100 days to the depot’s opening

>> Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen opens in 100 days – on 6 November

>> Setting a new standard and a globally remarkable step in art storage

>> Online ticket sales start on 1 September

>> NOTE TO PRESS & MEDIA: Dutch-language press preview on 1 November 2021

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Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is set to open its doors in 100 days – on 6 November 2021 – making the entire internationally renowned art collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen accessible to the public. Museums around the world usually display just 6 to 10 percent of their collections; the rest lies in storage. Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen breaks with this hidden tradition and makes all the invisible artworks visible – a world first. In the iconic, mirrored art depot designed by MVRDV the museum’s 151,000 artefacts are placed at the heart of the city. In this building the collection can be seen en masse and the care, handling and restoration of artefacts takes centre stage. The visitor can observe what happens behind the scenes at a museum, what the conservation and stewardship of a collection entails. What goes on in the depot is by no means staged: the ‘back office’ of the museum has become its ‘front desk’ and the care for the collection has become part of the public programme. Besides the various spaces for storage and care, the Rotterdam art depot accommodates various private depot compartments and at an elevation of 34 metres there is a restaurant and events space – as well as an award-winning rooftop forest. Online ticket sales will commence on 1 September via the museum’s website.

The depot’s history

The art depots in the cellars of the adjacent Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen were unsafe, overfull and dated. From 2015 the museum depots were gradually emptied and the artefacts stored in five external depots, in the Netherlands and abroad. As flooding was becoming a more frequent issue, re-housing the invaluable collection of more than 151,000 artefacts in the museum’s own cellars was not an option. The only solution proved to be an external depot. The museum’s concept, supported by Stichting De Verre Bergen and the City of Rotterdam, means that the entire museum collection is now accessible under one roof in an open depot in the city centre, instead of being locked away in the midst of an industrial estate.

This is a working building where we take the best possible care of our world-class collection while it remains accessible to the public. The museum’s art collection can once again be seen in one place, for the first time since 1935. We are convinced that making the collection accessible shows how much we care about it and how well we maintain it. This is something that Rotterdam’s residents can be proud of, something they will want to see with their own eyes, as they are co-owners this huge treasury of art.   Sjarel Ex and Ina Klaassen, Directors of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen 

In retrospect: 172 years of collecting

Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection is the only museum collection in the Netherlands that allows visitors to become acquainted with seven centuries of art history of the highest quality – primarily from the Western world – from 1400 to the present. The museum provides an international perspective and makes connections between contemporary art and design, coupled with historic art, design and the print collection. The collection’s breadth and composition is unique and the quality of the individual works is high. It does not offer a complete overview, but is distinctive for the unique choice of works that is the repository of 172 years of collecting by numerous individuals and the museum itself. Rotterdam’s mercantile drive and private initiative are lynchpins in the museum’s history. The port barons of yesteryear underscored their international orientation and global gaze by collecting high-quality art. Together with small-scale collectors and the museum’s staff they amassed an extensive international art collection which encompasses important works by almost all the great masters but also the most beautiful works by lesser-known artists. There is no other museum in the Netherlands that boasts a collection which is so international in its composition and extends over so many centuries.

The Boijmans Collection

The museum’s world-famous art collection comprises approximately 151,000 objects: more than 63,000 paintings, photographs, films, pre-industrial design and design objects, contemporary art installations and sculptures, as well as 88,000 prints and drawings. With its diversity of focal points and qualities through the centuries, the collection looks like a world map. The collection is distinctive for its three core areas: ‘Old masters, new visions’, ‘Surrealism and the surreal’ and ‘Looking ahead’. It is an art collection that looks to the future. It is currently being transferred from the external depots to Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Caring for art

Works in the new depot are stored, organised and displayed according to climatic requirements, rather than an art movement or era. There are five different climatic zones, suitable for the diverse materials, whether metal, plastic, paper, black-and-white and colour photography. The works are arranged as efficiently as possible, as they would be in a closed depot. Objects are wrapped, hang on a rack or are displayed in a cabinet; highlights are exhibited in one of the thirteen large, glazed display cases that are suspended in the atrium. Prints, drawings and photographs are kept in enclosed spaces, but there are naturally opportunities to view these collections on request in two study areas. The film and video collection can be consulted in special viewing spaces.

The depot experience

Visitors are first-hand witnesses of the utmost care that is involved in the conservation, restoration, transportation and study of each and every artefact. This offers an unparalleled transparency into the active role that a museum fulfills in society: what a museum does and how it cares for its effects. The route through the depot brings visitors into contact with the art collection in various ways. The eye-catcher of the design is the atrium with the intercrossing flights of stairs and the 13 large glazed display cases. The atrium’s stairs lead to the six levels with depot compartments and restoration workshops, film and presentation spaces. Set behind glass, the restoration studios allow visitors to watch this highly specialised work, involving them by way of interactive educational materials. The presentation rooms hold exhibitions that explore the artefact as a material object rather than in the context of art-historical developments and ideas. The content of these presentations will be announced in September. In the depot compartments people can see (through glass or inside with a guide) how works are stored.

In the Depot the visitor is invited to explore what collecting entails and actively respond to the collection, besides sharing their personal experience of collecting objects, artistic and practical. Selection and discernment is a human process, inspired by emotion and steered by expertise. There is nothing elitist about it.  Sandra Kisters, Head of Collections and Research 

Commercial function

In addition to the depot’s role as the museum’s engine room it will also serve a commercial function. Part of the building can be rented as storage space for art belonging to private collectors and corporate collections, such as the collection of telecoms giant KPN. The ‘tenants’ of these compartments can also open them up to the public, and their collections will receive the same level of service and professionalism as the museum’s own. The sixth floor, which can be reached with an express lift, is set at a height of about 34 metres and offers a breathtaking panorama across the city: the restaurant with its terrace and the rentable events space are situated here. A depot shop stocked with books and design objects completes the experience.

The design

The design by the MVRDV architecture bureau under the leadership of co-founder Winy Maas attains a height of 39.5 metres, as high as the tower of the adjacent Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The depot’s ovoid shape makes it a building that is open in every direction. The bowl-like form means that the footprint is small and the rooftop area as expansive as possible. The fully mirrored edifice consists of 6,609 square metres of glass, divided into 1,664 mirror panels, which ensures that the building merges into its surroundings. The rooftop garden is populated by 75 specially cultivated multi-stemmed birch trees and 25 firs. Seen from the air, the greenery of the roof garden flows into the surroundings of the Museumpark.

A depot is in principle hermetic, but we wanted to make it into an open and accessible building, secure for the art but as inviting as possible for visitors. Despite its size it has become a light-footed building, with a rooftop forest at an elevation of 34 metres that enriches the Museumpark. I’m looking forward to the opening, the moment when people are able to experience the space and the art for themselves, with the lift or ascending via the crisscrossing stairs that span the atrium.  Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV 

A collaborative effort

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is a collaborative project of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the City of Rotterdam and the Stichting De Verre Bergen. The depot was designed by MVRDV and constructed by BAM Bouw en Techniek.

About Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The world-renowned art collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has over the span of 170 years expanded to more than 151,000 artefacts, which includes some 63,000 paintings, photos, films, pre-industrial design and design objects, contemporary art installations and sculptures, as well as 88,000 prints and drawings.

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