Great news for art fans in Amsterdam: After ten years of rebuilding, renovation and restoration, the Rijksmuseum will open its doors on April 13. Spanish architecture firm Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos has transformed the 19th-century building into a museum for the 21st century, with a new Asian Pavilion and restored galleries. Cruz y Ortiz have opened up the previously converted inner courtyards into a glass-covered new entrance hall, known as the Atrium. The original decorated walls and ceilings have been revealed again in a number of places under the guidance of architect Van Hoogevest, who maintained the artwork of Pierre Cuypers, the original architect of the museum. The French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, known for his work in the Louvre, is responsible for the design of the Rijksmuseum galleries. He has designed display cases, plinths, lighting and furniture, and has selected an interior color scheme inspired by Pierre Cuypers’ palette for the building.
The presentation of the Rijksmuseum’s collection is also new. For the very first time, visitors can follow a chronological journey through the collection. In a sequence of 80 galleries, 8,000 objects tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history. Only Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch will be returning to its original position.
Journey through time, from the Middle Ages to Mondrian
The new presentation of the Rijksmuseum collection is a journey through Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages and Renaissance until the 20th century. The story of the Netherlands has been set in an international context and is told chronologically across four separate floors. Paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, silver, porcelain, delftware, furniture, jewelry, arms, fashion and objects from Dutch history will be presented together for the very first time.
More than 30 galleries are dedicated to the glory of the Golden Age, when the young mercantile republic led the world in trade, science, military exploits and the arts. At the heart of the museum will be the magnificently restored Gallery of Honour, presenting world-famous masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The Gallery of Honour leads visitors to the dedicated space that architect Cuypers created for Rembrandt’s The Night Watch in the late 19th century, and where this huge masterpiece can once again be admired.
New to the presentation are the 20th century galleries. Paintings, furniture, photography, film and an airplane paint a picture of Dutch culture from the last century.
The Special Collections are also displayed separately for the first time. Here, visitors will be able to discover famous and unexpected objects from the applied arts, science and national history, such as ship and navy models, musical instruments, and an armory.
New acquisitions and restorations
Hundreds of new objects and works of art have been acquired over the last ten years, of which more than 100 will be showcased in the museum when it reopens. The Rijksmuseum was also able to carefully study and restore almost the entire collection of works featured in the new presentation. Highlights among the new acquisitions include:
· The 'Golden Bend' in the Herengracht (1671-72) by Gerrit Berckheyde, one of the highlights of the Dutch landscape genre from the Golden Age.
· The Burgomaster of Delft and his Daughter (1655) by Jan Steen, one of the masterpieces of the 17th century collection.
· A rare white armchair (1923) by Dutch designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld.
· Two-meter high wooden sculptures of celestial warriors from Japan, temple guardians from the 14th century.
The new Asian Pavilion
Surrounded by water, the new Asian Pavilion is made from Portuguese stone and glass, and is characterized by many oblique surfaces and unusual sightlines. It houses the museum’s collection of Asian art from China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Thailand, dating from 2000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. A total of approximately 350 objects will be on display.
New “outdoor museum”
Based on Cuypers’ 1901 design, the Rijksmuseum gardens’ new layout was created by Dutch garden and landscape architecture firm Copijn. The gardens feature several of the original formal garden styles, as well as classical statues, and fragments and ornaments of historic buildings. A fountain, a water artwork designed by Jeppe Hein, a 19th-century greenhouse with ‘forgotten’ vegetables, and a children’s garden with playground equipment by Dutch designer Aldo van Eyck will soon be added to this “outdoor museum”. A Henry Moore exhibition will open in the new gardens on June 21, the first in a series of international sculpture exhibitions to be held each year.
Open 365 days a year
The Rijksmuseum is open to the public 365 days a year, with free admission to everyone 18 years of age and under.
Photo by Pedro Pegenaute. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum.