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4 must-see art exhibitions in Belgium in 2024

Updated: May 27

Belgium has one of the greatest artistic legacies in Europe, so it’s no wonder the country’s museums and galleries always have hugely exciting art exhibitions planned. Pleasingly, 2024 is no different.

And it’s not just the capital city which deserves all the attention of art-lovers either. There are brilliant blockbusters planned across the country this year.

So here are four stand-out exhibitions in Belgium — in four different cities — you should see this year.

In Ostend

James Ensor is one of Belgium’s most famous artists, and 2024 marks 75 years since his death. To mark this important milestone in his legacy, a special year of commemoration is taking place, with big exhibitions on his work being held across Flanders and beyond.

This includes his hometown of Ostend, whose Ensor 2024 year has kicked off with the first exhibition ever devoted to the artist’s still lifes. He painted around 200 during his lifetime (out of a total output of 800 paintings) and around 50 are on show here.

They can be seen alongside 100 works by other artists — mainly lesser-known names — which have rarely or never been displayed in public. Collectively the exhibition traces the development of still life in Belgium at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries, as well as highlighting how Ensor broke away from the genre’s conventions by bringing in more light and colour to compositions.

A person sits on a bench with their back to the viewer while looking at a number. of framed paintings displayed on the wall
James Ensor and Still Life in Belgium 1830 — 1930 at Mu.Zee. Photo: maxwell museums

In Ghent

Among Friends at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent — open now until 28 April 2024

The oldest museum in Belgium is celebrating its 225th birthday with an exhibition devoted to the many private donors who have gifted artworks to their collection over the centuries.

Dozens of works that usually reside in private settings are shown here alongside related works from the museum’s own collection, offering visitors an eclectic mix of art dating from the mid-14th century to around 1960.

Together — and across a huge 16 galleries — the multitude of ways that private collectors have played a role in the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent’s history is explored, from donations both in life and after death, and from personal tastes to collective fashions.

Three busts displayed in glass cabinet
Sculptures in Among Friends exhibition in Ghent. © Martin Corlazzoli

In Brussels

IMAGINE!: 100 Years of International Surrealism at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, 

— open now until 21 July 2024

Surrealism is 100 years old in 2024, and to mark the occasion this major exhibition will look back at the birth of one of the most famous art movements of the 20th century.

Over 130 artworks will go on show in this blockbuster — created in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris — spanning paintings, works on paper, sculptures, objects, assemblages, and photographs. Collectively they will explore surrealism’s relationship with symbolism, the movement’s precursor, as well as Belgium’s starring role in helping surrealism develop.

Expect to see all the big hitters on show here, including Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Dorothea Tanning, Joan Miró, Jane Graverol, Leonor Fini, and Man Ray.

In Antwerp

In Your Wildest Dreams: Beyond Impressionism at Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) — 28 September 2024 until 18 January 2025

An even bigger Ensor exhibition is opening in autumn 2024, and which also marks the passing of the baton of this year’s Ensor celebrations from Ostend to the port city of Antwerp.

In fact this show at KMSKA promises to be one of the biggest Ensor exhibitions in Belgium this century. Visitors will dive into Ensor's wonderful universe of wild visions, masks and satire, as well as seeing the work of the famous international artists that inspired him. These include Monet, Renoir and Goya.

While KMSKA boasts the largest and most varied Ensor collection anywhere in the world, the exhibition will be complemented by key international loans. Across nine galleries, these major paintings will also be seen alongside sketchbooks, etches and scans to take visitors through Ensor’s unique creative process, from pigment to print.

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