CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Rare and Indispensable: 100 Masterpieces from Flemish Collections

31 October 2023 - 25 February 2024

Rare and Indispensable: 100 Masterpieces from Flemish Collections

Exhibition: 31 October 2023 - 25 February 2024

Magritte, Bacon, Ensor, Moore, Jordaens, Rubens … These are just some of the world-famous names on display at the MAS in autumn 2023. The not-to-be-missed exhibition ‘Rare and Indispensable’ brings a unique selection of masterpieces from the Flemish masterpiece list. Works of art you would otherwise have to travel all over Flanders to see, or which were never even publicly accessible, can now be temporarily admired in one museum hall. All in honor of the 20th anniversary of the ‘Flemish Masterpiece Decree’.

Over twenty museums, large and small, as well as churches, libraries and private collectors, temporarily lend masterpieces from their collections to the MAS. All works are part of the Flemish Masterpiece List or have been acquired by the government since 2003.

Curators Thomas Leysen and Ben Van Beneden, members of the ‘Topstukkenraad’ (Masterpiece council), selected all the masterpieces for this exhibition. Famous paintings by Hugo van der Goes, Rubens, Jordaens, Ensor, Magritte and Bacon, sculptures by Lucas Faydherbe and Henry Moore, as well as precious silver, medieval manuscripts and a rare piece of furniture by Pierre Gole, ébeniste du roi of the French king Louis XIV, can exceptionally be admired in one place at the same time.

Flemish Masterpiece Decree

‘What is valuable must be protected’ that is the idea of the Flemish Masterpiece Decree. Since its creation in 2003, almost 1,000 objects and collections have been acknowledged and protected as masterpieces due to their exceptional historical, cultural-historical, archaeological, scientific or artistic significance.

This is done after research and consideration: movable cultural heritage is given a ‘masterpiece status’ if it is considered rare and indispensable. The ‘Topstukkenraad’ supports the government in protecting and restoring the masterpieces and gives advice on acquisitions. Thanks to the decree, the government strengthens public collections by acquiring important masterpieces.

An acknowledged masterpiece may not be loaned or sold to anyone outside Flanders without permission. Before the decree existed, portraits by Jacob Jordaens moved from a centuries-old Flemish family to the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam). The London National Gallery was able to acquire four magnificent still-lifes by Joachim Beuckelaar in 2001. Today, this would be impossible.