The museum holds a unique collection of Belgian art dating from 1850 to the present day. There has always been an emphasis on recent art in the province. The collection was started in 1957 when the then provincial council decided to purchase work by recent Flemish artists. In 1959, a purchasing committee was set up with a view to establishing a museum. After the collection made a few peregrinations through Ypres and Bruges, the Provincial Museum for Modern Art (PMMK) opened in Ostend in 1986, and a new page was added to its history when it was merged with the Fine Art Museum in Ostend in 2008. In 1885, a private collector donated a substantial collection of works of art to the city. Eight years later, the municipal council decided to establish a museum in a room in the old city hall on Wapenplein. Constant Permeke’s father, Henri Permeke, was the first curator of the Ostend Fine Art Museum in 1897. Thanks to his efforts, major works by James Ensor, amongst others, were bought.
The highlights of the Mu.ZEE collection are pieces from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in particular by James Ensor, Léon Spilliaert and Constant Permeke. The collection includes 3500 inventory numbers. There is an major selection of work by Léon Spilliaert (160 works) and Constant Permeke. The collection also shows how expressionism came into being, with works by Jean Brusselmans and Paul Joostens (more than 350 collages).
30-33% of the collection consists of purchases and originally or historically grew through a proportional percentage of donations. Contemporary artists are represented alongside big names from Belgian art history. 2530% of the collection is on display and the selection changes regularly. Work by Luc Tuymans, Léon Spilliaert, James Ensor, Constant Permeke, Panamarenko, Roger Raveel, Georges Vantongerloo, Raoul De Keyser and more is always on view!