Established in 1802, the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts (MSK), is one of the finest art museums in Belgium and, indeed, Europe. To celebrate this huge milestone, the institute is running an exceptional programme of exhibitions and events until the end of August 2023.

tHE Ghent Museum vaan Schoonen Kunsten (Museum of Fine Arts) opened its doors to the general public in 1802. This officially makes it the oldest museum in Belgium. The collection – among the finest in Europe – consists of 20,000 works of art. They embrace 600 years of art history starting from the Middle Ages to the first half of the twentieth century. The collection features among others big artist names such as Hieronymus Bosch, Rubens, Van Dyck, Géricault, Rodin, Ensor, Magritte and Delvaux.

Visitors can admire a selection of these works in a wonderful building designed by architect Charles Van Rysselberghe, brother of painter Théo Van Rysselberghe. The museum building is worth a visit in itself, since it was one of the first buildings specifically designed as a museum. As a result, daylight enters every room of the structure.

To celebrate Ghent MSK225, visitors can discover a new thematic trail through the museum galleries. By means of collection pieces, a thematic audio guide and multimedia applications, visitors will learn all about 225 years of MSK as well as about the ins and outs of an art museum.

Who are the people or institutions behind such an extensive collection? Who visited the museum in the past and how does the museum regard its visitors today? What are the masterpieces of the Ghent collection and what role did the donors and the Friends of the Museum play in bringing them together? These are just some of the stories covered.

Technology-driven and inclusive experiences

With the help of digital applications art lovers can also browse through the museum’s photographic archives, consult testimonials or vote for their favourite work. The historical trail has 10 installations, spread throughout the galleries, and is accessible with a museum ticket. The accompanying audio guide is available at the front desk in Dutch, French and English.

The museum has also always been at the forefront of social developments. As an example, the MSK is the first museal institution in Belgium to propose an LGBTQ+ tour in its permanent galleries. Through 11 works of art, The MSK reflects on the queer history that literally hangs on the walls but has never been told. The museum sees how gender identity and sexual orientation have been approached in the past, and reflect on how visitors look at them today. The tour has been created by members of the LGBTQ+ community and is a safe space that respects everyone’s experience.

Ghent historical town (Photo: LC/Cleverdis)

A special exhibition opened on January 21, 2023 and will run until April 23, 2023. It is dedicated to Flemish painter Theodoor Rombouts (1597-1637) and is the first ever monographic exhibition of this famed figure in the Antwerp art world. But although his painting was appreciated during his short life, the Antwerp Baroque gods Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Antony Van Dyck (1599-1641) pushed Rombouts’ artistic legacy into relative obscurity after his early death. The exhibition reveals Rombouts’ artistic personality and places his work in a new perspective.

The museum 225th anniversary is also an opportunity to (re)discover Ghent. Often overlooked by international travellers in favour of Bruges, Belgium third largest city is a true medieval jewel offering a high quality urban experience with its well preserved historical town along the Lys River. In 2019, total overnight stays in the province of East Flanders – of which Ghent is the regional capital- reached 2.56 million.

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