Neither Ali nor I are really into museums. They tend to get boring quickly, with paintings blending into each other like fish at an aquarium or fields of tulips. And yet I enjoyed the Boijmans in Rotterdam. It is quirky in places and has some neat interactive exhibits.
I like things that I can touch and affect. Paintings need to be pretty weird and very thought provoking to get to me, but if I can fiddle with something I am happier. Science museums are great for this, art museums not so much. Boijmans surprised me in this respect.
Coats as Art
You get smacked with the interactivity and quirkiness at the very beginning of your visit. Just hanging up your coat is an exercise in this. Hangers are suspended by rope above visitors heads. These can be lowered with pulleys and locked with a key to keep your coat out of everyone’s reach. The plaque says it is from 2008 and is called the Merry-Go-Round Coatrack. Our group of bloggers got into the museum very early and had fun playing with it. You can only do coats, not backpacks, for safety reasons, though matching lockers below are for everything else.
The hall of mirrors
A small room is closed off and holds a few people at a time. Mirrors line the wall and give an impression of infinity. The ground is covered in fabric things with red dots. Umm yeah, fabric things. Pluffy, so they stick up though. Almost animal or plantlike. It was a bit of a surreal experience. Apparently, you used to be allowed to lie down on them, but no longer.
It is the work of a Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, from 1965 and acquired by the museum in 2008.
Another fun thing to play around with as we climbed up the stairs and then up and down the steep netting. A net suspended up a story and below a video screen of wacky videos is supposed to be a reinvisioning of television watching, lying on your back for example. It is pretty heavy, but slick enough to slide when you wanted to. The installation is called “Let Down Your Hair” and comes from a a Swiss video artist, Pipilotti Rist.
This is about the part that I realized that this is no typical museum. This section is free and the museum has free wi-fi, so could be an interesting place to sit for a while.
The quirkiness didn’t end there. Our guide asked us as he began what the group wanted to see. “Weird stuff,” was the unanimous reply. He delivered. The first hall past the ticket check-point was some interesting plastic composition art. Both looked almost biologic in form, but made from plastic. One was those chinese soup spoons glued together in an interesting shape, the other looked like something from a sci-fi film made from little plastic gears tied together.
Up amongst the galleries is a surprise. Just walking along looking at paintings from the ages past and there is a head in the floor. Apparently an artist was told he could do anything to donate to the museum. So he cut a whole in the floor of a gallery and inserted a lifesize wax model of himself looking at the paintings. We didn’t see the bottom, but there is a room somewhere with a wax man sticking his head through the roof.
More classic paintings
The most famous of the classic art they have at Boijmans (famous meaning that I have heard of it) is the Tower of Babel. Like so many of the paintings you probably know it is much smaller in real life. Intricate in detail for something so small, but yup it is there.
We spent so much time looking at the weirder bits, the tour ended up being a bit rushed. So we walked through rooms of more classic style paintings. There was a room of surreal stuff that I liked, but so much of the similar style that you might see in any art museum around the world. I am not against art like that, it just isn’t my thing.
Where would you classify the pancake picture?
There was quirky sculpture and 3d printed chairs. There were classic paintings of landscapes and austere gentlemen on chairs. There was even surreal art, but I still don’t know exactly where to place this painting. The pancake factory is a large painting in the same room as the Tower of Babel. As you can see it is of people making pancakes and waffles. The scene seems otherwise unremarkable.
According to the plaque nearby it was painted in 1560 by Pieter Aertsen. Apparently at that time pancakes were eaten on Shrove Tuesday in a wild festival atmosphere and this serenity was then odd. I did however like the depictions of the flat Stroopwaffles in the lower left. Most classic art from long ago (this is way before the modern period and even before the days of yore) seems to have either religious themes, landscapes, random debauchery or plain portraits. It was interesting to see the making of pancakes as a subject.
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I am still not much for the big museums. I like to be intrigued and stimulated. Most of the old art does neither for me. This was actually a good museum for the intriguing. There was a lot of quirky thrown in amongst the traditional. I like that the museum didn’t seem to take itself too seriously, which helped me actually warm up to it. Especially since it is inside, it is a great place to go on a rainy day(which it was for us too).
The Boijmans is the largest museum in Rotterdam and only behind the big ones in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It is open 10am until 5pm, closed on Monday. There is a wi-fi network in the building. Full price for adults is 12.50€ with half-off for students and free for those under 19(!).
Metro A,B,C,D stops at Eendrachtsplein and Tram 7 and 20 stops nearby at Museumpark.
We were a guest of Rotterdam Marketing at the museum, but all opinions and pancake obsessions are my own.