Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen sends exhibition to Japan

01 MARCH 2017
For Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen the mobility of its own collection is of great importance: each year approximately 500 works from the collection are sent abroad as loans to other museums so that people all over the world can admire them in real life. This year the museum is also starting to create complete exhibitions for foreign museums. The first of these, which opens on 18 April in Japan, focuses on 15th- and 16th-century Dutch masters and is organised in partnership with Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest media companies with a special cultural department that brings international projects to Japan.

The exhibition Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Great 16th- Century Masters features highlights from the museum’s collection such as The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and The Pedlar by Hieronymus Bosch. Together with 36 other paintings, 43 prints and ten sculptures, these masterpieces are being loaned to museums in Tokyo and Osaka for the exhibition Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Great 16th- Century Masters.

As the title suggests, Bruegel’s painting The Tower of Babel (1563-4) is the centrepiece of the exhibition. This internationally famous work is extremely popular in Japan. In partnership with the Tokyo University of the Arts, an enormous reproduction of the painting has been made, which will be shown together with a 3D animation. Curator of old masters, Friso Lammertse: ‘We had many Japanese visitors during the preparations for the exhibition. What I found striking is that they look at the painting in a totally different way. They see the tower as a real object and want to know how tall it is and what it would look like when completed.’ Japanese people have such a great interest in Dutch old masters that the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, where the exhibition opens on 18 April, expects a massive stream of visitors, comparable with the Hieronymus Bosch exhibition in 2016. The exhibition has its own website ( and Twitter account (@2017babel).

BVB Collections
Making touring exhibitions for foreign museums is a new activity for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which aims to increase recognition of the museum and its collection. Under the name ‘BVB Collections’ the museum offers exhibitions around themes such as the Golden Age, Dutch design, Surrealism, classical modernism and contemporary art. ‘We offer high-quality exhibitions’ says Sandra Tatsakis, director of BVB Collections. ‘And in consultation with the museums involved, we can also provide educational programmes and publications.’ In addition to the upcoming exhibition in Japan, in the next few years the museum is curating exhibitions in Spain, Italy and the United States.

Projects such as these have numerous benefits: they promote bilateral relations with Japanese museums and by exposing the Japanese public to famous original artworks they increase their desire to travel to the Netherlands and Rotterdam. And fans of Boijmans need not fear a lack of masterpieces on show. Tatsakis: ‘The travelling exhibitions are very diverse and our collection is so rich that we can always surprise our visitors with first-rate works, thus also creating new public favourites.'

Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Great 16th- Century Masters is at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum from 18 April to 2 July 2017 and at the National Museum of Art in Osaka from 18 July to 15 October 2017.

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