MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING In a world first, Rotterdam’s Boijmans museum is putting its entire collection on display in a mammoth new warehouse. As the V&A considers a similar experiment, is this ‘open storage’ model the future, asks Andrew Dickson?
rom a block away, it looks like a craft from a more advanced civilisation has landed in the centre of Rotterdam. The structure is futuristic, with walls of mirrored glass curving up some 40
metres, reflecting the iron-grey clouds and the fractured city skyline. It wouldn’t be surprising if it had a tractor beam instead of a door. As I draw close, a middle-aged Dutch couple are debating whether they like it. They decide not, but snap selfies in front of it anyway. Rotterdammers are used to high-concept architecture, but what makes this building unusual is its function: it’s a warehouse. Designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV and known as the Depot, it has been created for one of the most well-regarded art museums in the Netherlands, the Boijmans Van Beuningen. When I visit, contractors are installing vitrines and polishing concrete floors. Now, several months later [July 2021] art handlers have begun moving in the museum’s collection of Rembrandts, Boschs, Magrittes and Dalís – some 150,000 objects, ready for its opening in November. In the atrium, Sjarel Ex, the Boijmans’ director, is wearing the look of a man who can’t quite believe it’s finally happening. “A treasure chest, no?” he exclaims, gesturing towards a dizzying lattice of glass stairwells above our heads. “Every single thing we have will be on display.”