Open storage

Works from the EPO art collection – out of the box, from 5 October 2023

© Photo : Christian Kain

During the conversion of the 3 000 m2 basement in the headquarters of the European Patent Office (EPO), a new form of open storage was developed, enabling works from the EPO art collection to be exhibited in the smallest of spaces and made easily accessible to all. In the art business, works that are not on display are normally packed in crates and stored in an art depot. The synthesis of exhibition and storage, which are traditionally mutually exclusive activities, gave rise to the concept of open storage, in which works are simultaneously stored and shown "out of the box". Located between the artists' studio, in which the next generation of up-and-coming artists produce new works, and the co-working space, where furniture from throughout the EPO’s history is combined with a new, industrial-look design, the open storage space offers an opportunity to (re)discover old and new highlights of the EPO collection while browsing in an innovative set-up in an area of just under 200 m2.

The space is located in a section of the basement formerly used many years ago for storing office supplies. Now, instead of endless rows of shelves with ballpoint pens, paper clips and official EPO stationery, the room is used to display contemporary art, mostly on paper. It is like an art library on metal racks with over 350 works, including numerous pieces by well-known artists, spanning more than 25 years of the collection's history and accounting for almost one third of the collection. This is the first time that the works have been arranged in this way. Another new feature is that they are curated in thematic groups or according to formal principles, with the pull-out walls providing an interactive dimension.

In keeping with the overarching interior design chosen for the converted basement, the 40 sliding racks have an industrial look; their metallic, minimalist style ties in with the building's exposed piping in the ceiling. The open storage space takes the conventional concept of art in the workplace to the next level: works that used to be displayed in offices and conference rooms can now be seen by a wider audience. This is in part a response to developments such as new ways of working, and to the changing architectural landscape at all EPO sites in recent years, as buildings have been completed, renovated, converted and vacated, and the use of videoconference has increased. The advantage here is that the artworks do not disappear into the depot, as in other building projects, but remain on display in open storage.