The master plan for the renovation of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp was unveiled at a news conference this morning by the Flemish Minister of Culture Bert Anciaux. The master plan by Claus and Kaan Architects incorporates an ingenious design that will, in effect, create two museum buildings in one: the old, renovated 19th-century building and a brand-new 21st-century construction inside the walls of the existing museum. The conversion, which will increase the available exhibition space by half, will be invisible from the exterior and from inside the 19th-century halls. The Flemish Community is investing 44 million euros in the project. During the renovation works, the museum’s core collection shall be on display at MAS (Museum on the Stream). In addition, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA) will be organizing a number of satellite exhibitions. The museum will close for renovation in 2010 and reopen in 2012.
From the museum press release
The last major investment in the building of the KMSKA dates from 1999, the year of the Van Dyck exhibition. It was already obvious at the time that a more structural intervention was required in order to maintain the building and infrastructure. With this in mind, the Flemish Government Architect launched a call for public tenders in 2003. The following year, Claus and Kaan Architects were commissioned to develop a master plan.
The risk analysis, which was conducted as part of the preparations for the master plan, confirmed that the building was in urgent need of structural repairs and maintenance. The architects pointed out the latent asbestos hazard, the impossibility of maintaining the climatic installations and the chaotic state of the antiquated electrical wiring.
By late October 2006, Claus and Kaan Architects had completed the master plan. Originally, the plan was comprised of five stages, but budgetary constraints meant it had to be reworked into two large phases: i) the structural safety and waterproofing of the building, including the depot and shipping room, and ii) the extension of the public areas and galleries.
Claus and Kaan Architects have come up with an ingenious design that will not affect the appearance of the 19th-century museum building and yet expand the available exhibition space by half. The four large patios or inner shafts of the building shall be utilized maximally to accommodate additional interconnecting floors, creating a new – vertically structured – museum inside the existing historical frame. This will result in two museum buildings in one: the old, renovated 19th-century building and a brand-new 21st-century construction inside the walls of the existing museum. The conversion, which will increase the available exhibition space by half, will be invisible from the exterior and from inside the 19th-century halls. The new museum will offer space for displaying the permanent collection as well as for temporary exhibitions. The Flemish community is investing 44 million euros in this renovation project.
Showpieces to stay in Flanders; packages to travel the world
The KMSKA will be closing its doors for the renovation in 2010.
During the works, the core collection of about 120 showpieces shall be on display at MAS (the forthcoming Museum on the Stream). This will ensure that an essential part of the museum’s wonderful holdings remain in Antwerp. It will also represent a substantial contribution from the Flemish authorities to the exhibits on show at the newly opened MAS. A significant selection from the collection of the KMSKA will thus remain on public display, in a special exhibition that confronts these works with pieces from the municipal collections.
In addition, the KMSKA will be staging a number of “satellite exhibitions”. Eleven large retables will, for example, be moved temporarily to the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouw) as part of an exhibition entitled “Reunion. From Quentin Metsijs to Peter Paul Rubens”. Arrangements have also been made with Rockox House Antwerp, and talks are underway with MuHKA, Antwerp’s museum of contemporary art, about a series of exhibitions based on the KMSKA’s own modern art collection. A number of 18th-century artworks shall be moved temporarily to the Royal Palace on Meir, Antwerp’s main shopping street, and talks are ongoing for similar collaborations with other museums. In addition, the museum is exploring opportunities within the Flemish Art Collection (Royal Museum of Art (KMSK) Ghent and Groeningemuseum in Bruges) partnership as well as the possibility of collaboration with Bozar in Brussels.
In order to further enhance the KMSKA’s international image, the museum will also be compiling special arts packages that will travel to museums in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. Featuring prominently in this respect is the major Ensor exhibition in 2010, which will be staged in collaboration with Bozar and the Flemish Art Collection in Brussels, among other places. Other package themes include: the Flemish Primitives (15th and 16th centuries), Rubens and his entourage, the 19th century, and the Expressionists.
Most of the remaining collection items shall go into temporary storage in an external depot. The museum is still working on a solution for pieces that are impossible to move out of the building.
The museum will remain operational and accessible to the public as much as possible during the renovation work. The management is looking into the possibility of keeping parts of the building open longer or of reopening them earlier for small, adventurous exhibitions. This way, much of the collection shall remain accessible to the public during the period of closure.
On 1 January 2009, the KMSKA will become a so-called Internally Autonomised Agency. This will allow the institution to pursue an effective and efficient policy under a good management agreement. However, the museum will have to wait until the completion of the renovation project for adequate accommodation and appropriate infrastructure.
After the renovation works, the KMSKA will reopen festively with the blockbuster exhibition entitled “Rubenism. The Influence of Rubens on European Painting from Van Dyck to Picasso”. This exhibition, organised in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts in London, will include loans of unique works from various foreign museums. Talks are underway with the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Louvre in Paris for a major exhibition on Quentin Metsijs shortly thereafter.