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A Guide to Events Celebrating the 350th Anniversary of the Legendary Antwerp Academy! 0

Rita Kaže-Zumberga, specially for

When King Philip IV benevolently allowed for the establishment of a free and public academy in 1663, and then David Teniers the Younger, who came from an artistic Antwerp family, took on the job of initiating the project in the hopes of renewing the city's reputation on the international art scene, no one could imagine that over the centuries, the school would become a powerful producer of talent and the scene of a staggering collision between contemporary art and historical legacy.

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp is celebrating its 350th anniversary, which makes it the fourth oldest art school in the world, and the oldest in Belgium. Yet another reason to celebrate is the coinciding 50th anniversary of the Academy's Fashion Department. Happy Birthday, dear Academy! – hail the organizers of the celebrations, which will provide a “birthday cake of art” to be shared by all, and for almost a whole year in length.

MAS exposition. Photo: Cedric Raskin

Through January 26, 2014, the celebratory air will be felt throughout the city of Antwerp.

Representatives from the Academy put their heads together with the Antwerpen Open, the MoMu Fashion Museum, MAS | Musem aan de Stroom, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, and the M HKA Museum of Contemporary Art, in order to create the celebratory program. By presenting varied exhibitions, activities and publications in various museums, public spaces and in the Academy itself, a wide platform for creativity will be available to both young and old alike.

To help keep you from getting lost in this torrent of events, has provided you with the following guide.  The exhibitions have been divided into five thematic groups, the first of which gives insight into the 350 years of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. 


Is art a profession or a science? Must art be beautiful? Are artists born, or can one be taught to become an artist? And is there even such a recognized notion as “the art of Antwerp”? These are the questions posed by Walter Van Beirendonck, fashion designer and lecturer at the Academy, and Dr. Paul Huvenne, director of the Royal Art Academy Museum, in the impressive exhibition at MAS | Museum aan de Stroom. You will be able to see with your own eyes how veteran artists Jacob Jordan, David Tenier the Younger, Vincent Van Gogh and Laurence Alma Tadema participate in a subtle dialog with later graduates of the Academy, such as Panamarenko, Fred Bervoets, and Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven.


The fascinating reconstruction of the Academy's 17th-century vestibule will take visitors to the building's very beginnings. You'll also be able to watch, in person, as current Academy students draw live models! The primary, and most notable, component here is the chance to view the gigantic Golden Wall, which contains the best of the institution's 350 academic years. Also worth noting is the KMSKA collection; it has been supplemented with works from other collections in Belgium and elsewhere in the world, which have been graciously loaned to the institution by several famous artists. The organizers promise a stimulating journey into 400 years of history.

Golden wall at MAS. Photo: Cedrik Raskin

Where and when: MAS | Museum aan de Stroom (Hanzestedenplaats 1), and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp (Mutsaardstraat 31); through January 26, 2014.


Undeniably, the Academy's Fashion Department offers one of the world's most prestigious courses on fashion. It's 50th anniversary is an ideal reason for the exhibition at MoMu, in which one can get an overview of the department's history and the successful story of Antwerp's fashion scene, which is tightly connected to the school.

“We have set up the Fashion Department's 50th anniversary exhibition in MoMu. We didn't want to confine the exhibition to a chronological order, which is why we set up a time-line-based exposition in the museum's entrance hall, but in the main exhibition hall, we organized them according to theme,” says David Flamee, the fashion museum's press secretary, in speaking to The exhibition highlights various aspects of the curriculum that has been offered by the Fashion Department these last 50 years: diverse courses of study, educational methods and grading, and the importance of graphic design in fashion – the latter confirmed by the selection of fashion illustrations that have been put on view. Students from various generations, as well as their careers, have been reflected in the exhibition, including the friendship between “The Antwerp Six” (Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Walter Van Beirendonck, Marina Yee, Dirk Bikkembergs) and Martin Margiela, and their rise to the highest echelons of fashion. On view are the graduation projects of this talented class, as well as their year-end show.

By concentrating on several themes all at once, the exhibition's leitmotif is the notion of this department as an artistic cocoon. During the educational process, students are encouraged to emphasize their creative skills and develop their artistic identity, which will later serve as the foundation of their professional careers. The students' final projects and the recent works of graduates, together with photographs, videos and graphical materials, illustrate how diverse the fashion of Antwerp is, how valued it is by the rest of the world, and how the students' works have influenced the international fashion scene in the last decades.

David Flamee explains that the fashion designers from Antwerp have developed a signature style: “We still have an interesting group of young designers who present their collections, such as Cedric Jacquemyn, Niels Peeraer and Lena Lumelsky. What makes the Fashion Department so special is its unique way of educating, which is very personal, as well as the individual approach in working with each student – all of which can be discovered by viewing this exhibition.”

