antwerp Baroque to an extensive collection of modern art with Rik Wouters, Henri de Braekeleer and René Magritte. Jewel in the crown is the world's largest collection of works by James Ensor. At present, the renovation is nearing completion. The existing 19th-century building is being restored to its former glory, and will be expanded generously. In the weekend of 24 and 25 September, the KMSKA will celebrate. We will be reopening the collection to the public and breaking out of our walls with a grand opening festival in and around the museum. Expect dazzling performances, contemporary and interdisciplinary events, surprising crossovers and fun workshops for children, youths and families.