There are some things to question about the renovation. In my opinion, arranging images by theme rather than chronological order is likely to confuse rather than enlighten visitors. In fact, I wonder how long this particular blockage will last. But there is also a lot of fun and invention. Giant sculptures gleaned from the details of the paintings – such as the huge spinning hand in Gallery 2.12 – aim to interest children, but many adults I’m sure will be amused as well. And I enjoyed a boozy tavern scene by Adriaan van Ostade that was deliberately hung with a drunken slant.
While KMSKA will now reclaim its status as Antwerp’s artistic magnet, the city’s other major cultural sites are as vibrant as ever. The Rubens House (rubenshuis.be/en) that the artist bought in 1610 on his return from Rome and then transformed it into a Renaissance palace, is a place of pilgrimage for his fans.
And there are two fabulous art museums housed in the former residences of the city’s greatest collectors. The Rockox House (snijdersrockoxhuis.be/enlisten)) was the home of Nicolaas Rockox, one of Rubens’ friends and patrons and burgomaster of Antwerp in the early 17th century. Its collection is paired with a museum devoted to the Golden Age painter Frans Snijders. And the Mayer van den Bergh Museum (mayervandenbergh.be) has a superb collection of Northern Renaissance art, including paintings by Brueghel and Gossaert.
Meanwhile, the Plantin-Moretus Museum (museumplantinmoretus.be) is a remarkable survival from the mid-16th century, when it was one of Europe’s great printing houses. It still has an exceptional collection of books, engravings, maps, presses and paintings.
So while Antwerp’s golden age as a melting pot of artistic creativity may be long gone, as a destination for art lovers, with the reopening of KMSKA, it is back to his favorite.