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The City, the Artists and the Museum. 25 Years Rotterdam City Collection

Jeroen Eisinga, Springtime, 2010-2011

The major summer exhibition ‘The City, the Artists and the Museum’ features one work of art from each year since the Rotterdam City Collection was begun. More than thirty works, ranging from installations, sculptures and paintings to photographs, films and videos, reflect the diversity of the collection and the acquisitions policy over 25 years.

Watch the film ‘Springtime’ (2010-2011) by Jeroen Eisinga, in which a swarm of bees covers the artist’s body. Or be reborn in the vast polyester ‘Wombhouse’ (2004) by Atelier Van Lieshout. In addition to works from the collection, which comprises mainly post-war and contemporary art, the exhibition also includes several works by Rotterdam-based artists who are not yet represented in the Rotterdam City Collection. These works offer a preview: they show how the City Collection might look in the future.

What is art from Rotterdam?

But how do we define art from Rotterdam? Former Rotterdam City Collection curator Jan van Adrichem stated that ‘Art from Rotterdam should be understood as art that has been made or is being made in the Rijnmond area. Artists with one-off commissions in the city or who were born her but have settled elsewhere as artists do not come into consideration.’ He added, ‘This criterion alone is not sufficient. The artworks in the collection are also selected on the basis of quality and must be able to stand up to the rest of the works in the museum’. By contrast, art historian and writer Paul Kempers posits that quality is not the only thing that characterises art from Rotterdam. He believes that its ‘Rotterdamness’ resides in its resistance to labels and categorisation. The museum’s director Sjarel Ex agrees: ‘Rotterdammers are down to earth and idiosyncratic and do not do what others do’.

Rotterdam City Collection

On 1 December 1987 the first Rotterdam City Collection curator was installed and a month later, on 1 January 1988, the first purchases were made. The collection was established with the aim of building a high-quality collection that would represent the development of post-ward art in Rotterdam. Every three to five years a new curator has been appointed. Some have focussed on shaping the collection, others on exhibitions and others on research and conservation. These different approaches and strategies have made the Rotterdam City Collection what it is today: a diverse, high-quality collection of modern and contemporary art and design. The Rotterdam City Collection often functions as a springboard for talented artists from the city.


The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rotterdam City Collection is marked by the publication of ‘The City, the Artists and the Museum: 25 Years Rotterdam City Collection, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’. The book contains essays by Rotterdam City Collection curators past and present, a complete catalogue of the approximately 800 artworks in the collection and extended texts on more than a hundred key works. It shows the special relationship between the museum and the artists and the importance of this relationship for the future of Rotterdam’s artistic life. Available from 8 June in the museum shop, via webshop.boijmans.nl and in bookshops, price: €39.50 (only in Dutch).

With thanks to

In addition to a structural contribution from the City of Rotterdam, without which the City Collection could never have existed, the following institutions have supported the City Collection on several occasions: The Mondriaan Fund (formerly the Mondriaan Foundation and the Fonds BKVB), Centrum Beeldende Kunst in Rotterdam, Adessium Foundation, Stichting Stokroos, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht, Stichting Designprijs Rotterdam, H+F Patronage, VSBfonds, European Ceramics Workcentre, the Port of Rotterdam, Eneco, BankGiro Lottery, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

The exhibition '25 Years Rotterdam City Collection' has been made possible with the support of the Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht.

The artists in Rotterdam City Collection

Anna, Atelier Van Lieshout, Dré Wapenaar, Ben Zegers, Charlotte Schleiffert, Daan van Golden, Erik van Lieshout, Helena van der Kraan, Hulya Yilmaz, Jeroen Eisinga, Jeroen Jongeleen, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Jean-Marc Spaans, Joep van Lieshout, Joep van Lieshout, Juul Kraijer, Lidy Jacobs, Marian Breedveld, Mels van Zutphen, Paul Beckman, Paul Cox, Ronald Cornelissen,, Rolf Engelen, Willem Oorebeek.

Commissions and loans

Anne Wenzel, Bik Van der Pol, Edward Clydesdale Thomson, Han Hoogerbrugge, Hendrik-Jan Hunneman, Lara Almarcegui.


Click here to watch the Boijmans TV episode ‘Dream and Reality’ with Erik van Lieshout.
Click here to watch the ARTtube video about the exhibition 'Infernopolis' by Atelier van Lieshout in the Submarine Wharf (2010), which featured 'Wombhouse'.