For three months from 11 March 2017, visitors could observe museum staff inspecting and cataloguing pieces from the museum’s extensive lace collection in the galleries. This exhibition provided a taster of the behind-the-scenes activities that visitors will enjoy in the Public Art Depot, the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility that is currently under construction next to the museum.
Not many people know that Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has a magnificent collection of historical lace, comprising no fewer than 2600 pieces. From 11 March, these costly historical pieces were on display in two galleries alongside old master paintings depicting people wearing luxurious lace accessories and the work of contemporary artists and designers who have been inspired by traditional lace, such as Chris Kabel and Isabel Ferrand.
The exhibition 'Making Space for Lace' included a wide range of different lace techniques and styles from all periods. Uniquely in this display, visitors were able to see staff members assessing the pieces in the galleries. This re-assessment is long overdue because the majority of pieces were acquired more than half a century ago and were certainly not catalogued in accordance with today’s exacting standards.
Visitors were not only able to watch as the museum staff inspect and measure the pieces of lace and check their dates and places of origin but they can also ask questions. On a few days visitors will also be able to bring along their own pieces of lace for assessment. 'Making Space for Lace' is an excellent example of how the museum will work in the future in the Public Art Depot, the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility, where the public will be actively involved in the conservation process and will be able to watch restorations and other behind-the-scenes activities.
The basis of the museum’s lace collection was laid by the Rotterdam-born businessman Willem Hugo de Monchy (1894-1968), who donated parts of his collection to the museum from the 1950s. Since then the museum has acquired many special pieces from the lace-appreciation society, Het Kantsalet, and from private collectors. The collection is now the third largest in the Netherlands. The earliest examples were made in Venice in the 15th century. In the centuries thereafter France and the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium) were the most important producers of lace.