From Fashion Department's final show. Photo: Boy Kortekaas

In answer to's question of whether the Fashion Department's anniversary is a celebration felt by all of Antwerp, Flamee reveals that all of the organizers believe this to be true. He also presents an invitation to each and every one of our readers: “It's great that the celebrations have taken over other parts of the city as well, and that it is not just an exhibition in a museum building. In June, the Fashion Department will be presenting its year-end show; it's a good event – all of the students, from first-year to fourth-year students, present their final projects. Everyone is welcome!

Having studied in the Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, the fashion designer Rolands Pēterkops (of MAREUNROL’S) shares his thoughts and experiences: “Although I'm currently extremely busy at work, and I just don't have the time to actively participate, I do know that several special events and exhibitions have been/will be taking place in honor of the Academy's anniversary. The Academy in Antwerp is a very friendly, creative and international environment – a beautiful and large building in which, at least during my time, it was very pleasant to spend time in because it housed the school, a fashion museum a few floors down, a library on art and fashion, the editorial offices of A Magazine, the Flemish Fashion Fund, an excellent book store, and the shop of fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto – which actually looked more like a gallery, and where, for a few euros, one could try on clothes that he had designed (at least that's what people said). In that environment, famous fashion designers were a daily thing. The curriculum was inspiring and it prepared us for the real world. We learned by doing. It was an intense and very creative process that, at the same time, made us brush up against responsibility, and it also prepared us for the difficulties that a fashion designer faces in the great, big world – a place that is very stressful and full of fierce competition.

The Royal Art Academy is one of the world's top fashion schools; it has a powerful culture of fashion that has created world-level individuals on the fashion scene. It's a place where one takes on a load of intellectual fashion baggage. The instructors are respected representatives of today's fashion industry, and their opinions are backed by experience. I wouldn't say that the Academy changed my personal signature in terms of fashion; it only confirmed that my thinking was headed in the right direction. The school allowed me to look at myself from the outside – from a global perspective.”

Eran Shanny. 2ndBachelor. Antwerp Fashion department. Photo: Etienne Tordoir

Devon Halfnight Le Flufy. Master Collection. Antwerp Fashion Department. Photo: EtienneTordoir

Where and when: MoMu (Nationalestraat 28); through February 16, 2014.


In the 19th century, the legendary monastery became a school, and the church – a museum. The impressive architectural monument has seen its share of various political, social and artistic upheavals, but nevertheless, it still guarantees programs in art education that are of the highest quality. Many generations of painters, sculptors and architects (and today – graphic designers, fashion designers, theatrical costumers, jewelry designers and photographers) have been both introduced to art and educated here.

As it has become the epicenter of all celebratory events, the inner environment of the Academy has become more lively than usual. There are a great number of exhibitions and public events taking place, so be sure that you don't miss the exhibition in the Long Room – “The Future is History”, which takes a look at the diverse forms that the teaching of visual arts has taken on over the last 50 years. Instructors working with the current generation present their visions, together with Academy alumni and guest lecturers. (Through October 13)

“A Bustling Campus Where the Arts Run Rampant” – Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven followed the progress of the Academy's master's students for a year, and has put on exhibition personally-selected pieces that highlight the various motivational factors that can be found among this group of young artists. (November 7 - December 19)

“75 Years In Form – The Surprising Other Side of the Coin” – An exhibition that honors the Academy's 75 years of courses in graphic design by revealing their multifaceted nature. (January 9 - March 2, 2014)

In the Winter Garden, “The Papers of the Muse” – Based on never-before-seen materials from the Academy's archives, Jan Lampo tells the fascinating legend of the Academy.

“Gustav Metzger, the Antwerp Years” – Artist and political activist Gustav Metzger (b.1926) is at the center of this exhibition. On view are his drawings and paintings from his years of study at the Academy, 1948-49. (November 23 – December 12)

“Printed Resonances” – A traveling exhibition of graphical works that presents the results of international cooperation among several notable academies. (January 9-17, 2014)


Bar 'AC – A bar, bookstore and meeting place in the Academy's wonderful gated garden, operated and run by students at the Academy. Here you can find information on all of the events, have some coffee and a snack, read the newspaper, and browse (and maybe even buy) one of the publications on sale. (Open from September 8)

Keep in mind that on Thursdays, the students take over the Academy by holding all sorts of surprise-filled evening programs: evening socials in the cafes, a drawing marathon, contests for beginners (with prizes), dinner and a movie, a costume party, and at the very end, a big birthday party on January 25, 2014.

All of the above events take place at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp (Mutsaardstraat 31).


Eight artists who graduated the Academy after the year 2000 were invited to created new works in public places. This exhibit leads you into the surrounding social context and into the city's social structure. In just one stroll, the viewer is introduced (or re-introduced) to interesting spots that are not always noticed in daily life. The route is 2 km long and easy to walk through.

