A Dutch foundation plans to open a major new contemporary art museum in Amsterdam, with a familiar face as director

Plans for a major privately funded contemporary art museum in Amsterdam are on the verge of being realized after a critical vote on the zoning law was passed by the city council earlier this month. The institution will be managed by the Hartwig Art Foundation, a newly created Dutch organization that commissions and acquires works to donate to the National Collection of the Netherlands. The foundation was established in 2020 by e-commerce billionaire Rob Defares. He is largely funding the effort and has given an initial pledge of 10 million euros.

The museum will be located at Parnassusweg 220, a former courthouse built in the 1970s on the edge of the southern Zuidas financial district. At its head, the director of the Hartwig Art Foundation, Beatrix Ruf. Previously, Ruf was director of the Stedelijk Museum, but left in 2017 due to a conflict of interest among collectors, she advised to loan works to the museum. These charges were later cleared by a city council.

More recently, the German curator joined the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow to direct its international programme. Her contract with the museum ended in March, she says, around the time Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. “A coincidence, but if the war hadn’t happened, I would have continued to work with Garage.”

Beatrix Ruf. Photo: LNDWstudio

Last month, Ruf teamed up with her former employer, the Stedelijk, for a major exhibition of German artist Anne Imhof (until January 29, 2023), which she had helped organize when the exhibition was due to open. at the Garage Museum. During the opening, Ruf said The arts journal that the Hartwig Art Foundation museum “will change the form of contemporary art not only for the city, but also for the Netherlands”.

According to Ruf, the museum – whose name is currently undecided – will be privately funded, but will add “major functions for contemporary art to the public sector” and continue to acquire works which, through the National Collection of Netherlands and the foundation itself, will be fully accessible to Dutch and international institutions for short and long term loans. Above all, the museum will not house a permanent collection. “It’s unlike anything we have in the country, the concept itself is quite radical,” says Ruf.

“We are trying to build an institution informed by the contemporary condition, an institution that is very flexible and able to integrate the ideas of various groups,” adds Ruf. “Having the privilege of starting from scratch and not being weighed down by existing structures makes it possible.” She cites her reasons for leaving the Stedelijk as an example of the traditional bureaucracy that can hamper the evolution of museums today.

At the center of the museum will be the commissioning, research and exhibition of “all media of visual arts, temporal art and future art forms”, according to a statement posted on the foundation’s website.

The Hartwig Art Foundation will make “considerable investments” from its own resources “to renovate and expand the monumental building to bring it to the highest standards of sustainability, accessibility and design”.

In addition to the exhibition spaces, the proposed plans provide studios and living spaces for the artists, workshops and catering facilities, allowing the creation of artworks on site. Some of the Amsterdam institutions the planned museum intends to partner with include the National Academy of Fine Arts, Stedelijk Museum, Oude Church, Framer Framed Exhibition Space and Center of contemporary art De Appel.

Citizens now have about five weeks to make final competing claims or complaints before the project moves to its next voting stage.

Mildred D. Field