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Over a decade and counting of Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Art protracted closure and refit, the doors are now open. What can visitors expect? Firstly, it’s interesting to note that the museum is made up of two distinct sections – one the 19th century wing, home of the Old Masters, juxtaposing nicely with gleaming new galleries showcasing modern art and sculpture, akin to the architectural scene in Antwerp.
Creating 40% more space, the Royal Museum of Fine Art now holds over 8,400 pieces - the largest and most valuable collection in Flanders. Creating the perfect setting for bringing together works of art from the 14th century onwards is KAAN Architects who ‘created two worlds in one building’. The restored grandeur of the 19th century structure is evident, with a rich interior colour palette, ornate detailing and plasterwork, parquet flooring, high ceilingsand columns. This traditional setting gave KAAN Architects a platform for a more experimental extension.
Concealed within the existing building, a new vertical museum rises in a chunky, white and clean aestheticism. In complete contrast, it’s here the signifiers of modernism come into play – gradations of light through glass atriums, cubic designs, shiny reflective floors and spiral staircases. What’s even more impressive and interesting is that none of the new architecture is visible from outside – which appears at its traditional best with a limestone façade, neoclassical columns and decorative busts. Taking the visitor on a journey through the Old Masters including vast canvases by Rubens and the mesmerising ‘Adoration of the Magi’ through to modern day works by artists Magritte and Modigliani.
Arranged by clusters of themes including the modern galleries interpretations of ‘Light’ and‘Form’ to ‘Suffering’ or ‘Prayer’ that denotes the work of the original gallery, Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Art create a unique way of looking at art, and allows little surprises to pop up – perhaps you’ll find a piece of art that stops you in your tracks – yet you’ve never seen it before. With a fresh look at old and new art, wrapped in a thoughtful and intrinsic architecture, Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Art is a utopia for art aficionados of today and the future.