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Play BKR-Eindhoven

Using social media to make a collection more accessible.

Between 1949 and 1987 the Dutch government acquired over half a million works of art through the BKR scheme [Visual Artists Subsidy Scheme], most of which existed only minamal records. Would it be possible to increase the public accessibility and appreciation of this collection through social media?

A touch screen displaying the Eindhoven BKR website and blog.

A touch screen displaying the Eindhoven BKR website and blog.

The Visual Artists Subsidy Scheme (BKR) could be called the largest-ever Dutch art collection project. Between 1949 and 1987 this scheme provided Dutch artists with income in exchange for works of art.  Such a collection of modern and contemporary art is unique in the world, but the collection is difficult to access because many works had been distributed amongst public buildings. Some are stored in depots, like that of the RCE (formerly ICN) in Rijswijk, which administers the BKR collection of the national government. 

Social media

As part of the exhibition series Play Van Abbe, the ICN (now RCE) considered the possibility of making the BKR collection of Eindhoven more accessible over one year (July 2010-July 2011). Various approaches were explored together with the Van Abbemuseum.  One of the initial questions was, 'where are all the BKR works?'. Hence various institutions holding works as loans or possessions were visited, such as the GGZ hospital, Maxima Medisch Centrum and the ROC education centre. As many as possible of these artworks were photographed and placed on the extensive Eindhoven BKR catalogue on Flickr, which was one of the social media that was part of the research into a greater accessibility of the Eindhoven BKR collection. A blog, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia were also used.

But still more 'paths to accessibility' were explored.


How much say does the public have about works that are purchased and managed in their name? Play BKR Eindhoven experimented with democratization by inviting 'outsider' input on the collection. Staff of the Collections Department of the ICN (now RCE) played an important role in the project, as did visitors of the Van Abbemuseum. Both groups are important stakeholders and indispensable for the functioning of collections, but the prevailing 'principles of collecting' generally limit their say over the use of these collections. According to these principles the exclusive right to determine what art is exhibited and what art remains in the deposit rests with the curator.

In the private home

The roles were reversed with In Play BKR Eindhoven. Depot staff and museum visitors chose works from the collection BKR Eindhoven to be exhibited not in the museum, but in visitors' homes. A total of 17 works were loaned to private art enthusiasts. They opened their homes to the public during an open day on 16 January 2011. In April and May of the same year all the selected works were assembled in the exhibition Uit de Doeken [Exposure] at the art institution De Krabbedans (closed in 2013 due to subsidy discontinuation). This exhibition formed an overview of art in Eindhoven from 1950 to the mid 1970s.