Almost 20 years in the making, the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, a publicly accessible art storage space that displays all 151,00 objects held by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, opened to the public this past weekend in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Located in the city’s Museum Park and first conceived in 2004, the Depot is sited next to the Boijmans Van Beuningen, which is currently closed for renovation and expected to reopen in 2028. Designed by the Rotterdam-based architecture firm MVRDV, the Depot is a 167,000-square-foot, glass-faced circular building that allows the institution to display the entirety of its collection, as opposed to keeping a large portion of it in off-site storage warehouses the way most art institutions around the world currently do.
In a statement, the Boijmans Van Beuningen’s directors Sjarel Ex and Ina Klaassen said, “Opening up this collection is important. The objects and artworks that artists and designers have produced are an essential part of our thinking and acting. This new tool, this new typology, helps us to preserve and open up these treasures. The best part is yet to come: the building as we have devised it is now going to shape us.”
The idea to create an accessible warehouse came after the Boijmans Van Beuningen’s basement storage facilities in its current home became untenable as a result of frequent flooding. The museum’s holdings were subsequently transferred to offsite storage facilities.
Rather than being organized by artist, period, or genre, as they likely would be in a museum’s permanent collection galleries, the objects held in the Depot are stored in five different climate environments based on their medium. The majority of the objects are also stored so as to take up the least amount of space. At Depot, artworks hang on movable racks or shelves, while some are exhibited in 13 floating glass displays in the venue’s atrium. (Prints, drawings, and photographs are stored in flat-files and available for viewing upon request.)
In a statement, Sandra Kisters, the institution’s head of collection and research, said, “In the depot, the visitor is invited to delve into what collecting is in various ways and to actively relate to the collection and to share their own knowledge about collecting (art) objects with the museum. Selecting and distinguishing is a human process, motivated by emotion and guided by knowledge.”