Case,  New Audience,  Young Audience

View the Mauritshuis at Home. Another way to experience art – listen to paintings at home (Den Haag, Netherlands)

The Mauritshuis had a goal in mind: to attract a younger audience to the museum and bring them in contact with Dutch heritage. To make this possible they created the project ‘View the Mauritshuis with your ears’: an initiative that asks artists to draw inspiration from an artwork from the collection of the museum and to make a song about it. The format was created and used until the planned concert at the end wasn’t an option anymore due to the lockdown in reaction to the spreading coronavirus. The changing of the format to fit these times made the project even better and it became a huge hit, exceeding the museums expectations while doing exactly what they wanted it to do: to attract a younger audience and make them see that art is there too for them to enjoy.


The Mauritshuis is a museum in The Hague with its collection mainly existing from paintings made during the Dutch Golden Age. The museum has an upcoming anniversary: founded in 1822, it will soon be 200 years since it has been called into existence by the donation of 200 paintings by then king Willem I. It houses, among others, the famous paintings Girl with the Pearl Earring and View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer and The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt van Rijn. These days the museum covers two buildings, both situated in The Hague. 

© Hubertl / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Hague is the heart of the Dutch political centre and with that fact the Mauritshuis represents a large portion of the Dutch culture. The museum has had its share of critique around the theme ‘Golden Age’ from when a large portion of the collection stems, and has made many efforts to include the diverse population of the Netherlands. Diversity and inclusion are one of their biggest items on the agenda and their mission is to make everyone feel welcome and at home in the museum.

The Mauritshuis is one of the largest museums in The Netherlands and enjoys many sponsorships. Among them are ‘De Vriendenloterij’ (a large national lottery and a big supporter of Dutch cultural Heritage) and the ‘Nationale Nederlanden’ (also known as the NN Group, a financial service provider). This gives them the opportunity to manage and produce a lot of projects that extend their reach to new target audiences.


The project ‘Bekijk het Mauritshuis met je oren’ (View the Maurithuis with your ears) was initiated before the lockdown and is inherently not a reaction to the closing of museums, but it has made or kept people looking at art in a whole new way and context: with their ears and right in their own homes. 

The format of the initiative began with a concert at the museum and a Spotify Playlist in mind as the end result: the museum would start a music label that would produce songs written by famous Dutch artists who were inspired by a painting in the museum’s collection. Specially created to attract young audiences, the songs would be published not only on Spotify, but also on YouTube and the museums own website and artists would also promote the song within their own circle. The tour that was given to the artist to choose a painting to base their song on was also filmed and published on YouTube. The first three songs, written by one man band Spinvis, actress and singer MEROL and comedian Harrie Jekkers, were produced before the COVID-19 asked for containment methods in The Netherlands. This meant that the first[?] concert as a result of this project had to be held with a maximum of thirty people in the audience. The museum thought this didn’t do the initiative justice and went back to the drawing board.

The museum formulated a new format – beginning with the fourth artist, Dutch singer Eefje de Visser, the museum would release three video’s of the process. The first would consist of the tour that was given to the artist to find a painting to draw inspiration from, much like the first format. The second video would be an interview between Geert-Jan Borgstein (Guide at the Mauritshuis and the one who provided the tours for the artists) and the artist about the process from inspiration to a song. The third video would be a videoclip of the song.
This format has since been repeated with two additional artists (at the time of writing) and has been a great success on social media. 


Even though the initiative ‘View the Mauritshuis with your ears’ wasn’t an initiative kickstarted by the limitations of the lockdown, it sure has evolved to a better initiative because of it. The second version of the initiative was such a success that the museum will continue with the format they developed. The potential of the project has shown itself and the impact it has on attracting new audiences will continue with their expansion to a wider range of Dutch artists. 

As for their mission to attract and include a broader range of target audiences, this project was an immense success. The project has managed to lower the threshold for young people, not only for their museum but for art as a whole, showing that art is open for interpretation and that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy it.


[To be written after receiving additional information]



Nina Kaiser (Quiosq)

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