Founded 225 years ago, the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) is the oldest museum in Belgium. In the whole of Europe, only a few museums are older than MSK. And age is just one of the things that make it stand out, because the quality of its collection is second to none! Here are some fun facts about MSK

1. The MSK building is one of the oldest purpose-built museums

Since 1904, MSK has been housed in a building that catches the eye. At the time, it was already designed and intended as a museum, which makes it quite unique. After all, museums are often housed in buildings that originally served a different purpose. MSK has a spacious and open feel, and daylight enters every room. So the architecture is spot-on. The building has been expanded over time. On the occasion of the 1913 World's Fair held in Ghent, the museum was enlarged with a U-shaped annex and two semicircular wings.

2. MSK’s collection is among the finest in Europe

The museum’s collection is definitely impressive, boasting some 20,000 works of art spanning Europe’s artistic history, from the Middle Ages to the first half of the twentieth century. The collection features big names such as Hieronymus Bosch, Rubens, Van Dyck, Géricault, Rodin, Ensor, Magritte and Delvaux. A few hundred works are permanently on display, while other pieces are shown temporarily. This way, a visit to the museum is always different and never boring!

3. MSK received an important donation

The address of MSK is Fernand Scribedreef 1, Ghent. Why is this important, you wonder? The street where the museum is located was named after Belgian artist and collector Fernand Scribe. Scribe donated his private art collection to the museum, and that was not a small gift. It consisted of over two hundred works of art by world-famous artists such as Breughel, Tintoretto, Jordaens and Permeke. Approximately one tenth of the works in the permanent collection of MSK came from Scribe’s private collection.

4. The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art used to be part of MSK

Ghent’s Museum of Contemporary Art was originally a branch of MSK. Jan Hoet was its first custodian. For many years, the new museum was housed in a dozen rooms of MSK, until it was relocated to a separate building across the street in 1999. The museum was renamed Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.).

5. The restoration of one of the most important artworks in the world took place at MSK

If you visited MSK between 2012 and 2019, you could witness something quite extraordinary. At the time, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage restored the exterior panels and a few interior panels of the Ghent Altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers. The restorers worked in two museum rooms that had been converted into a studio, separated from the public by a glass wall.  The restoration was long overdue, since nearly half of the panels turned out to have been painted over. Beginning in 2023, the seven upper panels will be brought back to their former glory at the Museum of Fine Arts in the third and final restoration phase.

6. MSK organised the biggest tribute to Jan Van Eyck ever

In 2020, MSK organised the largest Jan Van Eyck exhibition ever. It drew about 130,000 visitors in the first few weeks alone. That number would have been much higher if COVID-19 hadn't locked down the country. Unfortunately, the exhibition had to close just six weeks after the opening. Afterwards, a virtual tour was developed. The exhibition won the prestigious Apollo Award in the category ‘Exhibition of the Year’.

7. MSK has received celebrities on multiple occasions

MSK has received many famous visitors. The list includes the Belgian royal family, French president Emmanuel Macron, singer-songwriter Patti Smith and actor Patrick Stewart – best known for his role in Star Trek. That’s just to name a few, and they were all very impressed by the museum. 

Visit by king Albert I in 1913

8. MSK really is for everyone

As Belgium’s first art museum, MSK provides special services such as a low-stimulus tour, an LGBTQ+ tour, and a range of services for the blind and partially sighted. There is also a fixed family offer with treasure hunts, poems as well as tactile and active assignments throughout the museum. This makes a visit to MSK an exciting outing for the whole family. 

Online ticketing Museum of Fine Arts

Prefer not to wait in line at the ticket booth? Want to be sure you can discover the Museum of Fine Arts when you want to? Then book your tickets online in advance and enjoy your visit to the fullest.

Book your tickets here!