The Flemish Masterwork Decree 20 years on: discover the… | MSK Gent
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The Flemish Masterwork Decree 20 years on: discover the MSK’s most prestigious works in the masterwork exhibition at the MAS

Théo Van Rysselberghe, 'The Lecture by Emile Verhaeren', 1903, MSK Gent.
Théo Van Rysselberghe, 'The Lecture by Emile Verhaeren', 1903, MSK Gent.

The Flemish Masterwork Decree came into force 20 years ago. To celebrate this anniversary, a major exhibition will take place in the MAS and all of the works on the Flemish Masterwork List, including those in the MSK, will receive special attention all around the country.

Flemish Masterwork Decree

The government of Flanders passed the Flemish Masterwork Decree (Topstukkendecreet) on 24 January 2023 to protect the community’s unique and precious cultural heritage. The Decree ensures that masterworks cannot be taken out of Flanders without permission, that they will be preserved and protected as carefully as possible and that public collections will be able to purchase them if they become available. More than 1,000 objects and collections are now included in the Masterwork List (Topstukkenlijst).

Masterworks in the MSK

The MSK is proud to have 54 works that appear in the Masterwork List. The museum owns most of them, including Mary Magdalene by Alfred Stevens, Christ Carrying the Cross by Hieronymous Bosch, Kingfishers by Emile Clause, Old Lady with Masks by James Ensor, Studies of the Head of Abraham Grapheus by Jacob Jordaens, Perspective II - Manet’s Balcony by René Magritte and many others that are firm favourites with visitors. Others are in the MSK on loan from the Flemish Community (various works by James Ensor, Malpertuus by Frits Van den Berghe) and the King Baudouin Foundation (The Absinthe Drinker by Léon Spilliaert and Skeleton Looking at Chinoiseries by James Ensor). Not all masterworks are on display in the museum all the time, but you can always find them in the online collection pages. A number of the MSK’s masterworks have also been moved to other locations this autumn for major exhibitions, including the one in the MAS.

Masterpieces from Flemish collections at the MAS

From 31 October 2023 to 25 February 2024, you can admire many masterpieces at the MAS at the Rare and indispensable exhibition. The exhibition brings a unique selection of masterpieces from the Flemish masterpiece list including eight works from MSK: Perspective II. Manet's Balcony by René Magritte, Portrait of Giovanni Paolo Cornaro by Jacopo Tintoretto, Portrait of a Kleptomaniac by Théodore Géricault, The Lecture by Emile Verhaeren by Théo Van Rysselberghe, Self-Portrait by Josse Sébastien Van den Abeele, Portrait of Marguerite Van Mons by Théo Van Rysselberghe, Saint James the Less by Jean Delcour and Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata by Peter Paul Rubens.

Masterworks in the spotlight everywhere in Flanders

If you just can’t get enough masterworks, keep in mind that museums, archives and libraries across Flanders will also be shining a spotlight on Flemish cultural heritage throughout the autumn. Keep up to date on the Museumpas campaign at