Get answers to frequently asked questions about the renovation of the museum building.
1. What is KMSKA?
2. Who designed the original museum building?
3. When did the museum close?
4. Why did the museum close?
5. What does the renovation entail?
6. When will the museum reopen?
7. What has happened so far?
8. What is the next step?
9. What will the new museum look like?
10. Who designed the master plan?
11. By whom was the revamp commissioned?
12. Where did the collection go?
13. How much will the renovation of the museum cost?
14. Why closed yet close by?
15. How can I stay updated about the renovation and the museum’s activities?
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp presents seven centuries of art in a unique 19th-century setting. The collection highlights include Early Netherlandish painting and work by Peter Paul Rubens, Rik Wouters and James Ensor. In addition to its holdings of Southern Netherlandish art, the museum also possesses some striking foreign masterpieces. The oldest items, four unique panel paintings by Simone Martini, date from the 14th century; the most recent work was created in the 1970s. This wonderful international mix of old and new is the result of many years of intensive collecting, first by the painters guild of St Luke, then by the Fine Arts Academy, and finally by the museum.
Learn more about the collection of KMSKA.
The original building was designed by Jan Jacob Winters (1849-1936) and Frans Van Dijk (1853-1939). In the 19th century, Antwerp was bursting at its seams. As the city ramparts and the Spanish fortress were demolished, the city was able to expand to the south by an area of 49 hectares. In 1875, the city authorities began to plan a new district, complete with docks, a railway station, churches, a synagogue and several cultural buildings. A new museum was to be built at the centre of the newly developed area. It would replace the old museum of the Academy of Fine Arts. The Antwerp city council organised two architectural competitions and studied dozens of foreign art temples. Winters and Van Dijk emerged as the joint-winners of the competition and they were asked to join forces on a new design for the museum. Construction work started in 1883. The museum eventually opened its doors on 11 Augustus 1890.
Learn more about the history of the museum building.
The museum closed its doors on 30 April 2011.
The museum is closed so that a number of urgent issues could be addressed. For example, the museum’s climate control system is in need of an upgrade and the electrical wiring needs replacing. Furthermore, the museum is to be extended. After the realisation of the master plan, the exhibition space will have increased by 40%.
Learn more about the master plan.
The renovation of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp will be carried out in two phases. Phase 1 encompasses demolition work and the construction of a new internal depot for paintings. In phase 2, the building will be refurbished with modern fittings and a new roof, and the exhibition space will be expanded by the incorporation of a new – vertical – structure into the existing building; a museum inside the museum, as it were.
Learn more about the various phases of the master plan.
The new-look KMSKA will be completed in late 2017.
Many items in the collection have already been moved to an external depot or to other museums, where they will be displayed as loans in special exhibitions or alongside the permanent collection. The museum staff will also vacate the building and move into temporary accommodation during the renovation work.
Find out the latest about the renovation.
In October 2011, a start will be made with the construction of a new depot to accommodate paintings that cannot be moved elsewhere, because of their size for example.
The 19th-century exterior of the museum building will remain unchanged. The new – vertical – museum will be invisible from the outside and from the 19th-century galleries. It will be suitable for both modest and monumental displays.
Learn more about the vertical museum.
The master plan is by Claus and Kaan Architects (Rotterdam), a Dutch firm that also designed the new Palace of Justice in Amsterdam and the Amsterdam City Archives.
Learn more about the architects.
The renovation of KMSKA was commissioned by the Flemish Community.
Although the museum has temporarily closed its doors, the activities continue unabated. From May 2011, some fifty showpieces from the collection are on display at Antwerp’s newest museum as part of an exhibition entitled Masterpieces in MAS. At the end of April 2011, an exhibition entitled The MODERNS, featuring a selection from KMSKA’s impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century art, opens at Koningin Fabiolazaal, also in Antwerp. A major Rik Wouters exhibition takes place in Mechelen, and Lier is hosting an exhibit on the influence of Bruegel on Flemish painting. Other highlights from KMSKA can be admired at the Cathedral of Our Lady and in the Rockox House Museum, both in Antwerp. The museum has also made arrangements for multi-year projects at other host venues.
The Flemish Community is investing EUR 44 million in this renovation.
The slogan ‘closed yet close by’ articulates how KMSKA intends to bridge the 2011-2017 period. On the one hand, activities will focus on preparing the opening of a state-of-the-art KMSKA that is fit for the 21st century, while on the other the museum is determined not to lose touch with the general public during those six years. In other words: closed for renovation yet close to the public. That is why we have ensured that the museum’s unique collection remains largely accessible during the renovation work. Items will be shown at host venues in Antwerp, Mechelen and Lier, as well as at M Leuven, MSK Ghent, the Magritte Museum and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium. So the collection will not just stay in Antwerp, it will actually come to you. Other museum activities will also continue. And the library will stay accessible to researchers and the general public.
For the latest news on the renovation, you can always consult the KMSKA website. Or you can subscribe to the e-newsletter (coming soon) and receive the latest in your mailbox, or pay a visit to the information office at Leopold De Waelplaats, where KMSKA staff will gladly inform you about the renovation of the museum.