Antwerp to celebrate Ensor Year with four simultaneous exhibitions

Seventy-five years after the death of artist James Ensor, Antwerp will celebrate Ensor Year with four simultaneous exhibitions in September.

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) will hold a large retrospective and the Museum Plantin-Moretus will show Ensor’s experiments with etching techniques. The Photo Museum Antwerp (FoMu) will highlight the link with photographer Cindy Sherman, while the Fashion Museum Antwerp (MoMu) will focus on make-up and beauty.

The KMSKA has the largest Ensor collection in the world, which it will be showing off this year. The retrospective In Your Wildest Dreams: Ensor Beyond Impressionism not only dives into Ensor's universe of wild visions, masks and satire.

It also presents Ensor for the first time side by side with contemporaries such as Monet, Manet and Munch. The exhibition follows Ensor's development as an artist and shows that he was not just a local genius, but a game-changer who broke the rules of art and went on to radically rewrite them.

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At the Museum Plantin-Moretus, dedicated to the history of printing, States of Imagination will show how Ensor experimented with etching techniques in his younger days. For the first time, the exhibition brings together the most remarkable results of these experiments: preparatory drawings, copper plates and prints in a variety of states. Ensor transformed prints into unique artworks by colouring them in by hand in pencil, gouache or watercolour.

FoMu and MoMu will not exhibit works by Ensor himself but will highlight his influence on later art. In Cindy Sherman: Anti-fashion, FoMu will translate issues from Ensor's oeuvre into the contemporary photography of American photographer Sherman. Like Ensor, Sherman is known for her critical and ironic commentary on social conventions through masquerades and poses questions about identity, gender and stereotyping. This is her first retrospective in Belgium.

Finally, MoMu will let make-up and hair artists catapult Ensor into the 21st century with the multimedia exhibition Masquerade, Makeup & Ensor. The artists explore Ensor's ideas around masquerade, coquetry, seduction, deception and the artificial and ephemeral. They delve into themes such as the representation of women, physical and digital facial filters, distorted body images and the ritual of makeup, exploring whether makeup is a mask or a means of expression.

While these exhibitions in Antwerp start on 28 September, there are already several exhibitions running in Ostend and Brussels as part of the Ensor Year.


#FlandersNewsService | A self portrait by James Ensor © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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