RA Magazine Spring 2013
Issue Number: 118
The Rijksmuseum reopens
The long-awaited restoration of the jewel in Amsterdam’s crown is set to bedazzle museum-goers, writes Christopher Baker
The greatest treasure house in the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum, possesses an unrivalled collection of Dutch art. Rembrandt and Hals, Vermeer and Ruisdael are represented in depth, but much of the museum has been inaccessible for the past decade, due to an unprecedented €375 million renovation project. From April we will be able to assess if all this work and expenditure has been worthwhile and previews suggest visitors will not be disappointed.
Rembrandt, 'The Jewish Bride', 1665. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum.
The grand 19th-century building has been entirely restored and enhanced with modern facilities. According to the gallery’s Director, Wim Pijbes, ‘Never before has a national museum undergone such a radical makeover.’ The architectural transformation was overseen by the Spanish firm Cruz y Ortiz, while the decorative scheme for the galleries has been conceived by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who redesigned several galleries at the Louvre. Their designs create a splendid shell for a fresh presentation of the collection. A chronological sweep of displays, exploring Dutch art from the middle ages to the 21st century – and including paintings and drawings, to furniture, delftware and silver – forms the core of the new museum.
All this is supplemented by new features, including a pavilion dedicated to outstanding Asian art. With 8,000 objects in total on show in 80 galleries, the result should be as exhilarating as it is exhausting. Seminal works, such as Rembrandt’s painting of an unknown couple, The Jewish Bride (1665), with its exquisitely tender mix of spiritual and physical love, can be admired along with unexpected, recently acquired works, such as the ‘Mondrian’ day dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1965. A much-loved friend has clearly been given a new lease of life.
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