Press release - 20 september 2022
On 24 September, the renovated Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) will swing open its doors. After 11 years of construction and renovation, it will once again welcome the public. With an iconic building, a world-class collection, a dynamic presentation and bold programming, the new KMSKA is all set.
Minister President Jan Jambon: "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, 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!"
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.
"In recent years, the Flemish government has invested over 100 million euros 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 euros 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," says Jan Jambon.
Luk Lemmens, chairman KMSKA vzw: “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."
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.
Carmen Willems, general director: "We have resolutely chosen to present the collection within two major periods. We show the old masters in the historic part, 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."
Luk Lemmens, chairman KMSKA vzw: "The KMSKA is too often still only associated with old masters. Thanks to the space gained, our fantastic collection of modern art gets the place it deserves. Moreover, we can now display works by James Ensor and Antwerp artist Rik Wouters. We also possess the largest collection of Wouters worldwide."
An open house
The new museum aims to be a place of encounter where everyone feels welcome. The threshold of the new museum was also literally brought down to ground level, where we created an additional entrance. The museum is strongly committed to inclusion and participation. All facets of its operation and programming show that multivoicedness has been thoroughly considered.
"You can see this in everything, whether it is the hall texts or object labels, the partners the KMSKA works with, the choice of Artists in Residence or the composition of the team. During its beauty sleep, the museum gradually acquired a new DNA. We are proud of that because such a process does not happen by itself," says Willems.
Carmen Willems: "It was a challenging and delicate balancing act. Bold choices were made. We had some important focal points in our approach: we want to invite visitors to look differently and see more. We do this by, among other things, showing artworks in an unconventional way, but also with the Radio Bart project, with Christophe Coppens' The Ten and by adding performances by our Artists in Residence."
The KMSKA's baseline is 'The Finest Feeling'. It sets the tone. The focus is no longer just on gaining knowledge, but even more on experiencing. The KMSKA wants to give every visitor a feeling that resonates far beyond the museum walls.
"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," chairman Lemmens adds.
Jan Jambon concludes: "Together with the city and EventFlanders, we are organising a free opening festival on 24 and 25 September for our neighbours, the people of Antwerp and all visitors. Come and experience it together with us."
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. 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.