The museum has a collection of modern art, and works of this collection are often on display. Preferably in surprising combinations with an aim to connect the present with the past. As such, the sculpture ‘Preparations’ by Roy Villevoye featured among the collection of 16th-century religious triptychs by Lucas van Leyden and Cornelis Engebrechtsz. It was quite a controversial confrontation. Moreover, contemporary art is an important part of the exhibition programme, illustrated by, for example, Global Imaginations (2015).

On occasion, the museum is a commissioner. Among many more, artists like Atelier Van Lieshout and Marjan Teeuwen were asked to react on the collection or current events.

Museum De Lakenhal is also active in the city in respect of contemporary art. As such, the museum hosts an annual and successful Kunstroute Leiden (Leiden Art Tour): a tour along the works of over 100 professional participating artists, in dozens of open studios and galleries in Leiden. Read all about it in this story.

Roy Villevoye, Preparations (2009)
Roy Villevoye, Preparations (2009) Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden. Foto: Marc de Haan

2016: acquisition 'View on Leiden' for the Leiden City Hall

Museum De Lakenhal acquired the monumental photo work 'View on Leiden' (2013) by artist Casper Faassen, especially for the Leiden city hall. Mayor Henri Lenferink presented the artwork on 24 May 2016. Museumdirector Meta Knol held an impressive speech about Faassen and his work.

Dutch speech by museumdirector Meta Knol
Casper Faassen, Gezicht op Leiden (2013)
Casper Faassen, Gezicht op Leiden (2013) collectie Museum De Lakenhal

ode to Leiden

The photo work 'View on Leiden' was first presented to the city in 2013, when Casper Faassen, comic Jochem Myer and writer Onno Blom presented their collective 'ode to Leiden': the song 'Lalala Leiden', the poem 'Birdflight' and the 'View on Leiden' artwork. For the city hall presentation in 2016, the three odes were brought together once more.

In Leiden zit een wonderstad verstopt
Die aan het einde an de nacht verschijnt.
In Rembrandts stille ochtendlicht ontpopt
Ze zich als droomoord, waarin jij verdwijnt.

Ik stijg hoog op boven de Nieuwe Rijn
En spreid mijn vleugels. Ik richt mijn blik
De duizeldiepte in. Waar kan je zijn?
Verloren in een labyrint van schrik.

Snel droom ik verder en kras op mijn vlucht
Wel duizend zwarte krullen in de lucht.
Steeds dichter nadert op de horizon

De straat, het huis waar alles ooit begon.
Zoals een raaf vliegt in het hemelsblauw -
Zo zweven deze woorden nu naar jou.

Onno Blom

Jochem Myjer, Meta Knol, Casper Faassen, mayor Henri Lenferink, Onno Blom
Jochem Myjer, Meta Knol, Casper Faassen, mayor Henri Lenferink, Onno Blom foto: Hielco Kuipers

Jochem Myer, Lalala Leiden (2013)

2015: Global Imaginations

Twenty leading contemporary artists from all over the world were invited by Museum De Lakenhal to share their vision on today’s globalized world. To do so, they exhibited new or existing work that has been inspired by the extensive collections of Leiden’s many museums. The result: a fascinating reflection of actual themes and developments in the world that surrounds us. The exhibition - which includes room-filling installations, video projections, sculptures and more – was hosted in De Meelfabriek in Leiden, an abandoned and imposing industrial complex on the edge of the city.

Alongside the exhibition, an extensive project website was launched, also featuring a digital publication with essays by renowned scientists and artists.

dive into the world of Global Imaginations
Meschac Gaba, Citoyen du Monde (2015)
Meschac Gaba, Citoyen du Monde (2015)

2015: Destroyed House Leiden

Museum De Lakenhal will be renovating and expanding from 2016 to 2018. To accommodate that growth, four homes are set to be demolished on the Lammermarkt, behind the museum. As a final tribute to these derelict buildings, Museum De Lakenhal commissioned visual artist Marjan Teeuwen to develop a large and impressive architectonic installation: ‘Destroyed House Leiden’. From mid February til 10 July 2015, artist Marjan Teeuwen and her small team worked non stop on this project. They transformed the four old, ruined houses into a breathtaking spacious installation.

read more on Destroyed House Leiden


The premises that house Museum De Lakenhal, were once the bustling centre of Leiden's cloth trade. The museum revives this history by creating Nieuw Leids Laken (New Leiden Cloth). A series of five assignments will be commissioned to contemporary designers. The first designer in the series is Christie van der Haak. From her designs, the museum and the public choose two favorite fabrics.

