The Exhibition of Jan van Eyck in Ghent

Ghent Guide Anna — van Eyck Exhibition in Ghent

It’s officially open! Van Eyck Exhibition has officially opened its doors! Still overwhelmed with emotions, I would like to share some practical information you might need:

It’s crowded – everyone’s been waiting for the opening for a long time, so everyone wants to finally see all the promised treasures. And it is a treasure trove indeed! Some items, especially small ones, are quite difficult to approach due to the high number of visitors.

All visitors are asked to leave their bags and coats in the cloakroom in the basement. Do not worry: the exhibition halls are very warm; you will not freeze. But note that there is a queue in the cloakroom, so it’s better to come to the exhibition not at the time indicated on your ticket, but in advance.

Ghent Guide Anna — van Eyck Exhibition in Ghent

Taking pictures is strictly forbidden, you’ll be asked to leave your camera in the locker room at the entrance. The only hall where you can take a picture is the very first one where I made my photos. It features reproductions of paintings on its walls and a timeline of Jan van Eyck’s life in the framework of important historical events. It’s great – I often miss this kind of context at exhibitions.

The exhibits are covered by insurance for 850 thousand euros, so security is working really well: 200 hidden cameras and a guard in each hall.

Ghent Guide Anna — van Eyck Exhibition in Ghent

Audio guides work like a miracle. In the first hall where the exhibition starts, you get a tiny light audio guide. There is a table featuring small plates with language names (Russian, Dutch, French, English, German, Japanese, Spanish and Italian). You choose the language, point the audio guide to the plate and voilà! – the thing starts speaking the language you want.

Audio guides are also available for children, but the choice of languages is limited – Dutch, French, English, and German. In different halls, I saw several children listening with great concentration and interest – a lovely sight!

All the necessary background information is there: you can feel how the curators tried to put every object in context: you may see for example the portrait of Duke Philip of Burgundy, Van Eyck’s patron, and sketches of paintings and sculptures – you can really spend hours admiring them. Therefore, it is better to take a folding chair at the entrance: there are few seats in the halls, and if you are planning to spend some time there, you’ll want to sit down at some point.

Van Eyck is a real genius of small details. Even I, who knows every inch of the Ghent altarpiece, spent more than half an hour near its panels: hairs on Adam’s legs, thin veins on Eve’s hands, birds in the sky of the Annunciation panel… Adam and Eve, by the way, are very strange to see at eye level: their proportions are painted for viewing them from underneath, but here, as the angle is different you can feel that something is wrong. I approached the panels, then moved away from it, then approached them again, all the time feeling how my eyes were trying to adjust to the strange perspective as a camera lens. Finally, I had to squeeze my eyes and walk away, but as soon as I reached home, I immediately planned my next visit! Do come, too, and bring all your friends!