Photographer Iris van den Broek

An interactive visit in depot Boijmans Van Beuningen

Already, it has become an indispensable part of Rotterdam: the iconic mirrored building of depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. And now, nearly twenty years after the initial plans, the building has officially opened and we can visit the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility.

On average, museums display only 10% of their collection at the same time, but in the depot, 151,000 works of art are exhibited simultaneously. That way, you get a good insight into the public collection, which is estimated to be worth eight billion euros. The works are not shown as they would be in a museum — based on theme, period or artist — but rather on the basis of their size and conservation requirements. In concrete terms, this means that the depot is divided into five different climate rooms, which you zigzag through as a visitor. In the end, this type of presentation is much more democratic than a museum, because not a single work is deemed more important than another. The building has a floor area that spans 15,000 m2, of which about 20 to 40 percent is accessible to visitors.

Photographer Aad Hoogendoorn

The surprising presentation in the depot allows you to view some of the works with fresh eyes. Think of the famous work by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, known for the banana that dominated the media for weeks. Anyone who has ever visited Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen knows the work of a man who carefully pokes his head and fingers out of a hole in the ground. Because Cattelan’s work is now displayed in a display case, you can see not only his head, but also his legs — and the stool and cardboard box that he stands on. The set-up is also very interactive: as a visitor you can discover the collection through extendable racks, among other things. In addition, you can also view the museum’s video art and film collection in special screening booths. The world-famous Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist created a colourful new video artwork for the depot, which will be on show on the square every day after sunset. You may already know her work from the MoMA and Guggenheim Museum in New York or Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Photographer Ossip van Duivenbode

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen invites you to explore the collection, but at the same time they also show you the ways in which art is preserved and restored. You can even watch restorers at work in real time. Did you know, for example, that as a poor artist, Van Gogh was forced to use poor-quality materials? In the depot, his works are restored using the latest techniques, so that future generations can continue to admire his work. Tip: If you book a tour, you will receive even more background information and you’ll be able to speak with the restorers.

Did you manage to build an art collection yourself and does it deserve just as much care as a museum collection? The depot invites private art collectors to store their own collections in special depot areas. If you rent such a space, you can immediately benefit from the museum’s many years of expertise. The Rotterdam-based art collector Ali Keles did so already. He has part of his Lakeside Collection, with more than 80 modern and contemporary works, stored in the depot. He not only rents his own compartment, but also an exhibition space for the public and an artist-in-residence, an artist’s studio. KPN and the Rabobank also house part of their collection in the depot.

The forty meter high building was designed by the architectural firm MVRDV, the design team behind the Markthal, among others. For the design, the architects were inspired by a reflective thermos in the office. MVRDV has tried to keep their footprint as small as possible. Literally, because the reflective building does not visually occupy much space, but also figuratively: their ecological footprint. For example, all the trees that had to be cleared to make room for the building have been replanted on the roof. The direct environment of the depot will also be made greener as a compensation. On the roof of depot Boijmans Van Beuningen you will not only find the sculpture garden and restaurant Renilde, from the Rotterdam chef Jim de Jong, but also a spectacular panoramic view of the Rotterdam skyline. Did you know that the roof garden of the depot is accessible free of charge with the express lift between 18:00 and 23:00? You do not need a valid ticket for that.

Would you like to visit the depot? Plan your visit in advance and book a time slot online, because the tickets sell out very quickly.