New Leiden Cloth #2 was designed by Mae Engelgeer, winner of the Open Call for young design talents. Engelgeer titled her fabric 'Archive as fabric|fabric as archive' (2015).

Up to 2018, this series will be continued by other commissions to designers and artists. The fabric will be sold in the museum shop as of 2018.

Christie van der Haak, Nieuw Leids Laken #1 (tweekleur, 2014)
Christie van der Haak, Nieuw Leids Laken #1 (tweekleur, 2014)
Mae Engelgeer, Archive as fabric | fabric as archive, 2015
Mae Engelgeer, Archive as fabric | fabric as archive, 2015 foto: Debbie Trouerbach

2014: Atelier Van Lieshout

Atelier Van Lieshout was commissioned to create a work of art for the collection presentation on Zeven Eeuwen Leids Laken (Seven Centuries of Leiden Cloth). The result is a monumental sculpture with the title Vooruit (Ahead). It focusses on the complicated relationship between man and machine, and is a critical tribute to the harsh working conditions in Leiden's textile history.

Atelier Van Lieshout, Vooruit (2014)
Atelier Van Lieshout, Vooruit (2014) collectie Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden


Museum De Lakenhal likes to step outside its own walls. As such, the museum presented an inspiring exhibition of twelve artists from Leiden at an industrial site in 2013: De Meelfabriek at the Zijlsingel. The artists presented existing works of arts or created a dedicated installation for this special venue. In three weekends, visitors could wander around the premises of the Meelfabriek in search of the works by Maurice Braspenning, Iemke van Dijk, Hanneke Francken, Marjolein van Haasteren, Koen Hauser, Inge Reisberman, Maarten Overdijk & Flore de Koning, Guido Winkler, Izaak Zwartjes and Iede Reckman. Artist Simone de Jong had created a trail of melancholy texts to make sure that visitors would not get lost and, moreover, would not miss out on a work of art.

Guido Winkler, installation in De Meelfabriek (The flourmill), Leiden (2014)
Guido Winkler, installation in De Meelfabriek (The flourmill), Leiden (2014) Foto: Marc de Haan


Izaak Zwartjes created a special spectacle in the days before the opening. For three days and nights, he lodged in a birds nest he had created himself high up on the façade of the Meelfabriek (the Flourmill).

Izaak Zwartjes in his 'nest' on De Meelfabriek, Leiden (2013)
Izaak Zwartjes in his 'nest' on De Meelfabriek, Leiden (2013) Foto: Marc de Haan


Leiden presents itself as the city of arts and expertise. Museum De Lakenhal promotes cooperation between artists and scientists. They propel each other onwards and add a unique dimension to the city. Since 2013, it has been celebrated widely in the Nacht van Kunst & Kennis on the initiative of Museum De Lakenhal.

The festival fits in with a trend: The Dutch are interested in science, as is evidenced by a host of new TV shows and many editions of non-specialist science magazines. The young and the old are invited during the Night to explore new expertise, art forms, ideas, rising bands, scientific inventions and dance and theatre performances.

Work by artist Casper Faassen
Work by artist Casper Faassen Night of Art & Science 2013


As from 2009, Museum de Lakenhal, Stichting Scheltema and De Veenfabriek have joined forces in a unique and adventurous cooperation under the title Utopisch Nest. Artists and scientist respond together in many and varied projects to a specific item of the existing programme of either Museum De Lakenhal or Stichting Scheltema. A selection of projects by Utopisch Nest:

Marieke Grotenhuis plays De Toverlantaarn (2013)
Marieke Grotenhuis plays De Toverlantaarn (2013) A project by Utopisch Nest for Museum De Lakenhal. Foto: Bowie Verschuuren.

