In the autumn of 2018, the museum will examine its own history during the Second World War and the period immediately thereafter. A multifaceted exhibition and a new publication in the ‘Boijmans Studies’ series will examine the wartime activities of Museum Boymans, as it was then known, paying particular attention to the role of the museum’s director, Dirk Hannema, and the circle of collectors and patrons around the museum. Following the devastating bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940, Hannema emerged as a defender of the city’s cultural heritage and a champion of contemporary art in the city. Under his leadership, the museum even managed to acquire countless artworks during these difficult years and organise a series of well-attended exhibitions. An ambitious museum director, Hannema enthusiastically adapted to the new occupying regime, which resulted in his being dismissed following the Liberation as a collaborator.
The exhibition will coincide with the publication of a scholarly biography of Hannema by Prof. Dr Wessel Krul and the completion of the museum’s own provenance research. This latter aspect will also be explored in the exhibition and the Boijmans Study. Are there works in the collection that may be considered looted art or which have a dubious provenance? When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they persecuted the Jews and confiscated their property. This led to large-scale looting of art collections prior to and during the Second World War, in which artworks were confiscated or the owners were forced to sell them for low prices.