Antwerp, Belgium.- The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) closed its doors for the largest renovation in the museum’s history in April 2011. However, highlights from the collection remain on view. The Old Masters currently star in the exhibition “Masterworks in the MAS: Five Centuries of Imagery in Antwerp” at the new Museum aan de Stroom, while the museum’s unique altarpieces can be admired in the Antwerp Cathedral until the end of 2017. The collection of 19th and 20th-century art is currently on display at the revamped Koningin Fabiolazaal in an exceptional collaboration with the Province of Antwerp. The first exhibition “The Moderns. Highlights from the Royal Museum” runs until 8 January 2012.
Under the title “The Moderns”, varying selections will highlight different aspects of the collection in a series of temporary shows. The opening exhibition consists of a selection of fifty-six showpieces from circa 1850 to 1980. The show includes some of the very best pictures in the collection: Alexandre Cabanel’s Cleopatra, and work by Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Vincent Van Gogh. Léon Spilliaert and Paul Delvaux feature alongside Roger Raveel and Lucio Fontana. Abstract creations by Otto Piene and Gunther Uecker are confronted with the Futurist canvases of Schmalzigaug. Also included are less wellknown gems such as the portrait of Peter Benoit by Van Beers, a self-portrait by Henri Fantin-Latour, a wonderful portrait of a lady by Carolus-Duran, and James Tissot’s colourful Embarkation at Calais.
The works have been arranged thematically into twelve ensembles of different sizes and without a strict chronology. Each group of paintings brings together surprisingly diverse artists. The themes include Inspiration, The Artist, History Painting, De Braekeleer and Co, Landscapes, The Construction, The Flemish Expressionists and Zero. The ensemble on Women includes intimate scenes as well as realistic portraits. Stevens represents the female as a mysterious sphinx; Rik Wouters celebrates his naked muse; and Botero creates a light-hearted parody in La Prima Donna. Another group of images revolves around Country Life. Naturalist painters represented scenes from daily life in a truthful, sometimes even raw, manner. Peasant life as it really was. The momentous changes that occurred in this period are the focus of a selection entitled Experimentation around 1900. New scientific insights into the properties of light inspired a revolution in painting.
Henry Van de Velde briefly experimented with Neo-Impressionism and pointillism, but found the technique to be rather cumbersome and soon abandoned it. Breitner drew inspiration from the emergence of photography: he worked in an almost cinematographic style, painting from snapshots. Modigliani adopted the stylised lines of African sculpture in his innovative oeuvre. Finally, the exhibition includes a room devoted to Work on Paper. This ensemble is made up of true artistic gems that, because of their fragility, are rarely displayed. Marc Chagall’s gouache At the Window is shown in Antwerp for the first time in six years. And some wonderful drawings and watercolours by Edgard Degas, Xavier Mellery and René Magritte are also on display at Koningin Fabiolazaal.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is a public institution of the Government of Flanders and the only Flemish museum with a scientific status. The principal missions of the KMSKA are the maintenance, management and expansion of the collection; the scientific study of the collection and the enhancement of its accessibility; the organisation of exhibitions and the development of public engagement activities. The KMSKA subscribes to the Statutes of ICOM, the International Council of Museums. Thanks to its exceptional collection, the KMSKA is a museum of international stature. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) conserves about 7600 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. Major ensembles by the Flemish Primitives, Peter Paul Rubens and the Baroque, Henri De Braekeleer and the Flemish expressionists characterise the institution. The museum has the most important Ensor collection in the world and the largest collection of works by Rik Wouters. In addition to works of art from the Southern Netherlands and Belgium, it also houses a number of remarkable top works from abroad, including paintings by Jean Fouquet, Titian and Amedeo Modigliani and sculptures by Ossip Zadkine and Auguste Rodin. The museum is preparing for major renovations. As a result, the museum building will no longer be accessible for the duration of the renovation. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.kmska.be