Inside the KMSKA or Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp

I wanted to write “it’s with much anticipation I finally entered the renovated KMSKA“. But that would be a lie. The opening of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (RMFAA or KMSKA) was advertised as being on 24 and 25 September, with 23 September reserved for neighbours. But no, the whole week was filled with special openings for press, vips, ‘friends of the museum’ and well-connected gays so half my Instagram feed was full of photos of the KMSKA before the weekend of festivities. I know my complaint is petty, but it did create an anticlimax. 

Anyway. I had a ticket for 28 September 2022 so that’s when I visited. Neighbour Oriol offered to take me the 23rd, but I had clashing plans. I decided on my first visit in forever, to focus on the architecture, the deco and the scenography of the museum, rather than the collection. That will be for future visits.

From the exterior, the KMSKA doesn’t look that different, except new and clean flags of the Province of Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium, the European Union and the City of Antwerp are flying. The renovation of the garden is ongoing.

Flags.

The entrance is left of the main staircase. The reception is white, with a cloakroom and lockers. Your visit starts on the ground (?) floor. 

The Museum is bigger than before. KAAN Architects from Rotterdam in the Netherlands decided to use the inner patio to add more rooms. The atomic shelter / bunker was removed. Now with Russia invading Ukraine, perhaps not the best idea.  

I digress. The entrance hall is magnificent. Cleaned up, the murals are a beautiful introduction to the museum. 

The new rooms

I started my visit with the new rooms. Most of them are pristine white. A controversial choice, as they turn out to be very hard to keep clean. So perhaps visitors in the future will have to wear shoe-covers. Architects are like doctors, managers and externally hired consultants: they don’t think of practical, daily use. 

But it looks great. The staircase to the 3rd and 4th floors is already iconic and a hit on Instagram. A nice touch is showing some marble flooring from time to time. Just the size of a tile. A nice touch.

The 3rd floor holds the most fragile artifacts so no white, but night blue. It provides a very different feel. 

I quite like this new ‘wing’ of the museum. One of the exhibit areas is used to showcase the evolution of the museum and has a ‘wall of stakeholders’. It’s selfpromotion for Flemish politics. Quite unimpressive. 

The old rooms

The old rooms are the home of the old masters. It’s a logical choice. Big halls as you would expect in a museum of fine arts. They house some big paintings by Peter Paul Rubens for instance, so the space is needed. 

The shade of red is lovely, as is the greenish grey or greyish green. I love the museum-type seats as well. It just fits expectations. 

There are surprising artworks in the interior design as well, such as the big hand or the camel-seat mirroring the camels of ‘The Adoration of the Magi‘ by Rubens. And one room has tapped into the hype of immersive art showcasing. You love it or hate it. 

So?

The renewed KMSKA is absolutely worth a visit. I’ll return soon to focus on the collection. The website says to allow two hours. I agree. Maybe three. 

Art and museums in Antwerp

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