Museum Stories

Autumn Exhibitions at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium You Can’t Miss!

Nicole Ganbold 24 October 2021 min Read

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is a large complex of art museums in Brussels, Belgium. Their departments are comprised of Magritte Museum, Oldmasters Museum, Fin-de-Siècle Museum, Antoine Wiertz Museum, and Constantin Meunier Museum. We have prepared a list of the most exciting exhibitions for autumn 2021 that you have to see when visiting Brussels!

Museum’s History

The museum is one of the most important art institutions in Belgium. It was founded in 1801 by Napoleon Bonaparte and opened to the public in 1803 as the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. In 1919 it was renamed Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium – that is Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in French, and Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België in Dutch.

The Collection

Royal Museums of Fine Arts houses a vast overview of Western art, that is of 20,000 works of art! The Museum’s collection traces the history of visual arts from the 15th century to the 21st century, offering masterpieces by Early Netherlandish painters, Flemish star artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, French visionaries such as Jacques Louis David and Auguste Rodin, and of course of Belgium’s most important artists, among them Rene Magritte, Paul Delvaux, and Jan Fabre.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium 2021 Autumn Exhibitions

Europalia. Tracks to Modernity


Europalia. Tracks to Modernity is an artistic and historical journey on the theme of the train through works by major artists of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte, Leon Spilliaert, Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini, Fernand Léger, Giorgio de Chirico, Piet Mondrian, Victor Servranckx, Angelo Caviglioni, Paul Delvaux, and Rene Magritte.

In its early days, the train was the ultimate symbol of modernity. It was a major tool of the industrial revolution. In the 1820s, the first railway lines appeared in Great Britain to meet the needs of the mining industry. Belgium was the first to follow and in 1835, King Leopold I inaugurated a railway line linking Brussels with Mechelen. The train profoundly changed society. It disrupted human relationships with time and space. At the end of the 19th century, the Impressionists took up modern subjects, including the railways. Clouds of steam, the movement of trains, the changing light of the station and its surroundings are all aspects Monet, Caillebotte, De Nittis, and Ottmann tried to capture.

Modern society – its speed, violence and the sensations it generated – also fascinated Futurists such as Severini, Carrà, Russolo, Baldessari, and Sant’Elia. Boccioni was one of the first to take an interest in the psychological aspects of travel. The Surrealists adopted the point of view of the traveler: psychological aspects took precedence over the appeal of modernity. Artists’ interest in the train diminished from the 1950s onwards, however it is making a comeback in an era when modernity and the environment must be reconciled. The artist Fiona Tan will present an installation on this theme.

The exhibition will run from 15th October 2021 until 13th February 2022.

Fabrice Samyn. To See with Ellipse


Imbued with a powerful poetic dimension, Fabrice Samyn’s art questions reality and shakes up our bearings. His work questions the relationship with time, with the sacred, and with the spoken, and gives you on a sensory experience that is both intimate and spiritual.

Fabrice Samyn has been invited by the Royal Museums of Fine Arts to create a subtle dialogue with masterpieces from both the Old Masters and the Magritte Museums. His art, not unlike a Trojan horse, is bursting through the collections where it triggers resonance and interference, shaking up our perception of the works.

Fabrice Samyn is as elusive as his work is diverse. Mastering ancestral techniques as well as more modern ones, he expresses himself through painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, writing, and performance, pursuing one goal: to “reveal the visible”. To see with ellipse is the biggest monographic exhibition of Fabrice Samyn, who lives and works in Brussels.

The exhibition will run from 15th October 2021 until 13th February 2022.

Rachel Labastie. Remedies


Contemporary sculptress Rachel Labastie takes a critical stance towards the way modern society alienates our bodies and minds, both physically and mentally. She is a master of paradoxes, forever playing with the ambivalent meaning of the shapes. The material takes center stage in her work; loaded with personal and collective memories, it brings out her art in all its sensuality.

This autumn, Rachel Labastie shows about 30 emblematic works, mixing both retrospective and never shown before pieces. Her entire work is about duality and makes us see beyond what seems to be in front of us. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts have invited Rachel Labastie to create a piece “in residence” and in dialogue with a work from the permanent collection. The artist has chosen to set her gaze beyond The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David (1793); the piece will be revealed to the public at the opening of the exhibition.

The exhibition will run from 15th October 2021 until 13th February 2022.

Aimé Mpane. Remedies


Aimé Mpane, one of the most important artists of African origin to this day, is as multidisciplinary in his practice as he is firmly focused on the future. His work combines the roughness of the so-called Primitive Arts – he handles wood (among other materials) with a small hatchet in a traditional way – deconstructing the past, to better reassemble its pieces in line with contemporary reality.

He is the first Congolese artist to be exhibited at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. Travelling back and forth between Kinshasa, his native town, and Brussels, where he lives, allows him to cast a dynamic and innovative glance on Art History and moreover, on the history of civilization. His practice is grounded in dialogue and driven by an endless resilience imbued with hope. Aimé Mpane builds bridges: images nested into each other, augmented realities, passing through “the other side of the mirror”… His universe is the reflection of the state of mind of a true “local nomad,” someone who dares to ask “why not?” And who dares to dream the fraternity dream for Congo and for Belgium, and for human kind.

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts have invited the artist to revisit an artwork of their collection. Aimé Mpane’s choice was instant, Four studies of the head of a Moor (1614), by Peter Paul Rubens is a highly symbolic painting that he has known his whole life. The painting used to be titled Negros head and was used to illustrate the back of a 500 francs banknote back in the 1950s, the front of the note bearing the portrait of King Leopold II. Mpane’s take on the masterpiece is a canvas-tapestry-sculpture that will be shown to the public at the opening of the exhibition.

The exhibition will run from 15th October 2021 until 13th February 2022.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium offer a wide range of exhibits. From masters of Modernity to contemporary artists in a dialogue with Old Masters! So, if you’re living in Belgium or will happen to visit Brussels this autumn, make sure to visit Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium!

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