Rijksmuseum announces spring 2013 reopening
Ten-year closure of main building involved wrestling with “a thousand dilemmas”, says Amsterdam museum’s director
By Javier Pes. Web only
Published online: 06 September 2012
The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, will reopen to the public on 14 April 2013 after a decade-long refurbishment and modernisation project, according to an announcement this week. Around 8,000 works from the national collection are now being installed to tell the story of the Netherlands from the Middle Ages to the present day. During the lengthy closure of the main building, a selection of 400 works from the Rijksmuseum’s holdings, including Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, 1642, has been on show in its Philips Wing in an exhibition called “Masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age”.
The €375m project to modernise the Rijksmuseum’s main building, which was designed by Pierre Cuypers and opened in 1885, was originally due to be completed in 2008. Delays were caused by wrangling with contractors and planning problems. Wim Pijbes, the museum’s director since 2008, says that completing the project involved “solving a thousand dilemmas”. The project team, which includes the Spanish architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz, had to respond to the fact that “the world has changed” since the project began, says Pijbes, citing rapid changes in lighting technology as well as smartphones and tablet computers—“things that we couldn’t imagine in 2002”. He also says that the major changes in museums to which the new Rijksmuseum will respond include the importance of contemporary art “events” such as Tate Modern’s commissions for its Turbine Hall and “Monumenta” in the Grand Palais in Paris, and sculpture on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Gary Schwartz, an art historian based in the Netherlands, welcomes the news that the museum’s collection will return to its historic home. “To look on the bright side, large chunks of the collection have now been seen by audiences far from Amsterdam, in illuminating new contexts. A mixed blessing is that visitors to the rump-Rijksmuseum in the Philips Wing seem largely to have been content with the reduced offerings. One wishes they weren’t. The not-so-bright side is that half a generation has been robbed of the first-time experience of being overwhelmed by the full riches of the national museum.”
The museum expects annual attendance to rise five-fold, from around one million visitors before the closure to around five million after. Almost one million people a year visit the Philips Wing, which is due to close in April and reopen a year later as a space for large-scale temporary exhibitions.
The Rijksmuseum is not the only major Amsterdam museum that has experienced a lengthy modernisation project. The nearby Stedelijk, Amsterdam’s leading museum of modern and contemporary art, is finally due to open its extension on 23 September.
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