Friday, 3 May 2013

Grand opening at the Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum. Photo credit: Iwan Baan. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum

The Dutch city of Amsterdam’s National Art Museum, the Rijksmuseum, opened at last on the 13th of April 2013, after ten years of restoration work.
In its eighty exhibition rooms, which visit eight hundred years of Dutch art and history, including the 17th century, the Netherlands’ Golden Age, eight thousand items –carefully selected from the collection, numbering nine hundred and fifty thousand – are currently on display.
The restoration work was executed by the Spanish architecture agency Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos. Keeping to the slogan “Cuypers for the 21st century”, they honored the Rijksmuseum’s architect Pierre Cuypers, restoring the building to how it looked when it first opened in 1885 while transforming it into a museum suited to the 21st century.

The competition for the architectural design of the National Art Museum held in 1876 saw Pierre Cuypers (1872-1921) as its winner. Cuypers, having worked on more than one hundred buildings, including, among others, Amsterdam Central Station (1889), was one of the leading architects of the late 19th century Netherlands. The museum design he presented would provide three hundred and thirty-three exhibition rooms, adorned with spectacular decoration both indoors and out. According to his wishes, the Austrian painter Georg Sturm (1855-1923) took charge of the architectural decoration.
Upon the building’s completion, however, the issue arose that the splendid decorations interfered with the appreciation of the artworks, until at last in 1903, by reason of its being unsuited to the objects on display, one piece of wall was painted over. From the 1920s onwards, more and more of the decorations were removed or hidden, until the restoration work executed in the 1950s, which left the building far from its original design.

top left: Great Hall. Photo credit: Jannes Linders. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum
top right: Night Watch Gallery. Photo credit: Iwan Baan. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum
bottom left: Gallery of Honour. Photo credit: Iwan Baan. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum
bottom right: Great Hall. Photo credit: Jannes Linders. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum

One of the key aims of the most recent restoration was, to bring these decorations back to life, with an emphasis on the second floor’s Great Hall and Gallery of Honour. The Great Hall’s floor is made up of a mosaic, its large windows glitter with stained glass, and on the wall are artists, scholars and historical figures praising the arts and sciences in an allegorical painting(image at top left). Above the door of the Gallery of Honour, which neighbours the Great Hall, is painted the Allegories of ‘Hope, Faith and Love’ (image at bottom right). In the Gallery of Honour hang works by Vermeer, Hals, Ruisdael and others, representing the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. At the very back is the Night Watch Gallery, for Rembrandt’s great masterpiece, the Night Watch(image at top right). This amazing collection of works immediately draws one’s eye; but if you chance to look up, your vision will be filled with the elaborately wrought architectural decorations(image at bottom left).
In the ten Lunettes (the half-circles on the upper walls) are young women symbolizing the various fields of the arts, the craftsmen pursuing them, and the coats of arms of the city most closely connected to each field. For instance, the Lunette featuring Ceramics portrays a woman holding Delft earthenware, a ceramist, and the crest of South-Holland, the province to which Delft belongs. The Lunette is in praise of the craftsmen, who bring forth such excellent artwork, and of the Netherlands, which brought forth the craftsmen.

Simultaneous to the restoration, the addition of the Asian Pavilion was made, to bring Asian artwork under the public eye. The Philips Wing is still under construction (due to open late 2014), and will become a planned exhibition space. The National Art Museum of Amsterdam holds its history in high regard, while it continues its transformation into a museum that can match the transitions of the times.
Museumstraat 1
1071 CJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Opening times:
9:00 to 17:00 daily, open 365 days a year