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Organisers of Van Eyck blockbuster bank on possible €3.5m insurance payout to refund ticketholders

“Once in a lifetime exhibition”, which closed early due to the coronavirus outbreak, will not be extended

The exhibition Van Eyck: an Optical Revolution was on display in the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent © MSK Ghent. Photo: David Levene

The organisers of the largest ever exhibition dedicated to the Flemish Old Master Jan van Eyck, held at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, aim to refund 144,000 ticket holders unable to see the show which closed early due to the coronavirus outbreak. The costs may be met through an insurance payout which could total more than €3.5m (the charge for a full-price ticket was €25). Van Eyck: an Optical Revolution opened 1 February and was due to run until 30 April, but closed 13 March. The organisers are "currently in talks with their insurer", says a museum spokesman.

“Due to the recent extension of the [coronavirus] measures until 3 May, it is now also no longer possible to reopen the exhibition. The museum had taken out cancellation insurance for the exhibition and is currently working on the practical organisation of a refund of the tickets, in consultation with the insurer. We hope to contact you soon with more details,” say the organisers in an email sent to ticketholders on 23 April. A virtual tour of the show can still be accessed on YouTube.

The show brought together around half of the 20 to 22 autograph works in existence, with several remarkable international loans. Sections of the Ghent Altarpiece (1432, also called Adoration of the Mystic Lamb)—the masterpiece that Van Eyck created with his brother Hubert—were also on loan from Ghent’s Saint Bavo’s Cathedral. The Ghent City Alderman responsible for culture, Sami Souguir, told the Belgian news service Vrt Nws however that when the museum contacted the 73 lenders to ask if loans could be extended, "most didn't respond". The museum declined to comment further.