Antwerp’s MAS Museum (Museum aan de Stroom, or Museum on the Stream), is set to open a new show at the end of the month: Rare and Indispensable, a collection of Flemish Masterpieces, has been put together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Flemish Masterpiece Decree.
Starting at the end of October 2023 and running for four months until 25 February 2024, the exhibition will mark the establishment of the Flemish Masterpiece list back in 2003.
What is the Flemish Masterpiece list?
The list now features nearly 1,000 objects and artworks, which have been acknowledged and protected as masterpieces due to their exceptional historical, cultural-historical, archaeological, scientific or artistic significance.
Being on the list means government efforts can go towards acquiring the works for public collections. Works on the list are not allowed to be loaned or sold to anyone outside Flanders without permission.
Titled “Rare and Indispensable” (a phrase taken from the criteria for becoming a Flemish Masterpiece), the exhibition features works from more than 20 museums, plus churches, libraries and private owners, who have loaned selected recognised masterpieces from their collections to the MAS. Here, united in one place for the first time are paintings by Hugo van der Goes, Rubens, Jordaens, Ensor, Magritte and Bacon, as well as sculptures by Lucas Faydherbe and Henry Moore.
Chosen by members of the Masterpiece Council, and in partnership with the Flemish government (Department of Culture, Youth and Media and Event Flanders) this exceptional curation at the MAS is intended to be shown as a whole.
Silver objects, centuries-old manuscripts, and a rare piece of furniture by Pierre Gole, ébeniste du roi of France’s infamous “Sun King” Louis XIV, are also among the selected national treasures. The show is a unique opportunity to see these works brought together under the same roof, with some of them never before exhibited.
On the banks of the River Scheldt and occupying the site of a 16th-century storage depot in Antwerp and the former “Hanzehuis” (Hanseatic House), the 60-metre-high, red-sandstone-and-glass postmodern MAS is one of the port city’s most recognisable buildings, as well as its biggest museum. It boasts 5,700 metres of exhibition space over 10 floors, hosting permanent and temporary exhibitions that reveal the city and its centuries of exchanges with the world.
Visitors can buy a Standard ticket to see the permanent expo for €10 (discount €6), or see all the available shows for just €2 more. Explore all the rates and combined tickets, including yearly options, here.
What else is on at the MAS?
The MAS’s huge permanent collection is not possible to show all at once, but visible storage space allows even artworks not on “traditional” display to be seen.
The City At War exhibition tells the story of World War II’s impact on Antwerp and its inhabitants through intimate objects and stories. Antwerp went through Nazi terror, persecution of Jews and military violence during the war years and lost 25,000 lives.
The city residents are also active curators when it comes to Eyecatchers. 16 of them delved into the MAS collection and chose their own beloved “Masterpiece”. Experience their own personal eye on the art world.
And for foodies . . .
The Rare and Indispensable exhibition takes place on the third floor. A coffee bar on the ground floor offers a great place to meet and refresh, or visitors are welcome to bring picnics from home to enjoy in the MAS’s promenade area.
The MAS even has an exhibition to get your taste buds tingling. Antwerp a la Carte digs into the intimate relationship between the port city and food from the 16th century, and on into to the distant future.
Meanwhile the MAS’s ninth floor offers not just 360° panoramic views over Antwerp’s skyline, but also is home to Restaurant ZILTE, by Chef Viki Geunes – an eatery that “elevates cooking to art” according to the Michelin Guide, which has awarded it three Michelin stars – making it well worth a trip out of your way this fall and winter.