In need of renewal
The Middelheim Museum, founded in 1950, collects, preserves and displays sculptures from around 1870 to the present day. For the presentation of its ever-growing collection, the museum has used the same approach all these years. More than 70 years later, the world, society and the museum landscape look quite different. Museums today have a very different meaning and role in society. There is also a greater appreciation of the importance of nature in human life. A new collection presentation was about due.
Art and the park reinforce each other
The Middelheim Museum is an oddity: in addition to being an art museum, it is also a park. The unique park environment is much more than just a beautiful backdrop for the sculptures; it is a prominent part of the museum experience. The sculptures follow the rhythm of the nature surrounding them. The preservation and management of the artworks is also geared to this. The museum is therefore paying more attention to the special relationship between the works of art and their surroundings.
We are also strengthening the landscape atmospheres of the park zones. Important green park elements will soon be more visible and protected. As such, we want to make the park as a whole more climate robust for the future. We are therefore working on a new mowing policy on the large lawns, softening the soil where possible and also planting volumes of greenery.
Collection becomes more accessible to the public
In the coming months, many artworks will be given a different, more thoughtful place in the art park: 169 works of art will be displayed in the new collection presentation, 103 works will be placed in the new open-air depot. Ultimately, more works will be accessible than the 249 currently displayed in the art park.
Each art object will also be given a new, updated description. The collection is presented according to different themes. The starting point is the relationship between man and nature, in all its diversity.
There will also be a new route through the museum, an easy-to-read museum map and better signage which will make it easier for visitors to find their way through the art park. We are also adapting the public programme accordingly.
In a few months’ time the museum library will move to the collections pavilion. The new location will provide additional space for the temporary presentations of objects from the supporting collections such as drawings, small sculptures, designs and models.
Sustainable diverse coexistence
With these ambitious interventions, the Middelheim Museum is aiming to contribute to a healthy urban environment based on its special character as a museum and park, and thus assuming its social role. Living together sustainably in diversity is a priority.
Not only with other people of different cultural, social, economic backgrounds, but also with non-human life forms such as plants, animals, and even water and ecosystems. We explore these dynamics together with artists, audiences, and partners, and continue to adjust and develop the collection presentation accordingly.
New outdoor depot
In September 2022, the first phase of the works started with the construction of a new open-air depot. In this repository, which will consist of multiple platforms, the museum will store weatherproof outdoor sculptures which are temporarily removed from display. The new open-air repository will allow the museum to exhibit fewer artworks at a time in the future, to change some sculptures after a period of time, or to put them in temporary storage for repair. This will further enhance the visitor experience in the art park. The sculptures in the repository will remain accessible to both visitors and researchers.
More greenery in the museum
The construction of the new open-air repository will be accompanied by extensive green compensation. 87 small-sized ornamental fruit trees which have come to the end of their life cycle will be replaced by 54 high-quality tall-stemmed trees. The historic oak lane flanking the plot will be completed by planting six tall-stemmed pedunculated oaks. There will also be 793 m2 of micro forest, with green buffers, hedges and almost two thousand additional shrubs. To this end, the museum is working closely with the city of Antwerp's Department for green spaces.
The works will take place from 5 September 2022 to December 2023. Periods of intensive work (pruning, planting, restoration, transportation etc.) will alternate with quieter periods.
Lapis Arte and TAK. Landschapsarchitecten start with the construction of the new open-air depot. The architects of studio MOTO and the landscape architect of Atelier voor groene ruimte are developing a new scenography and ensure an ideal match with the different landscapes. Together with Studio Dott, we provide new signage and wayfinding on the site.
The effect of some changes, such as planting, will sometimes not be clearly visible for several years. Accordingly, the transformation will begin relatively modestly and slowly, but will be consistent. As such, the museum will change a little more each day.