Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam

The nationally listed Santos Building is a hidden gem in the Rijnhaven in Katendrecht. The architects J.P. Stok Wzn and J.J. Kanters designed the depot on behalf of N.V. Blauwhoedenveem, which was opened in 1903 to be used as a warehouse for Brazilian coffee. In 2012, the Stilwerk group redeveloped this (long-abandoned) historic building into an architectural gem.

View of the Santos building under renovation, 2017. Copyright Luc Büthker. Courtesy Nederlands Fotomuseum

Santos is one of the best preserved depots in the Netherlands, with interiors in almost original condition. The renovation was carefully carried out by Leiden contractor Burgy. Originally the building had six almost identical floors, with a structure of cast iron columns. Under the entire surface of the building there is a basement. In the center a very large atrium with a central staircase was created. Two new floors have been added to the historic building, the top of which is surrounded by a ‘crown’ with a semi-transparent façade, and the warehouse doors open on both the south and north sides.

Ed van der Elsken, South-Moluccans, Tiel, 1970. Copyright Ed van der Elsken / Annet Gelink Gallery. The photo is part of the archive The Gallery of Honour of Dutch Photography, courtesy Nederlands Fotomuseum

In 2025 the Nederlands Fotomuseum will move to this historic building located in the port of Rijnhaven, providing a new home for the national collection of more than six million photos, but until then, the museum will remain open in its current location, in the complex of Las Palmas. The future headquarters, structured over eight floors, will include dedicated exhibition spaces, permanent structures to house the collection, a bookshop and a photography library, teaching rooms, a café and a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the Rotterdam skyline. The acquisition of the new building fulfills the Nederlands Fotomuseum’s long-standing commitment to creating a dynamic meeting place and international platform for photography.

Maria Toby, Agniese Neighbourhood, Rotterdam, 1980. Copyright Maria Toby / Nederland Fotomuseum. The photo is part of the archive  The Gallery of Honour of Dutch Photography, courtesy Nederlands Fotomuseum

“It’s great that we are able to make this dream come true. A building of our own, a fully renovated historic building, where we can generously welcome visitors, with a focus on our priceless collections and six enormous floors to share visual stories and connect people. Santos will be the place where photography is celebrated to the fullest, from amateur photography to fine art photography and everything that goes with it”, commented Birgit Donker, director of the Dutch National Museum of Photography. The acquisition of the new building was made possible by a donation from the philanthropic foundation ‘Droom en Daad’. The Nederlands Fotomuseum, located in the commercial center of Las Palmas since 2007, will become an international level platform with the move to the former Santos warehouse. The next few months, in view of the move, will be used to further adapt the building to the needs of the Dutch Museum of Photography. This means adding a new repository for the permanent collection, the 175 precious archives, including that of Ed van der Elsken and the collection of early daguerreotypes, as well as the contemporary work of photographers such as Erwin Olaf and Dana Lixenberg. The new museum will also feature prominently the Dutch Photography Gallery of Honor, an exhibition chronicling the history of photography in the Netherlands from 1842 to the present day.

Sanja Marušić, Flowers in December, 2015-2016, from Figures under the Sun, 2019-2020. Copyright Sanja Marušić. The photo is part of the archive The Gallery of Honour of Dutch Photography, courtesy Nederlands Fotomuseum

The Netherlands Museum of Photography was established in 2003, thanks also to a bequest from Hein Wertheimer, an amateur photographer who, upon his death, left 22 million forints (10 million euros) to encourage photography and found a museum for Dutch photography. His estate, known as the Wertheimer Fund, is managed by the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund, from which the museum receives an annual grant. The mission of the Dutch Museum of Photography is to take care of the Dutch photographic heritage of today and tomorrow and to make the variety of the contemporary photographic panorama accessible to the public. The Museum promotes diversity and inclusion on all possible fronts, in organization, programming and collaborations, enriching people’s lives with visual stories that can also have a civil and moral value.

Ad van Denderen, Sycoscan of a truck with migrants, Calais, France, 2000 (dal ciclo “Go No Go”). Copyright Ad van Denderen (opera esposta alla mostra “Ad van Denderen: En Route”, 30 set 2023 – 28 gen 2024, Nederlands Fotomuseum). Courtesy Nederlands Fotomuseum

From 30 September 2023 the Nederlands Fotomuseum will host the exhibition Ad van Denderen On the Road, focusing on the work of the documentary photographer Ad van Denderen, who from the 1960s onwards dealt with themes such as apartheid, migration and the geopolitical conflict between Israel and Palestine. To all intents and purposes we must speak of a photograph with a social background. Let us remember some of these cycles (largely linked to wonderful editorial publications and whose titles reveal the content): “Genk, a new home (Immigration)” 1987-1988, 2014-2015; “Occupation Soldier” 2008-2009; “Go No Go” 1988-2001; “Peace in the Holy Land” 1993-1996; “Welkom in Suid-Afrika” 1990-1991; Topics that after many years are still very current, given the pressure that the West is experiencing from the migratory flows coming from the south of the world, the violence that persists at our borders, the social hardship that is increasing instead of decreasing. This project is curated by Frits Gierstberg together with Jenny Smets and in collaboration with Ad van Denderen. For further and bigger developments we just have to wait for the year 2025, when the Nederlands Fotomuseum will move to its new location.

Bruno Sain


Ad van Denderen, On the Road
30/09/ 2023 – 28/01/2024
Edificio Las Palmas Statendam 1
(Wilhelminapier), Rotterdam


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