KMSKA presents TO GIGI, a tribute to Gilberte Ghesquière

PRESS RELEASE - 09 March 2023

From September 23, 2023 to January 7, 2024, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) presents the exhibition TO GIGI, featuring artworks from the bequest of Gilberte Ghesquière (1925-2017). With 131 works of art, this is the most important donation to the KMSKA, after the 1841 Van Ertborn bequest.

The bequest Lens-Ghesquière with 131 works of art consists mostly of modern art. The donation adds important international names to the KMSKA collection, such as Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele, Sonia Delaunay, Francis Bacon, Tom Wesselmann, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The subcollection of abstract art has also been particularly enhanced, with works by Kurt Schwitters and Pierre-Louis Flouquet, amongst others. The museum already possessed a fine overview of modernist sculptures thanks to purchases from the Middelheim Biennales. This bequest also completes the collection of small sculpture with works by Julio González, Pablo Gargallo and Jacques Lipchitz.

Gilberte Ghesquière and her husband John Lens, who was active in the diamond industry, began their art collection by purchasing African art. Their first non-African acquisition was work by Constant Permeke. Later on, they supplemented the collection of Belgian art with a dreamy landscape by Léon Spilliaert, piquant drawings by Félicien Rops, a large charcoal drawing by Frits Van den Berghe, a small painting by James Ensor and a portrait by Brusselmans. Furthermore, the couple bought no less than nine watercolours and gouaches by Jules Schmalzigaug, portfolios of prints by Panamarenko and had a penchant for nudes by Roger Wittewrongel. The great diversity in styles testifies to how Gilberte Ghesquière and John Lens acquired their art mainly intuitively and based on visual contemplation.

In her testament made in 2010, Ghesquière bequeathed all her movable and immovable property to the museum's patrimony. The collection consists largely of light-sensitive works on paper and small scale sculptures. The artworks will be presented in the intimate cabinets on the third floor of the renovated museum building. The title FOR GIGI is not only very fitting as a tribute to the generous benefactress, but is also taken from a dedication on a drawing by Emiel Veranneman, as a design for a cabinet. Both are also part of the bequest.

NOTE TO THE PRESS: Visual material can be found here.

Practical information

  • The exhibition TO GIGI will run from 23 September 2023 to 7 January 2024 in the print room and the small sculpture cabinet on the third floor.
  • Included in the admission ticket. No reservations required
  • A book will also be published with the entire Lens-Ghesquière art collection.