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Views on a new art world

To celebrate the upcoming opening of the new depot, Boijmans has commissioned a series of videos. We spoke to the video artist Zahra and Mila from Boijmans on the video portraits, the artists featured and the future role of museums. 

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection is of course, world-famous. Growing its works and reputation for the past 170 years, there is a vast array of possibilities for the institution. With its foundation built on the desire to share and inspire, they have taken on these possibilities and the depot is opening! In true Rotterdam spirit, the works explore uniqueness in its finest, giving the new generation a platform to create and inspire. We are honoured to be involved in building on this platform, as we share with you some of the works here. Alongside the work, we spoke to the spear-heads of the project, Milan and Zahra about the up-and-coming opening and their hopes to create ‘freedom of art’ and ‘a world in which we can learn, grow and take a pause to connect with each other’.


Could you tell us a little bit about the creative journey which has led you here today?

Growing up in Rotterdam, where from a very young age I would take photos on the streets, in the subways etc. I very quickly realised that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After graduating from art school, I started working for several magazines, newspapers and artists- which I really enjoyed (and still do enjoy!) Photographing the streets, however, is my favourite thing to do! This project with Boijmans, is really in between these 2 things I like doing the most. I asked Milan to help me with the project because I felt like he could look at things through the same eye as I do in my photography. Nowadays, besides photographing, I’m also running a studio called GAEA studio; a space for the creative industry that aspires to inspire creativity.

In light of this journey; what role do you believe creativity can play in today’s world?

Creativity can bridge the gap between the elitist cultural institutions (that mostly reach an older audience) and the younger generation, that is inspired by art and willing to learn more about artists. Their look onto the world often doesn’t feel represented by the museums, and this is important in today’s world. By using creativity and translating the core messages of the institutions, via contemporary images and by working with younger people, it is easier to connect to the world and interests of younger people.  

And more specifically, what role can a portrait play?

I think that portraits, and in this case moving portraits, bring the stories of people closer to the audience. In the end, the depot is a building for the people and by using portraits and giving these people voices and a face they tell a more round story. 


What initially led you to Boijmans and why? 

I met Mila for an article just before Boijmans was closing. She gave me a private tour through the empty building and it got me really inspired! The next day, I came back to photograph the empty museum. When Boijmans closed I felt like there were still so many possibilities. Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen was being built and my imagination went wild, building my own reality around it. So when Mila asked me to do a series for the depot, I wanted to portrait people for which the depot is being built.

The world is certainly changing; what do you think is the role of museums in the future?  

It is important for museums to reach a younger audience- since they are the visitors of the future. Museums can present and imagine a world that is not yet a reality. We are at a crossroad right now and art and museums can help us create and imagine new worlds. They play a vital role in bringing different perspectives together. A museum can function as a place where you are allowed to not know anything, to feel weird and uneasy. Everywhere we go we are made at ease, but I believe that it’s out of our comfort zones where we are most likely to grow as humans! Museums can be this space which safely connects us to the unknown. 
We have seen that consumerism has played a disastrous role in the world, and museums were certainly tied in with that-by just programming exhibitions that would attract a lot of people. I hope that this is a wake-up call for museums, that they take their role seriously and try to imagine a better future and not just present overviews of the past. Where are the rebellious art shows? Where are the outspoken directors and curators? 


What role do you believe the depot plays in this future?

The depot will make the museum more transparent; all the processes that usually take place behind closed doors will become visible for the public. Hopefully, it will be a place where dialogue between the institute and the public is being fostered as part of its transparency policy. It is a place that you can enter without any knowledge about art so the hierarchies disappear, hopefully making it easier to eventually visit a museum. 

Of course, this is the first depot open to the public; in what ways is freedom of art vital to culture in your eyes?

Freedom of art is super important, as art can often present ideas that are not connected to any system and can, therefore, visualize a better future. It can direct us towards new ideas and a world based on human connection, instead of making something that is in demand. It’s interesting that Boijmans is opening its collection to the public- since the art belongs to the people of Rotterdam. It’s the collection of the city Rotterdam.


This could also be understood as an opening of cultural heritage; how do you this could impact the art-world going forward and what are your hopes for the future of this world? 

I hope that art and the freedom of art can create a world in which we can learn, grow and take a pause to connect with each other. To look at ourselves and each other with different eyes and thereby spread love and creativity. Working on this project has truly been amazing because we connected with so many great, creative and inspiring people. We looked at the depot through their eyes and thereby never look at the depot with the same eyes again. Together we can imagine a new art world and give life to a new building that hopefully will be a space where art and people come together, where people from all ages can learn, connect and flourish.  



Check out Boijmans Depot online for more information!

Direction and creative direction: Zahra Reijs 

DOP: Milan van Dril 

 Sound design: Nomad van Doorn