Kasper Bosmans © Frederik Beyens

For 10 days, Kasper Bosmans has placed a F-104 Starfighter aircraft in a small field; when the aircraft disappears, all that will be left will be a few marble supports and a fence. Wannes Goetschalckx has constructed a specially-adapted version of a common street scene – a small tree will be supported by wooden stakes. Kati Heck has created a fountain, the concept of which is “free drinking water for all”. Pol Matthé's work, “That's in a Heap, That's in a Pile”, refers to the theme of migration, which is characteristic of the neighborhood around the station. Philip Metten has transformed an existing bar – it will now serve as a meeting place and venue for shows and live performances during the time of the exhibition. Joris Van de Moorte has created surprising neon sculptures in various spots along the whole route. Leon Vranken has transmuted the traditional sculpture podium by making it into a completely independent work of art. And on the roof of a building, you'll notice Julia Wlodkowski's sculpture, VERY EXPENSIVE, which serves as a call for living a simpler life.

The above projects will be on view until January 26, 2014.


Twelve of Antwerp's fashion designers, all graduates of the Fashion Department, have each donated one of their most important works for the open-air project “Antwerp Icons”. The photographer Ronald Stoops, make-up artist Inge Grognara, and fashion designer Dirk Van Saene have all interpreted pieces of clothing. Large-scale photographs will appear, and then disappear, in various spots around the city.

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Antwerp Icon. Dries Van Noten @ MAS. Photo: Ronald Stoop

“For the project Extra Muros, we created a photo spread of iconic clothes made by twelve designers from Antwerp, all of which use graphic prints by the designers. Twelve large installations using containers have been made from the photographs, and these have been spread out around the city. It's a nice free tour that you can take while on a walk of the city, thereby discovering Antwerp and its designers at the same time,” Flamee told


As part of the celebratory event, the M HKA Contemporary Art Museum will become “Muhkademie”, in which the city will follow in the footsteps of the Academy and hold a symposium for everyone for whom fashion and art are more than just a way to spend some free time.

What happens when the messy Academy takes over the clean, white spaces of the M HKA Museum? And when the cradle of art meets face to face with an exhibition hall? The artist Nico Dockx and the art historian Johan Pas have invited artists and art lovers, lecturers and students, and thinkers and doers, to give their assessment on the roles that the Academy and the Museum have taken on in this changing, post-institutional world of art.


Three of the exhibition rooms in the top floor of the M HKA will become temporary affiliates of the Academy. The three rooms will take on the functions of an archive, a performance hall, and a project room, with all three being interconnected in an elastic, open-view structure designed by the architect Yona Friedman (b. 1923). For more than three months, the structure will ensure a platform for the initiation of conversations and for holding activities, seminars, discussions and presentations.

The Muhkademie is a temporary laboratory in which the boundaries between artistic practice and education will be studied. Graduate Ina Leys has invited other graduates of the Academy to present their latest works here, while the existing exhibition objects and documents from the M HKA collection will be introduced as “sparring partners”. Every Thursday evening, visitors will have the opportunity to listen to and take part in conversations with artists on the shared facets of the Academy and the Museum, as well on education, practice done in the field, and reflections on work.

Where and when: M HKA (Leuvenstraat 32); September 27 – January 5, 2014.


The Academy has always been an irreplaceable part of its home city of Antwerp. Many of its former students have become famous artists, and over the years, many have left their art works in the city – these would be buildings, street names, and statues along the sides of roads and in squares.

A guide will help you go back 350 years into the city's past, and in the footsteps of the venerable Academy. During the walking tour, you'll discover much more about the birth of the Academy, you'll see many works done by graduates of the Academy, and you'll hear juicy and humorous anecdotes that will help illustrate the history of events. It all starts in the Academy's historic park; going on from there, you'll notice monuments, museums, churches and streets that have links to former students and faculty. This tour of discovery has a symbolic end destination – the statue of David Tenier the Younger, who founded the Academy 350 years ago.

Those interested in symposiums will have the opportunity to meet on November 7 and 8, when the theme of “To Teach or Not to Teach. Questioning the Art School” will be discussed. Invited speakers will look into the past, the present, and even into the future, to examine and dispel the myths about art education at the higher levels of learning. Artists and scholars will discuss, deliberate and review various subjects, but not in the traditional academic style; it will be more of a “happening”, in which visitors will have the chance to hear artistic messages and participate in public debates, discussions and performances.

At the beginning, the symposium will focus on the context of the Academy and its historic and contemporary roles, with attention also being given to the time of its founding and the establishment of the Fashion Department and its upswing. The relationships between the Academy, the art world and the city's contextual environment will also be examined. Separate discussions will cover autodidacts, the pluses and minuses of studying art, and a study of career possibilities for artists who have graduated from the Academy. And in closing, there will also be renditions of the famous stories concerning the “Antwerp Six”.

Where and when: The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp (Mutsaardstraat 31); November 7, 8.