Rotterdam Public Art Depot: a collection of 150,000 works of art

The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen – a futuristic project by MVRDV – will open in autumn 2021 next to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam's main exhibition venue.

The world’s first Public Art Depot will open in Rotterdam in 2021.

The futuristic Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is an innovative project in terms of both form and contents. It will allow public access to the vast artistic heritage of the nearby Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which will undoubtedly be worth the trip to the Dutch city. Just 40 minutes by train from Amsterdam, Rotterdam benefits from a vibrant cultural scene, fuelled by the presence of Kunsthal. Rotterdam, Netherlands Photo Museum and unique architectural works, including Piet Blom’s extravagant “Cubic houses”.

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen rightly enjoys a worldwide reputation and is undoubtedly the highest and most recognized museum institution in the city. It boasts illustrious examples of European Medieval art, modern art and design. The large collection of prints and drawings is also renowned. However, only 8% of the collection, which comprises around 151,000 works, is actually on display in the halls of the Museum. Inside the archive, far from being seen by the public, works that are totally different coexist, such as Portrait of Armand Roulin (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh, The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) (1963) by Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama (2012), a painting by Pam Emmerik; and furthermore, the design by Ettore Sottsass and Perry A. King (Valentine, 1969, Ing. C. Olivetti & Co. S.p.A) alongside Whiskey Glass (1928) by Dutch artist Hendrik Petrus Berlage.

Depot Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Main Void White. Render ©MVRDV

Depicted by common imagery as a cramped and dusty place, the archive, on the contrary, represents the beating heart of the museum’s activity. It hosts most of the artistic heritage available to institutions for conservation and research purposes. However, like a real “treasure room”, the archive is – in most cases – unquestionably closed to the public. 

The Rotterdam Depot, at the opposite, aims at promoting access to the archive for visitors. Inside, it will be possible to acquire information about stored works through dedicated browsers. A part of the archival heritage will be displayed directly in the Depot’s atrium, while four exhibition spaces will present selections of works that will vary periodically and more frequently. It will be possible to visit the air-conditioned storage facilities, the conservation and restoration laboratories and the rooms dedicated to the handling of works of art. Visitors will be guided to the discovery of the essential “behind the scenes” that characterizes the complex activity of museum exhibition. The aim is to convey and emphasize the scope and variety of the museum’s considerable collection.

Depot Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Zoom Exterior. Render ©MVRDV

The architectural proposal is by the well-known urban design firm MVRDV, with offices in Rotterdam, Shanghai and Paris. Co-founder of the Dutch studio is the famous architect Winy Maas, Guest Editor of Domus in 2019.

Construction work on the massive structure is currently nearing completion. The Depot will be entirely covered with mirrored panels and articulated on two floors, for a total of 15,000 square meters of surface. It meets all the criteria for the BREEAM evaluation of excellence, representing a significant example of sustainable architecture. Additional facilities will include a restaurant and a roof garden terrace with a panoramic view of the city of Rotterdam from a height of 35 metres.

What about the price? About 50 million euros investment.

Taking all this into account, it is not difficult to imagine that, once it is opened to the public, the Depot will immediately represent a landmark and an icon not only for the dynamic Dutch city.

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