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This huge forest-topped salad bowl is the world’s first public art depot

The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam is making 150,000 works of art available to the public

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

The vast, vast majority of the world’s art is hidden from public view. And we’re not just talking about private collections: public museums often have far more art than they have space for. A staggering 94 percent of art worldwide is in storage, mostly in art depots – buildings that are shut off to the public and usually restricted to staff and art experts.

Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, however, is bucking the trend. At the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, it is making its archives accessible to the public. All (well, technically 99 percent) of the Boijmans’s 151,000 works of art are now on display, making it the first fully accessible art depot in the world.   

But most impressive about the Boijmans depot isn’t just that it’s the first of its kind. The building is a work of art itself. Shaped like a massive bowl, it’s covered in 1,664 mirrored panels that reflect the stylish post-industrial architecture of Rotterdam’s Museumpark quarter.

On top of the depot, there’s a forest containing birch trees, firs and grasses. The 39-metre-tall structure was designed by MVRDV (the firm also known for London’s infamous Marble Arch Mound, among other things) and has amazing views out over Rotterdam.

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Photograph: Ossip van Duivenbode / Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen.

The Boijmans depot looks just as snazzy on the inside. With its criss-crossing stairways, enormous storage halls and hi-tech climatic environments, it’s at the cutting edge of art storage. And it’s absolutely packed with classic artworks. As well as being able to explore previously unseen pieces, visitors can have a peek at the conservation and restoration efforts that take place daily.  

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Photograph: Ossip van Duivenbode / Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen

The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is a treasure trove for art lovers, and is open to the public now. Book a ticket on the Boijmans website – standard entry is €20, but there are plenty of concessions available.

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