Museum De Pont

A museum from a completely new start

The Museum De Pont was opened in 1992 from the legacy of entrepreneur Jan de Pont. A former Thomas de Beer wool spinning mill, just around the corner from Wilhelmina Park, was completely rebuilt to accommodate contemporary art. This blog post was written by B&B Tilburg Gust van Dijk and first published on February 8, 2018, to give you a little more information about this special museum and how it came about here.

Museum De Pont is the museum of contemporary art in the city of Tilburg. The founder and name giver of the museum is the lawyer and entrepreneur Jan de Pont (1915-1987). Shortly before his death, he determined that part of his assets should be used to stimulate contemporary visual art. In the execution of his last wishes, this textile factory was chosen to become a completely new museum for contemporary art.

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B&B-Tilburg De Pont Museum overview Wolhokken

The Collection

When the museum opened in 1992, De Pont had 10 works of art at its disposal, a full bank account and a lot of ambition. Since then, 3 large solo presentations by leading contemporary artists have been shown in the museum every year. The museum strives to acquire at least one ‘key work’ by each artist after such an exhibition. It was Hendrik Driessen who, as director, was allowed to lead this great adventure. De Pont now has a collection of contemporary art that every other museum in the Netherlands will envy. Hendrik Driessen was responsible for the collection policy. Who was allowed to start from, as it were, an empty box and fill it. For him, collecting for Museum De Pont is chasing dreams and buying only the real masterpieces. He says that ‘collecting is mainly about making choices’ and ‘daring to say no’.

In the now 25 years that he has beenon this great journey with the museum, he has very often said no, and at the same time he has dreamed a lot. It resulted in the current highly regarded collection. A combination of big names and exciting young artists, who may be the next big names in another 25 years. In the exhibitions he has created for the museum over the past 25 years, he has always focused on one artist. This has resulted in a varied collection for 25 years, including works by Ai Wei Wei, Marlene Dumas, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter and many others. The museum continues to follow the artists and often dedicates another exhibition to the same artist years later in order to show the development of an oeuvre. The museum calls this ‘collecting in-depth’ instead of ‘collecting in width’.


Meanwhile, the De Pont has become a museum, well known and respected far beyond the Netherlands. The museum is regarded as one of the best, most eye-catching private museums in the world. For example, through the art website, Museum De Pont is now considered one of the ten best private museums for contemporary art in the world. Museum De Pont is listed among museums from cities such as Paris, London, Doha, Seoul and Beijing. This top-ten, in 2018, was compiled by the New York journalist Paul Laster.

Anish Kapoor

The now world-famous artist Anish Kapoor had a connection with the museum and its first director from the very beginning. With a first work in one of the wool lofts up to this large mirror Sky-Mirror on the forecourt. In the transition of 2012-2013 there was a large retrospective of his work on display in the museum.

Also in 2010, Museum De Pont made an important purchase of a work by Kapoor. It concerns the work Vertigo. This work, a sculpture, is included in the museum’s permanent display and surprises many spectators with its almost magical effect, in which it really turns the world upside down.


The work reflects the surroundings in a very special way. When you stand in front of the work, you do not immediately notice that it is a large stainless steel plate measuring almost two by five metres. The title of the work, Vertigo, refers to Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller Vertigo from 1958. This film contains a scene that is just as facially bewildering as this work by Anish Kapoor. In the film scene, the actor (James Stewart) gets caught up in fear of heights, standing high on top of a church tower. He becomes dizzy and threatens to lose his balance, the ground seems to get closer and closer and he has to make an effort not to fall.

Hitchcock convincingly visualizes this by zooming in and out and plays with the focus to evoke fear in the viewer and to disorient him. If you watch the video below, you will get an impression of Anish Kapoor’s work.

In interviews, Anish Kapoor is clear about the cinematographic quality of his highly polished reflective works. In Vertigo, he not only refers in the title to Hitchcock’s film, but also in the workings of this scene.

By working with highly polished reflective, curved surfaces, Anish makes a serious attempt to disorient the viewer through distorted reflections. Surprisingly enough, the environment and the viewer are, as it were, sucked into the work that seems to dissolve right in front of them, turn the world upside down or switch left and right, without the work deviating from its place. Vertigo actually paved the way for the later work Sky-mirror for Hendrik, placed on the forecourt.

B&B-Tilburg, great place to visit De Pont museum for Contemporary art
B&B-Tilburg De Pont museum, new restaurant wing

The Building itself

The building of the former Thomas de Beer wool spinning mill, remnant of a much larger factory complex, is a curious, closed box that reveals nothing of the interior on the outside. The spinning mill was still in use when the new users first came to see it at the beginning of 1990. The process of processing raw wool into yarn determined the floor plan of the complex in a very logical and simple way. Because of this process there is a characteristic alternation of spaces. First large wool sheds, then a wide, high corridor, a zone with small wool sheds and then the large hall with skylight.

The state in which the factory was located made it necessary to carry out a total renovation and rebuilding. Technically and physically, the building had all the characteristics of a Dutch factory: functionally and technically on the edge, no more than the bare necessities. That is why the roof and the floor of the large hall were completely renewed and all the walls restored. The starting point for the renovation and renovation has been to preserve the character of the building as much as possible, on the one hand because of the usability of the spaces, on the other hand to preserve something of the past.

25th Anniversary De Pont

In 2018 the museum celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special retrospective exhibition ‘Weerzien’. Twenty-five years: from nowhere to one of the most prominent museums of contemporary art. Weerzien followed in the footsteps of how this collection came into being. At the same time, the museum was expanded and a new wing was added to the museum, more specifically intended to show contemporary art that does not tolerate the abundant daylight present in the rest of the building, such as video art and photography. Also the museum restaurant has been realocated and expanded.

B&B-Tilburg, De Pontmuseum, Sky Mirror for Hendrik, Anish Kapoor

Sky-Mirror for Hendrik

In addition to a new entrance, a new sculpture was placed on the forecourt of the De Pont museum, which quickly became the most photographed object in Tilburg. Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor is not the same for a moment. The images of the ever-changing skies run like a film over the curved mirror of Sky Mirror. This makes it a real “eye-catcher” that surprises visitors to the museum as soon as they arrive.

B&B-Tilburg restaurant De Pont Museum

Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, new director

In the meantime, the management of the museum has passed into the hands of the new director Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, who was appointed in 2019: “I’ve always had it in my head: if the director’s position at De Pont becomes vacant, that’s what I want to do”. Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, curator at the Stedelijk Museum since 1995, now is the new director of the De Pont museum appointed from August 26th, 2019. 

Take a look at the website of the De Pont museum for the current programme on offer. After the Covid-19 lockdown, the museum re-opens on the 2nd of June 2020.

When staying in Tilburg for several days, a visit to this special place with a contemporary story about contemporary art should not be missed.

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B&B-Tilburg installation view Roni Horn De Pont Museum
B&B-Tilburg-De Pont museum, Studio VanLieshout
B&B-Tilburg De Pont Museum Entree building

B&B-Tilburg roadmap to De Pont Museum