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Renovation and Extension of Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp to Last from 2011 to 2017
The renovation and extension of the 19th-century museum in Antwerp ’s Zuid (South) district is a complex undertaking. © Claus & Kaan.

ANTWERP.- The renovation of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) will start in September 2011 and last until the autumn of 2017 rather than 2014 as previously announced. The main reasons for the longer duration are the scope and complexity of the work, combined with some complications revealed during the preparatory phase.

The renovation and extension of the 19th-century museum in Antwerp ’s Zuid (South) district is a complex undertaking. It encompasses not only the replacement of all obsolete technical systems, but also the construction of a new in-house storage room and an expansion of the museum surface area by 40%. The latter will be achieved by the insertion of additional floors in what are presently four large patios or courtyards. Part of the museum collection will be stored inside the building during the redevelopment, so the contractors must proceed with care.

Meanwhile, various preliminary examinations have revealed that existing conditions at the site are a lot more challenging than previously thought. More extensive asbestos removal is required and soil drillings have shown the substrate of the building to be less stable than presumed. The architects therefore feel that the work cannot be completed by 2014, and they have put forward a new deadline of autumn 2017.

Despite the temporary closure of the museum building, the Royal Museum activities will continue. From May 2011, fifty showpieces from the collection will be on display at Antwerp ’s brand-new MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) as part of the exhibition entitled Masterpieces in the MAS. Five Centuries of the Image in Antwerp. Also around that time, a show featuring some of the KMSKA’s 19th and 20th-century treasures opens at the Koningin Fabiolazaal, also in Antwerp.

Additionally, major exhibits have been planned on Rik Wouters in Mechelen and on Pieter Brueghel II and contemporaries in Lier. Other collection highlights can be seen at the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Rockox House Museum in Antwerp. Multi-year arrangements have been made with all of these host locations and the various event organisers.

Now that it is apparent that the KMSKA revamp will take longer than originally planned, the museum also intends to stage a number of temporary exhibitions at external locations over the next years. The search is already on for a suitable venue for the major exhibit on the influence of Rubens on painting from van Dyck to Picasso, which had been scheduled as the inaugural show at the new-look museum in 2014.

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