The MSK was officially founded in 1798, which makes us older than Belgium itself. Today, the museum preserves almost 20,000 works of European painting and sculpture, from the Middle Ages to the present day. Among them is also a very extensive collection of art on paper: drawings, graphic art, preliminary studies... Through a permanent collection presentation, changing temporary exhibitions and an extensive public programme, we make the collection accessible and use art to connect people.
Read more on the history and workings of the museum.
Like all museums, the MSK can only display a selection of its collection. Many pieces are safely stored in the depot, where they are of course accessible to researchers. The most important pieces are kept in secure and air-conditioned rooms within the museum building. In addition, the City of Ghent opened two extra heritage depots that are shared by the different city museums.
In the depot in the port there is room for 7,500m³ of objects. Mainly objects made of metal, glass and pottery are stored here, as these have less strict climate requirements. The depot under the stands of the Ghelamco sports arena is air-conditioned and offers space for 2,400m³ of objects. They house sensitive objects made of paper, wood, textile or plastic. In total, some 700 MSK works are housed here: pieces that are rarely or never exhibited.
The MSK exhibits works of art from the late Middle Ages onwards, but an important focus lies on (Belgian) art of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. This takes up about half of the museum galleries. Therefore, the museum plays an important role as a centre of expertise for the art of this period.
The publicly accessible research library plays an important part in this. The museum supports external researchers, hosts workshops and micro-teachings by Ghent University, organises lectures and supervises internships in art studies, curatorial studies, social and cultural studies, and communication. For each exhibition and acquisition, the MSK also conducts its own research. The results of this often find their way into museum publications. For instance, the catalogue for the exhibition Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution compiles important new findings on the Flemish Master and the catalogue accompanying Theodoor Rombouts is the first monographic work on this Baroque painter.
Finally, the MSK collaborated on the thematic websites of the Flemish Art Collection (VKC). These bring together research from various Flemish museums and make important sources accessible. On the website Museum dicht, collectie open ('museum closed, collection open', only available in Dutch) the VKC also collected a series of stories about works of art from the MSK collection.
The MSK does not collect contemporary works of art, but in the presentation of the collection, there is regularly room for interventions by contemporary artists. They take their inspiration from the historical collections and bring new perspectives to the museum. Occasionally, this leads to a permanent enrichment of the collection. In 2017, for instance, Luc Tuymans made the fresco 'The Arena', which is literally embedded in the museum walls. That same year, Patrick Van Caeckenbergh donated 'The cigar box' to the museum, a contemporary take on the early modern Wunderkammer, and in the entrance hall, the semi-permanent 'Written Room' by Parastou Forouhar invites visitors to think about language and identity.
Discover the permanent presentation
Library and documentation
In our specialised museum library, you will find reference works and periodicals, historical salon catalogues and precious publications. The library and documentation centre are accessible by appointment.
Read our articles on the collection→ see all
The thematic websites of the Flemish Art Collection (VKC) bring together art and research from various Flemish museums. Dive into the stories of the Flemish Primitives, the baroque, abstract modernism, James Ensor and George Minne.
Provenance research WOII
During the Second World War, many works of art and cultural goods were left behind, robbed or stolen from public and private property. A large number of cultural goods were traced after the Second World War, recovered and returned to their rightful owners. However, the provenance of all the cultural goods found was not equally clear. There are 4 artworks in the MSK for which provenance research is also ongoing.
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