Rijksmuseum reopens! Amsterdam
Is the Rijksmuseum now the best museum in the world? I wondered as I entered the Netherlands’ national museum for the invitation-only press preview earlier this month.
Years ago, when I first visited the Rijksmuseum as an art history student, I remember floorboards creaking as I approached Rembrandt’s iconic Night Watch. The Dutch Masters were brilliant; the building that housed them dark and forgettable.
Now it is anything but. Reopening April 13, 2013, after a ten-year, $500 million renovation and restoration, the new Rijksmuseum is as spectacular as the cultural treasure it houses.
Lead architect on the massive project was Antonio Ortiz of Seville-based architecture firm Cruz y Ortiz. Collaborating closely with Dutch restoration architect Van Hoogevest, Ortiz and his team worked to restore the museum’s original design by 19th century architect Pierre Cuypers. Tons of building material that had been added over the years was removed, reintroducing light and space. The previously-converted inner courtyards are now an airy, glass-covered entrance hall called the Atrium.
Considered one of the top ten museums in the world, the Rijksmuseum’s gorgeous heart is the Gallery of Honour which houses masterworks by Dutch painters of Holland’s Golden Age. Back in the space originally created for it by Pierre Cuypers: Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642).
It was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill to jockey for position with the BBC, Reuters and hundreds of other international journalists at a historic photo call in front of the Night Watch.
One of the most high-profile aspects of the Rijksmuseum’s restoration is the replacement of George Sturm’s decoration and paintings. Sturm’s artwork had fallen out of favour long ago and been plastered over. As part of the plan to return the building as far as possible to its original condition as conceived by Cuypers, Sturm’s decoration has been restored, albeit in a reserved colour scheme designed to complement, not compete with, the museum’s collection.
Too, Pierre Cuypers’ lost terrazzo floor in the Entrance Hall was reconstructed.
Other than reinstalling the Night Watch in its original location as centrepiece of the entire museum, the rest of the Rijksmuseum has a completely new layout. Visitors can now chronologically follow 800 years of Dutch art and history through 8,000 objects displayed in 80 rooms. Galleries were designed by French specialist Jean Michael Wilmotte to put focus on the objects themselves, with cases that seem almost to disappear. A contemporary grey colour scheme unifies.
A new Asian Pavilion houses the museum’s rich collection of art from China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Thailand. New public areas include a cafe, shop and freshly landscaped gardens.
The Rijksmuseum is located on Museumplein, Amsterdam.
The Rijksmuseum received over a million visitors a year even while closed for renovation, when only 400 works were on display. The number of annual visitors to the new Rijksmuseum is expected to double.
At the April 4 press preview, General Director Wim Pijbes declared a new era for the Rijksmuseum and invited the world to visit in person or via Rijks Studio, a revolutionary online digital bank of 133,000 copyright-free images available to explore and use as you please.
The Rijksmuseum is open to the public 365 days a year, admission free to everyone 18 and under.
The Rijksmuseum: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en
The story behind Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642): https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-C-5
And for more on art of Holland’s Golden Age in the Rijksmuseum’s collection, see my post on Dutch Genre Painting.
The reopening of the Rijksmuseum is a key event in a landmark year for Amsterdam. From the 400th anniversary of the canals to the reopening of the Van Gogh Museum, see what else this UNESCO World Heritage city is celebrating this year at Amsterdam 2013.
For more inspiration and information on visiting the lovely Netherlands, see Visit Holland.
As a guest of Visit Holland, I flew KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, always a pleasure. The exclusive KLM Crown Lounge at Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal 3 offers a ‘paid lounge’ concept, meaning that the lounge is accessible to all passengers for a fee of $34. Well worth it, in my opinion, considering what I normally spend on food and drink in departure in much less comfortable surroundings. The KLM lounge Pearson is open from noon to midnight daily and offers free Wi-Fi and outlets at every seat, computers and printers, a buffet of warm and cold snacks (cheese!), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, check-in facilities for transit passengers. For more information, call (905) 612-6737.