KMSKA, a renovated temple for the arts without equal

VM Visit - Antwerp (3)
Peter Paul Rubens, Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Antoon van Dyck and James Ensor. These are just a few of the grandmasters you will encounter at the KMSKA, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp. The KMSKA immerses you in a universe filled with beauty.

Whoever enters this stately temple on the Museumplein enters a different universe. This is where beauty reigns, with an added touch of grandeur. You can already feel it on the stately staircases, you can already see it on the monumental façade and you can already notice it in the entrance hall, which is adorned with magnificent mosaics. And that is just the beginning. Once you stroll through the refurbished museum rooms, you are surprised time and again by breathtaking art. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp takes you on a journey of discovery through a host of art styles and grandmasters.


Old Masters

Peter Paul Rubens is an excellent example of this. He is known as one of the most important painters in European history. This father of the Flemish baroque was at home in Antwerp all his life. The city remains as proud as ever of his legacy, which consists of 2,500 compositions and some 10,000 works of art. This enormous oeuvre of paintings, drawings, book illustrations and even tapestries is also celebrated appropriately at KMSKA. The museum has a substantial collection of his estate.

Such great art belongs in a monumental location. The Rubens and Van Dyck Halls in the KMSKA are more than up to the task. In the hall, which is no less than 15 metres high, Rubens’ altarpieces such as The Adoration of the Magi and The Baptism of Christ hang in dialogue with those of other grandmasters like Jacob Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck. It makes a person feel small and insignificant, coming face to face with all these monumental masterpieces.

KMSKA (c) Woodmonkey (2)


The old masters are outstandingly represented here, but the more youthful greats are illustrated superbly as well. This is demonstrated by the museum in the snow-white Ensor Wing, dedicated to modern art pioneer James Ensor. Indeed, KMSKA has the world’s largest Ensor collection. Spread over two halls you will find, among other things, The Oyster Eater, Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise and The Intrigue. Among these three milestones in his oeuvre you will also see numerous still lifes, early bourgeois salons and late seascapes. These are complemented by four cabinets that showcase the other facets of this remarkable body of work.

Discover all this – and much more – in an impressive setting. On the one hand you will find the old masters (from 1880 and earlier) in the grand XL halls with their beautiful parquet in herringbone. On the other, there is the section of modern art (from 1880 onward). You can experience this in a brand-new building: pearly white and equipped with an equally white, shiny floor. It wasn’t so long ago that these opposite environments saw the light of day.

Vorm_ © KarinBorghouts (1)

A splendid renovation

In 2011, the museum closed its doors for a total restoration and expansion. A large internal depot was built, as was a new vertical structure that considerably increased the volume of the museum. The grandeur of the historic halls was reinstated. The friezes, busts, medallions and other sculptures in the museum were restored to their full glory. A new state-of-the-art climate system was installed. A brand-new museum garden was created. The scenography was completely rethought. In the end, this tour de force took 11 years. But the result is more than worth it.

Today, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is one of the most important ambassadors in the Flemish arts landscape. In the halls of the KMSKA you can admire no fewer than 640 works of art, supplemented by temporary exhibitions. So if you come back to Antwerp, make time to admire all this beauty. You won’t regret it.

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