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 that was first created and used was remodeled when the planned concert at the end wasn’t an option anymore due to the measures to counter the Corona virus. 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, 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.
The Hague is the Dutch political center 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 oon f 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. Especially created to attract younger audiences (between the ages of 25 and 45), 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 on which to base their song was also filmed and published on YouTube. The first four songs, written by one man band Spinvis, actress and singer MEROL, comedian Harrie Jekkers and rapper Willie Wartaal, were planned before COVID-19 made containment methods in The Netherlands necessary. This meant that the concerts 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 fifth artist, Dutch band The Kik, 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 additional artists totaling to eight series (in January 2022) and has been a great success on social media.
The main sponsor of this initiative is the NN-Group, who has been helping The Mauritshuis to reach a larger and more diverse audience since 2016. Without this partnership the initiative wouldn’t have been possible.
Even though the initiative ‘View the Mauritshuis with your ears’ wasn’t an initiative kick started 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 the project with a wider range of Dutch artists.
The size of the audience reached highly fluctuates depending on the performing artist. As the videos and the consequent songs were not only shared by the Mauritshuis but also by the artists themselves, this variation in viewer numbers can be attributed to the level of involvement the artist’s followers brought to the table. Solo-artist Jett Rebel (as shown in the video above) amassed a small 1.000.000 views, clicks or streams on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Spotify. The artists in total amounted to almost three million views, clicks or streams.
The outcome of the goal of reaching an audience between the ages of 25 and 45 was researched, and The Mauritshuis concluded that 78% of all YouTube viewers from the videos of the first four artists were part of this focus group. More specific research done by the company Motivaction concluded that the project contributes to a more positive image of the museum and a higher intention to visit.
In conclusion to 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 to 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.
While not an initiative born out of the COVID restrictions, the project has nevertheless functioned as a means to connect people with The Mauritshuis when all the museums had to close. This was an additional positive outcome on top of the success the project had with connecting to a younger audience, and the museum will continue to add more artists and videos in the future.
- Mauritshuis, “Ontdek Collectie”, (accessed October 20th 2021).
- Mauritshuis, “Over ons”, (accessed October 20th 2021).
- Mauritshuis, “Over ons – Wie zijn wij”, (accessed October 20th 2021).
- Steeman, H., International Marketeer Mauritshuis, interviewed by N. Kaiser on October 22nd, 2021