Art in Ghent

Ghent is a lively city with a vibrant art scene.

Its main cultural sights include:

1. MSK – The Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent


The Museum of Fine Arts is our conference’s venue. It is home to about 9000 works, dating from a period ranging from the Middle Ages to the first half of the twentieth century. There are about 450 works in the museum’s permanent collection presentation. The focus lies mainly on painting from the Southern Netherlands and Belgium, but graphic art, sculpture and European painting are also well represented. Currently, and until the end of 2019, the restoration of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers is under way in the very heart of the museum, and can be followed by visitors from behind a glass separation.

Moreover, the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent is a knowledge centre for the art of the nineteenth century, the fin de siècle and the early twentieth century. Outside of various works by Emile Claus, James Ensor and Fernand Khnopff, stand-outs in the collection of the long nineteenth century include:

  • Théodore Géricault’s Portrait of a Kleptomaniac (c. 1820-24).
  • The plaster cast of Jef Lambeaux’s colossal relief The Human Passions (1899).
  • Théo Van Rysselberghe’s pointillist homage to male homosociality, The Reading (1903, pictured below).
  • The only remaining plaster version of George Minne’s Fountain with Kneeling Youths (1905, 1927-30).
Théo Van Rysselberghe, The Reading (La lecture); 1903, oil on canvas. Ghent, Museum of Fine Arts. Credit: Lukas – Art in Flanders VZW / photo by Hugo Maertens. Pictured from left to right: Félix le Dantec, Emile Verhaeren, Francis Viélé-Griffin, Félix Fénéon, Henri-Edmond Cross, André Gide, Henri Ghéon, Maurice Maeterlinck.

Medardo Rosso exhibition

Our conference will coincide with the exhibition Medardo Rosso (1858-1928), which is devoted to the creative process of the Italian artist. Rosso is today hailed as a pioneer of modern sculpture, especially for his experimental explorations of the limits of form and materiality. The MSK retrospective brings together an impressive collection of works from public and private collections across Europe, thereby offering a unique opportunity to admire first-hand Rosso’s work.

2. S.M.A.K. – The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent

Right across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, and at the edge of the Citadelpark, is Ghent’s Museum of Contemporary Art, most commonly referred to as S.M.A.K. Its permanent collection of first-rate Belgian and international works is presented in constant interaction with original and often provocative exhibitions, devoted to artists like Rinus van de Velde and Gerhard Richter.

3. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral

The large-scale restoration of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb – commonly referred to as the Ghent Altarpiece – is being carried out in phases, so while work at the Museum of Fine Arts is still under way, the restored outside panels are already back on view in Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, in Ghent’s historic city center. The polyptych, painted by the Van Eyck brothers in 1432, is one of the highlights of Early Netherlandish painting (or Flemish Primitives). Considered to be a milestone in art history, the painting is perhaps just as famous for its tumultuous history, which includes the theft of two panels – one of which is missing to this day – and its removal by the German invaders during WWII. Don’t miss the two panels painted in 1860 that were to replace the original Adam and Eve, and remedy the pair’s scandalous nudity with the addition of pelts.

4. STAM – The Ghent City Museum

The Ghent City Museum tells the history of Ghent through inspiring collection pieces and interactive multimedia. Past, present and future are illustrated in a chronological trail that details Ghent’s transformation from a medieval metropolis into the city it is today. Established in 2010, the museum is located in the so-called ‘Bijloke site’, where it joins the 14th-century Bijloke abbey and 17th-century Bijloke monastery. The historic site is also home to Alain Platel’s world famous dance company Ballets C de la B, and to the city’s art academy and conservatory.

5. Artsy hotspots

Alternative cinemas, cool cafés and hip exhibition spaces and galeries are scattered throughout the city. Check out USE-IT to help locate them.