The depot, now a design icon of Rotterdam, was opened in 2021 and acts as a publicly accessible art storage while the actual Museum Boijmans van Beuningen is getting renovated. The tour began in the Atrium, the central space of the depot. If you look up from there, you could see the 40 meter high roof of the building. In-between, several zigzag stairs are traversing the space which were compared by students to ‘Hogwarts’ or an ‘LSD trip’. In fact, the staircases as well as the floating display cases were designed by artist Marieke van Diemen.

The zigzag stairs are described by students as ‘Hogwarts’ and an ‘LSD trip’. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova


As the group made their way up the stairs, the students were able to look through glass walls into the different compartments and get a glimpse of the museum’s collection. The tastes in art of the group were very diverse. While some students liked old paintings, others referred to them as boring and preferred modern works that are more thought-provoking. “I like modern works where you have to think about what it means”, student Tsvetelina Terzieva (Media and Creative Industries, 22) reasoned. For others the only determining requirement to like an artwork was that it ‘looks pretty’.

At the depot, however, the artworks in the compartments are not arranged by their time period, but based on their required climate. Because the aim of a storage space is to preserve the artworks for as long as possible and to avoid that repeated exposure to light and heat changes their condition more rapidly, the light in the compartments was timed. In order to see the works students had to keep turning it on again and again.

Backsides first

The new way of looking at a painting’s backside first. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Further up, at Galerie I, the students were confronted with a new way of displaying artworks that the Boijmans is currently experimenting with. In general, studies have shown that visitors look at a painting for two seconds only. To counteract this, the museum has hung the paintings on glass walls, so their backsides are visible.

As visitors enter the room, they are first seeing the backside. There are many facts scribbled on the back of paintings which encourages a closer and longer engagement with each artwork. Guide Mirjam Martens explains that visitors now look at the paintings much longer. “They really start to read in the back and then they go to the front and then they go to the back again. This is a huge change.”

Students as art handlers during the workshop. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Finally, at the workshop students were given different art objects that were wrapped in bubble wrap and were asked to carefully unpack them, measure them, describe their appearance, do a risk-assessment and subsequently, wrap them in again.

After the tour, student Adina Habegger (Law, 25) was very happy. “I have always been looking at the interesting building from the outside and I am glad I got to visit it today.” For Tsvetelina the tour offered a lucky chance to visit Boijmans on the cheap.  “I wanted to visit the Boijmans specifically and I accidentally saw this tour offer online, and thought it was a great price.”

Restauration videos

For most of the students, it was their first visit to the Boijmans. All of them shared an interest to learn more about art. Sophie van Roosmalen (Economics and Business, 22) explained that during the pandemic she had started watching art restauration videos and was really interested to see behind the scenes of that. “And I also thought it would be a nice study break”, she added.

The likelihood to visit museums varied between students. “Last month I didn’t visit a museum because I was very busy with studies but normally, I go once a month”, Medicine student and art enthusiast Lot ter Riet (19) explained. Greta Garber (law student, 23) said she doesn’t visit museums very often. “My friends are not really interested in visiting a museum and I usually don’t go alone”, she said.

The event was organised by Studium Generale in cooperation with the education team of the Boijmans.

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