In 2012, composer Anke Brouwer was asked to respond on the exhibition Toverlantaarns (Magic Lanterns) in Museum De Lakenhal. Brouwer decided to cooperate with film maker Michiel Keller and accordionist Marieke Grotenhuis when she became inspired by - in particular - the depictions of wrought faces from this collection of eighteenth-century magic lantern slides. The result was a dreamily piece of music, listen to it here.


Artist Joost Rekveld worked in 2013-2014 on his 'Project #47' on commission of Utopisch Nest. Inspired by the exhibition ‘UTOPIA 1900-1940. Visies op een Nieuwe Wereld’ (Visions for a New World), which was staged in Museum De Lakenhal in 2013, Rekveld departed from the idea that human perception is highly makable and that new types of observation have an impact on the relationship between humans and their environment.

What would it be like to have the senses of a shark or to feel continuously where the North is located? Will we behave differently as a consequence? Rekveld developed a number of portable devices that act as extra senses, a contemporary interpretation of the concept ‘utopia’. One of the devices enables him to feel and register electrostatic fields. A stereo viewer was stationed on the forecourt of Museum De Lakenhal, displaying a 7 minute animation that showed electrostatic fields prevailing around the museum. A similar viewer was stationed in Leiden's Hortus Botanicus and in Museum Volkenkunde. The electrostatic charge on the other locations differs from that in and around Museum De Lakenhal: a mysterious discovery.

Joost Rekveld, walk for Project #47 (2014)
Joost Rekveld, walk for Project #47 (2014) Foto: Bowie Verschuuren


Every last weekend of September, the museum hosts the successful Kunstroute Leiden (Leiden Art Tour): a tour along studios in Leiden that have been opened up to the audience. The programme also includes galleries, artist's initiatives and other locations. A host of activities and exhibitions is organised around the Kunstroute. Permanent item on the agenda of the Kunstroute is an educational project for primary schools, in which the pupils will also visit studios.

Kunstroute Leiden 2013
Kunstroute Leiden 2013 Foto: Floren van Olden


Since 2013, an ‘Industry Day’ for professional artists is organised in collaboration with Cultuurfonds Leiden (Leiden Cultural Fund). In 2013, the art sector in Leiden and other creators of atmosphere were linked together in the city under the title 'Tales on Creativity'. The city of Leiden was the point of departure and the theme was ‘artistic research’. What is the role of artistic research in contemporary art and what is its relation to the science that is available in the city?

Artist Koen Hauser speaks at the Industry Day 2013
Artist Koen Hauser speaks at the Industry Day 2013 Foto: Floren van Olden


From 1993 to 2004, The Centrum Beeldende Kunst (CBK, Centre for the Visual Arts) which was active in the field of contemporary art existed in Leiden from 1993 to 2004. As the CBK was closed down in 2004, Museum De Lakenhal took over some of the staff members who had the expertise and ambition to promote contemporary art in Leiden. At the same time, plans were initiated to start a centre for contemporary art in the former blanket factory of Scheltema, at a stone's throw from Museum De Lakenhal. The Municipality of Leiden, theatre music ensemble De Veenfabriek, Leiden University and the Royal Academy of Art from The Hague joined forces to achieve this.

til 2011: De Lakenhal in Scheltema

De Veenfabriek and Museum De Lakenhal organised a wide variety of events that are dedicated to the relationship between the visual arts, theatre and science. The museum presented exhibitions with contemporary artists under the title ‘De Lakenhal in Scheltema’ up to 2011. One of the most talked-about presentations was the project CO-OP’s, in which 7 teams of scientists and artists combined their expertise and imagination. One of its highlights was the impressive installation ‘The return of the Shreds’, a cooperation between artist Ni Haifeng and Lecturer of Art History Kitty Zijlmans. In this installation, Ni Haifeng expressed his comments on the contemporary clothing industry and trade. Following this project, the museum bought the installation 10 % Shrinkage by Ni Haifeng for its collection.

Ni Haifeng, The Return of the Shreds (2007)
Ni Haifeng, The Return of the Shreds (2007) Foto: Ni Haifeng