In 1969, Maarten and Reina van Bommel-van Dam, living in Amsterdam, gave a collection of modern art, counting more than 1,100 works, to Venlo on the condition that the Municipality house the collection in a museum and provide proper accommodation for the founders. The gift resulted in the first museum for modern art in the province of Limburg being opened here in 1971.
The collection that was originally transferred in 1969 contains works of art that, although very varied in character, have one thing in common: they reflect the collectors. They were the ones who made purchases at exhibitions, auctions, in galleries and studios and, constantly in search of personal experiences, they were captured by each work of art. This could be an abstract canvas by Kees van Bohemen or an Ibo mask from Mmwobond, Nigeria, a still life from the Amsterdam Maria Vos or a woodcut by Hokusai or a steel assembly by Frans de Boer-Lichtveld.
The Van Bommel-van Dam couple did not collect according to a certain system.
The transfer of the collection in 1969 meant that the collecting was taken on by the Municipality of Venlo from then on. Even so, the Van Bommels did not stop their collecting activities and, in 1984, their private collection, comprising more than four hundred works of art, was accommodated in the Van Bommel van Dam Foundation (Stichting Van Bommel van Dam). A collection that has been given on a long-term loan to the Municipality of Venlo to be added to the 1969 gift.
Initially, the purchasing policy focused on artists from the primary collection. Following the opening of the museum, the director Lei Alberigs and his successor Thei Voragen expanded the Noord-Holland based collection; they acquired works from, amongst others, the Cobra movement, informal art, the Zero movement and material painting. They managed to bring together strong sub collections including works by Armando, Bram Bogart, Edgar Fernhout, Jan Schoonhoven and Jaap Wagemaker which, through the comprehensiveness and the inclusion of relatively early work, can be considered as exceptional for the Netherlands. Above all, they invested in a wider and more typical representation of contemporary art from Limburg. Especially under Voragen, the distinctive sub collection of post war, originally Limburg, painters grew markedly with Pieter Defesche, Jef Diederen, Ger Lataster, Lei Molin and Pierre van Soest as the best-known representatives.
The current museum executive, under the management of director Rick Vercauteren, consider the expansion of the collection as one of their core tasks and continue to build on the collected areas from the original collection. The purchasing policy focus is still mainly on Dutch painting and works on paper, with due consideration of the existing lines in the collection. Tuning into socially engaged artists, involved individuals with a recognisable own visual language and signature over a longer period, ensures cohesion in the different parts of the collection. Without ever forgetting Limburg. To an increasing extent, there is attention for distinctive representatives from the younger generations and current developments in the visual arts and the photography sub collection is growing steadily. The collection area is expanding towards Germany and, to a lesser degree, Belgium.