Finally, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (RMFAA) or Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (KMSKA), will reopen after some twelve years. Officially, the museum reopens on Saturday 24 September, but neighbours can visit the premises a day earlier, on Friday 23 September.
“On Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September, the KMSKA will celebrate its reopening with an artistic festival. Performances and festivities will take place on the museum square. The beautifully renovated museum galleries will be bustling with celebratory activities. Because celebrating is an art too”, a press release says.
The Museum uses KMSKA as an acronym in English and French. Actually, it only uses KMSKA. Being a Flemish institute, it avoids using ‘Koninklijk‘ (‘Royal‘). With the Flemish nationalist party N-VA dominating politics in Flanders, this is no surprise. At least the museum didn’t become the Flanders Antwerp Art Museum (FAAM) as was the plan at one point.
But anything politically Flemish avoids connection to Belgium as a brand and “royal” doesn’t fit that bill.
“The Finest Feeling”
The KMSKA has been looking forward to this moment for over ten years. The moment when the doors of the renovated museum swing open once again. On Saturday 24 September at 10.30 a.m. the time has come.
“Bells and trumpets will start off the opening festival. An opening ceremony with ballet dancers and a 120-strong choir will culminate in a festive climax. That is The Finest Feeling.”
Outside of the museum…
This officially marks the start of The Finest Opening Festival, a free festival on the museum square, which will run for two days. What is on the programme? Two full days of colourful entertainment, festivities and with a painters’ fair around the museum. There will be surprising performances. By KMSKA Artists in Residence, among others. All activities and festivities outside the museum walls are free of charge and open to everyone.
… and within the museum walls
Within the museum building, too, music will resound. There will be inspiring crossovers, installations and exhibitions.
Children and their families can participate in creative workshops. Of course, the stars of the day are the presentation of the new collection, the exceptional architecture and the renovated museum halls.
The renovation works started in 2010 and were scheduled to be finished in four years’ time. That was obviously overly ambitious. Some delay was to be expected. But three times the planned duration?
Flemish newspaper De Morgen interviewed some stakeholders. Why did it take so long? The Government of Flanders just doesn’t have the capacity and / or know-how for such a project. And Flemish politics lack the courage to launch such projects properly.
Back to the press release. “For the past 10 years, the biggest museum in Flanders has been undergoing a radical rebuilding and expansion. The exceptional art collection has also been given a complete facelift. Within a few months, the masterpieces will once again resume their place in the museum rooms. And in exactly one year, the public will be able to admire seven centuries of outstanding art in a completely new scenography.”
In 2004, KAAN Architects in Rotterdam were appointed to develop a master plan for the KMSKA. The museum doors were closed to the public in 2011. The ambitious master plan would take place in several stages, spread out over time. The plan was initially to reopen the museum section before completion of the remaining elements of the master plan. The complexity and the interlacing of the works proved too great.
“At the start of this new Flemish government, we were determined to free up the necessary resources for the complete execution of the master plan for the KMSKA. The public had waited long enough for the reopening. We decided to exhibit seven centuries of masterpieces in the best possible circumstances. Thanks to this extensive renovation and expansion, the KMSKA can resume its place among the leading European art museums”, says Jan Jambon (N-VA), Minister-President of the Government of Flanders
The KMSKA wants to be a warm place for every visitor. The museum wants to move everyone, whether they are knowledgeable or not. And that is why the focus is explicitly on experience, hospitality and creativity.
“Thanks to the ingenious intervention by KAAN Architects, the KMSKA is gaining 40% more exhibition space without impacting the structure of the historic building. Together, the new and the historic sections give the museum a strong and exciting dynamic. The architecture reinforces the experience, which is what we will be focusing on in this museum. The new museum will be an open house where every visitor can enjoy, discover, participate and experience without any obstacle. We have set ourselves the aim of evoking the finest feeling in our visitors. That feeling can have many dimensions and layers, just like the stories that we will be telling in the museum”, says Luk Lemmens, chairman of KMSKA non-profit organisation
The reopening of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) is considered one of the cultural highlights of this legislature and is supported by the City of Antwerp and EventFlanders: a partnership of Visit Flanders, the Flanders Department of Culture, Youth and Media, the Sports Flanders Agency and the Flanders Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs.
About the KMSKA
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) is the biggest art museum in Flanders.
With masterpieces from the Flemish primitives and Antwerp Baroque to the extensive collection of modern art by, for example, Rik Wouters, Henri De Braekeleer and René Magritte.
The crown jewel is the biggest collection of James Ensor in the world.
Needless to say there is a lot of sense of anticipation for the reopening of the RMFAA. For many, the museum was part of their childhood. At least several time in one’s school career, one would visit the museum. Many youngster missed out on that experience.
I have a ticket for next week.
Art and museums in Antwerp
- Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp finally to reopen on 25 September 2022.
- VIDEO | Inside the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp.
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- ModeMuseum MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp 2021.
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- Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp.
- ‘Eurasia – A Landscape of Mutability’ exhibition at Antwerp’s M HKA modern arts museum.
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- ModeMuseum MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp reopens on 4 and 5 September 2021 with ‘Fashion 2.021 Antwerp – Fashion/Conscious’.
- Museum Plantin-Moretus will exhibit long-lost illustration by Rubens: ‘Opticorum Libri Sex’.
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- ‘Cool Japan’ exhibition, Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS), Antwerp, 18 October 2019 to 19 April 2020.
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- REVIEW | ‘Cool Japan’ exhibition at Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp from 18 October 2019 to 19 April 2020.
- BOOK | ‘Antwerp. An Archaeological View on the Origin of the City’ by Tim Bellens.
- ‘On the road’ at Museum Plantin-Moretus.
- Red Star Line Museum.
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- DIVA, Antwerp Home of Diamonds.
- ANTWERP | Red Star Line Museum of (e)migration.
- ANTWERP | Museum Mayer van den Bergh is expanding into former District Hall.
- Antwerp’s Middelheim Museum rearranges sculpture park by the end of 2023.
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