Public Art Depot

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has a unique collection of superb works that span the entire art spectrum and many centuries. From medieval to contemporary fine art, from decorative art to industrial design, from prints and drawings to photography—the museum is home to special objects of international importance. This makes Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen a distinct and matchless part of the Dutch museum scene. This is a collection to cherish, to exhibit and to look after.

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Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection is seen as one of the best in the world. It comprises some 145,000 objects (of which approximately half are prints housed in the print room), many more than can be shown in the museum at any one time. The works that cannot be exhibited in the museum (approximately 70,000) are currently housed in storage facilities in Rotterdam and elsewhere. This creates several problems: it is inefficient, there is insufficient space and some of the storage facilities are in poor condition with the possible threat of water damage. There have been discussions since 2005 about a new building in which the collection can be preserved in an environment with state-of-the-art climate controls and optimum security against theft, fire, flooding and other dangers.

New insights

There has been dissatisfaction for many years in the museum world with traditional, closed storage facilities. Bearing in mind Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s world-class collection, a new idea emerged: why don’t we make the collection accessible to the public? Allow them to see what happens behind the scenes of a museum collection: to get a glimpse of a world that is off bounds in regular museums. A second new insight is: partnerships with private collectors. Rotterdam has a strong tradition of art collectors. Indeed, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is named after two of the many collectors who gifted their collections to the City of Rotterdam. By offering private collectors accommodation and collections-management services for their artworks – a storage facility with accompanying exhibition space – exhibitions can be combined and costs, expertise and networks can be shared. This new kind of building is called the Public Art Depot.

Public building

The planned Public Art Depot will be a truly accessible building. With the exception of security rooms and possible private storage facilities, the entire building will be accessible to the public. There are three ways to visit the building:

Via the ground-floor coffee bar visitors can make their way up to the roof terrace and rooftop restaurant, even when the rest of the building is closed. This is free of charge.
Visitors who want a glimpse behind the scenes of the museum can buy a ticket that allows them to wander around the majority of the large building. This ticket grants them access to the education centre, the galleries, exhibition spaces and the expertise centre where, among other things, art objects are restored. The storage depots themselves are visible through windows. Sometimes visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the exhibition spaces devoted to private collectors. The visit ends on the roof terrace.

Visitors who wish to see more can pay a surcharge and join a guided tour of the depots. They will see works ranging from large-scale installations, old masters, and photographs to robust sculptures and fragile porcelain. The great size of the collection means that no two guided tours will be the same.The museum will use the public spaces to test new education and presentation ideas.

Public Private Partnership

The plans for the Public Art Depot are the result of a unique public private partnership between the City of Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Verre Bergen Foundation. The partnership’s first task is to facilitate the construction of the building, but all three parties will remain involved once the Public Art Depot opens. The public private partnership will continue when the building is finished: there will be storage facilities, exhibition spaces and reception spaces available to private collectors on a rental basis. This will give the public the opportunity to see more of private collections and provides the collectors themselves with better facilities to manage and conserve their collections.

The process

The discussion about modernising the museum’s storage began in 2005. In 2011 the three partners opted for a Public Art Depot rather than a new closed storage facility. In 2013 they signed the joint mission statement and opted definitively for a signature building to act as a gateway to the Museumpark next to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. At the same time they commissioned a design for this location to be worked out in phases. Once the definitive design is ready in mid 2015 the City of Rotterdam will make its final decision about whether or not to go ahead with construction. If all goes to plan, it is envisioned that the Public Art Deport will open in 2018.

The location

After a careful and well-documented assessment of dozens of locations in the city, the three commissioning parties decided upon the so-called ‘Gateway’ to the Museumpark as the most suitable site for the Public Art Depot. This is the gravel terrain adjacent to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, originally designed as an orchard. The decision was taken on the basis of the following motivations: 

  • Impulse for an International Culture Podium (Gebiedsvisie Hoboken 2030);
  • Contribution to the Hoboken area and the city centre;
  • Presence of large numbers of art lovers (potential visitors); 
  • Cost benefits for security and other personnel due to proximity to the main museum building;
  • Technical and urban-planning feasibility.

The commissioning parties are convinced that the siting of the Public Art Depot in this location is an important contribution to the city and the park. An alternative location for the Public Art Depot with the same positive effects within the available budget could not be found. The partners realise that the construction of a large building on this site will have consequences for the park but are convinced that the positive effects outweigh the negative.

The design

International architects were invited to submit designs. An environmentally sensitive placement of the Public Art Depot within the park was an important criterion. A committee of experts then selected five architects on the basis of relevant past projects. The five selected architects were asked to make a sketch design for the Public Art Depot in the Museumpark. In 2014 a committee selected the design by Rotterdam-based architects MVRDV.

The chosen design by MVRDV is spectacular. The building takes the form of a rounded bowl covered with mirrored cladding, reflecting the surrounding park. The building will therefore be fused with its environment. The architects and the commissioning parties are convinced that the building will become an icon for the city similar to De Rotterdam by O.M.A. and the new Market Hall by MVRDV.

Who pays?

The total construction costs for the Collection Building will amount to € 52.3 million. Stichting De Verre Bergen is contributing € 17 million towards it (an extra € 3 million will be held in reserve for unforeseen risks with regard to the build). Stichting De Verre Bergen will give this amount to the Stichting Collectiegebouw i.o. (Collection Building Trust in formation). In addition to the € 17 million, the Stichting Collectiegebouw i.o. will invest a further € 35.3 million financed by a bank. The security for this external investment will be a 40-year lease agreed between the city council and Stichting Collectiegebouw i.o. The city council will become the main tenant of the Collection Building and will sublet the building to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The city council will agree a 40-year lease with the museum.

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