Netherlands gets first ‘startup’ museum for new media art

Netherlands gets first ‘startup’ museum for new media art

July 7, 2020

While Amsterdam’s major museums were closed in lockdown, a privately funded “startup” museum dedicated to new media art has spent the past two months preparing to open in the city on 29 August. Located in a 2,100 sq. m former recording studio in Amsterdam Noord, the post-industrial creative district, Nxt Museum will show immersive installations by Dutch and international artists, designers, technologists and scientists. It is billed as the Netherlands’ first new media art museum.

For its founder and managing director, Merel van Helsdingen, Nxt Museum is a way to fill “a certain gap in the cultural field”. From a background in marketing for entertainment and tech brands such as Disney, Universal Music and Apple, Van Helsdingen saw an opportunity to create a “more permanent space” for the multi-sensory, interactive art experiences popping up at music festivals. Last summer, she joined forces with Natasha Greenhalgh—a trained spatial designer and former colleague at the fashion firm PVH—to develop the concept, lease a venue, initiate collaborations with new media artists and secure backers for the museum.

Limited budgets and then the coronavirus lockdown in the Netherlands meant “a lot of work with a very small team”, Van Helsdingen says, describing it as a startup operation co-ordinated through video conferencing and the co-founders’ daily site visits by bicycle. Freelance contractors were able to build the museum spaces throughout the Dutch lockdown, which permitted construction work to continue with social distancing measures. But the late June opening date was pushed back by two months and the immersive installations are now being adapted to reduce the risk of contagion for visitors, who will be capped at 94 per hour.

Nxt Museum will open with Shifting Proximities, an exhibition of seven room-sized works, including four new commissions, that will run for up to 12 months, Van Helsdingen says. She describes it as a “pilot phase” when the museum will research the possibility of acquiring and preserving the installations permanently. The inaugural show includes the London-based multimedia collectives United Visual Artists and Marshmallow Laser Feast, along with a five-year commission by the ecological artist Thijs Biersteker in collaboration with the Italian plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso.

published in The Art Newspaper, on 3rd June 2020, by Hannah Mcgivern.