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up to and including 15 October 2017

Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Great 16th Century Masters

In 2017, the exhibition ‘Bruegel's “The Tower of Babel” and Great 16th-Century Masters’ opened at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Japan (18 April – 2 July 2017) and then travelled to the National Museum of Art in Osaka (11 July – 15 October 2017). The exhibition was a great success and attracted almost 660,000 visitors.

Public favourites: Bosch and Bruegel

This was the first time that Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen showed its collection of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dutch masters abroad on such a large scale. It was also the first time that paintings made before the seventeenth were shown in Japan. The exhibition included Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘The Peddler’, which are very rarely loaned to other museums. In addition to these two famous works, the exhibition features 37 other paintings, 43 prints and ten sculptures from Boijmans’ collection of old masters. It was a unique event, both for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and for Japan.

Jheronimus Bosch, The pedlar, c. 1500, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Jheronimus Bosch, The pedlar, c. 1500, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. More information
Jheronimus Bosch, Saint Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, c. 1500, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Jheronimus Bosch, Saint Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, c. 1500, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. More information
Pieter Bruegel (I), De Tower of Babel, c. 1568, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Pieter Bruegel (I), De Tower of Babel, c. 1568, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. More information
Watch the travel of Babel to Japan.

300 per cent

The exhibition also featured a specially made reproduction of ‘The Tower of Babel’ that was a 300-per-cent enlargement of the original. Tokyo University of the Arts also showed a version that was a 110 per cent enlargement. It teamed up with Delft University of Technology to examine the paint composition in detail in order to make the most faithful copies. These studies have given experts a better understanding of Bruegel and provided the public with a much more detailed look at the renowned painter's masterpiece.

Reproduction of The Tower of Babel, Produced by Tokyo University of the Arts, COI site. Photo Provided by the Exhibition ‘Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen - Bruegel's “The Tower of Babel” and Great 16th Century Masters’.
Reproduction of The Tower of Babel, Produced by Tokyo University of the Arts, COI site. Photo Provided by the Exhibition ‘Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen - Bruegel's “The Tower of Babel” and Great 16th Century Masters’.

Partnership

‘Bruegel’s “The Tower of Babel” and Great 16th-Century Masters’ was a partnership between Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s largest media group with a special culture department, which has organised exhibitions around the world. After two years of painstaking preparation, the exhibition opened on Monday 17 April with a grand ceremony with 1239 guests. No fewer than 300 journalists attended the opening. Pieter Bruegel proved especially popular as a master of detail and craftsmanship. His masterpiece ‘The Tower of Babel’ was the main crowd-puller and made the front pages of many Japanese newspapers. According to the Art Newspaper’s annual visitor survey, this exhibition was the most visited Old Master exhibition of 2017.

‘We are extremely proud to be able to organise this exhibition together with Asahi Shimbun – a very honest and organisationally strong partner.’

Sjarel Ex, director Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Transit Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has been closed since 2019 for a large-scale renovation and modernisation project. During this Transit period, the museum is showing its world-class collection in venues throughout Rotterdam and around the world. It has entered into a unique partnership with eight neighbouring venues in the city under the name ‘Boijmans Next Door’. Boijmans is also operating internationally, with travelling exhibitions abroad. At the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, the museum began showing works from the collection in local schools as part of ‘Boijmans in the Classroom’. Since the beginning of 2020, Boijmans, Humanitas and other local partners have been active in a former school in Rotterdam Zuid at Hillevliet 90. In the meantime, the construction of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is progressing steadily. The world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility will open in early 2021 and will safely house and display 151,000 works of art.

More about Boijmans in Transit