Mauritshuis on tour: Keeping the collections accessible

The Mauritshuis shared its collection with people across the world. Visitors in the US, Japan and Italy had the opportunity to look at renown works of art from the Dutch Golden Age without having to travel to the Netherlands. The journey also offered a unique look at the reception of art in different countries. At the same time the exhibitions were an open invitation to The Hague and the Mauritshuis, which re-opened in 2014.

The art museum’s world-renowned collection houses masterpieces such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt, The Goldfinch by Fabritius and The Bull by Potter, which are usually on permanent display in the intimate rooms of its seventeenth-century building in the centre of The Hague.

When the Mauritshuis building was painstakingly renovated and expanded over the course of two years, the collections had to be stored elsewhere. But instead of moving the paintings to a warehouse where they would not be seen, the museum allowed its rich collection to go on a world tour – a unique undertaking, as the collections would never normally travel together in a group.

The idea of the exhibition was to not only display the paintings, but to inform visitors about the history of the Mauritshuis and its renovation. The exhibition travelled to Japan, the US and Italy, and was in essence a promotion of Holland abroad.

In Japan, almost 50 paintings were displayed at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and then at the Kobe City Museum, attracting more than 1.1 million visitors in total. The tour of the US began in early 2013, starting at
the de Young Museum in San Francisco and continuing on to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. A small number of paintings also went on display at the Frick Collection in New York.

The travelling exhibition concluded in Italy at the Palazzo Fava in Bologna, where 40 paintings were exhibited. The Mauritshuis world tour attracted over 2.2 million visitors, many of whom might not have otherwise been able to see the collections. Visitor numbers exceeded all expectations at every one of the six exhibition venues. In the end, the Mauritshuis was able to fund a significant part of its expansion with money it earned through the travelling exhibition.

Mauritshuis online

The travelling exhibition of the Mauritshuis is one of the examples representing the economic value of museums presented in NEMO's publication "Museums' 4 Values - Values 4 Museums".