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The Collection

Explore 600 years of art

permanent presentation

Gustave De Smet, 'The Good House', 1926, MSK Ghent

The MSK has an impressive collection. The revised presentation fills no fewer than 25 galleries and displays the full diversity of the museum collection. Discover masterpieces of European art from the 14th to the 20th centuries, plus a series of thematic and monographic galleries, along a route that is guaranteed to excite and surprise.

The MSK is not just a home to paintings from the 14th to 20th centuries. Certainly, our collection includes international favourites such as Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Paul Rubens, Antoon van Dijk, James Ensor, Emile Claus, Auguste Rodin, René Magritte, Paul Delvaux and many others. But plenty of other riches also emerge from behind the scenes.

The museum’s collection holds important examples of 19th and 20th-century sculpture, an impressive collection of works on paper, a library of precious publications, and unusual items ranging from medals to sketches and studio materials. Thanks to a revision of their presentation this spring, this diversity of objects is finally able to speak for itself.

Religious objects supplement the collection of medieval art, and design sketches and material studies reveal the creative processes and the hand of the painter or sculptor at work. Some paintings are displayed in a free-standing arrangement that uniquely enables them to be examined from both sides. One of these, a beautiful work by Jacob de Backer, is on show for the first time in over 10 years. In the long galleries we juxtapose progressive and conservative artists, and elsewhere art magazines bring the modern 1920s to life.

The chronological route is interrupted at regular intervals by new themed galleries that invite visitors to deeper reflection. For instance, we look at images of women through 250 years of art, at portrayals of poverty and wealth, the relationship between the city and the countryside, and how artists create portraits to record themselves and their loved ones for posterity.

The lives of everyday people serve as the uniting element of the themed galleries. In this way the museum illustrates how every work of art contains many stories: those of the artist who conceived the work and the society in which it was created – but also the stories that appear to each individual who looks at it. The questions that people address through art are more or less the same today as they have always been. And as we consider what artists have created, we cannot help but layer our own stories upon theirs.

The presentation regularly features interventions by contemporary artists. They take inspiration from the historical collections and introduce new perspectives. In 2017, for instance, Luc Tuymans created the fresco 'The Arena', which has since been literally embedded in the museum walls. That same year, Patrick Van Caeckenberg donated 'The Cigar Box' to the museum, a contemporary take on the early modern Wunderkammer. And in the entrance hall, the semi-permanent 'Writte Room' by Parastou Forouhar invites visitors to reflect on language and identity.

Read more on 'The Arena'.
Read more on 'The cigar box'.
Read more on 'Written Room'.

From 02.09.22 to 03.09.23 we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the MSK. For a whole year, we will look back on our rich history and ask what it means to be a museum today. To this end, the permanent collection galleries will be extended with a historical trail that tells the story of the MSK. With the help of a free audio guide, you will learn everything about our history and the ins and outs of the museum in 10 stops.

Every month, you can also join an entry-level tour organised during which one of our guides focuses on a specific piece of museum history.

MSK 225: historical trail

Get to know all about 225 years of MSK and the ins and outs of an art museum through collection pieces, a thematic audio guide and multimedia applications.