Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen: inauguration of a world first


With Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, a mecca for art and collection management is opening. A building of a new order. King Willem-Alexander opens the depot, after which the public can discover the treasure chamber of Rotterdam.

The idea of ​​a new building to safeguard the art collection was first whispered about in 2004. After the first pile was sunk in March 2017, now, 4.5 years later, the building is completed: Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen in the Museum Park in Rotterdam was opened by His Majesty the King on Friday 5 November 2021. The cellars under the museum were unsuitable for storage due to flooding – it proved to be an opportunity for the city. With the arrival of the art depot – designed by MVRDV – the internationally renowned Boijmans Van Beuningen art collection and the care for these 151,000 objects will be made transparent under one roof, next to the museum building that is undergoing renovation. Museums worldwide generally display an average of six to ten percent of the collection – the remaining ninety percent, and the work associated with conservation is hidden and sequestered. The depot breaks with this tradition of hiding and makes all of these invisible works of art visible; it is the epitome of the changing views on collection management and a pioneering building. Never before has accessible museum storage on this scale been combined with a view behind the scenes for the general public. Following the opening by HM the King, the depot is open to the public from Saturday 6 November.

History of the depot

The art depots in the cellars of the adjacent Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen were unsafe, overcrowded and outdated. Since the 1970s, large external depots have been hired. From 2017, the museum depots under the museum have been emptied bit by bit and the collection was stored in the external depots locally and abroad. In 2019, the last works of art left the museum depot, while at the same time museum gates closed to the public. Partly because of the more frequent occurrence of flooding, it was not an option to keep the valuable collection of more than 151,000 works of art under museum after its renovation. The only solution turned out to be an external depot. The idea came up in 2004, the first sketches were made in 2007, ten years later the first pile was driven into the ground. In 2020, the public could take a look inside for the first time. Following the museum’s vision, supported by the De Verre Bergen Foundation and the Municipality of Rotterdam, the entire museum collection is now accessible under one roof in an open depot in the city centre, instead of a closed depot in an anonymous industrial outskirt. The adjacent Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam is expected to open its doors in 2028 after a major renovation and upgrade.

The Boijmans Van Beuningen collection

The Boijmans Van Beuningen collection is the only one in the Netherlands that introduces the visitor to seven centuries of (Western) art history of the highest level, spanning from 1400 to the present. The museum offers an international perspective and makes connections between contemporary art and design, linking old masters, design, and prints and drawings. Not only is the breadth and composition of the collection unique in the Netherlands, the quality of individual works is also high. Rotterdam’s entrepreneurship and private initiative play a leading role in the 172-year history of the museum. Harbor barons of yesteryear underlined their international orientation and view of the world by collecting high-quality art. Together with small collectors and the staff of the museum, they brought together an extensive, international art collection in which not only almost all the great masters are represented with important pieces, but also the most beautiful works by lesser-known artists. No museum in the Netherlands has a collection with such an international character and extends over so many centuries.

The world-famous art collection now contains more than 151,000 objects, including more than 63,000 paintings, photographs, films, pre-industrial and design objects, contemporary art installations, sculptures and 88,000 prints and drawings. With its diversity of focal points and qualities over the centuries, the collection shows itself like a map.

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