The Rijksmuseum, all grown up!

The Rijksmuseum, all grown up!

Apr 5, 2013 |  by  |  Art, Spots
About the author
Sabrina (who is old as fuck) has more energy than a Duracell bunny, and uses it to dance in the newest clubs, eat too much junk food, play all the videogames, examine apps and shop - even though she has more than enough clothes. Sorry Earth.

Yesterday morning I had to get up at an ungodly hour after I couldn’t sleep all night because I was too excited. But when the moment was finally there it was all worth it: after ten years, the Rijksmuseum opened its doors again. Just for the press though, but on the 13th of April also for you.

The lion, the press and the museum
Now, when was the last time you visited the museum? Maybe you’re part of that generation that never consciously saw it. The last time I remember walking underneath the building was on Queensday 2003 towards Museum Square because that was cool back then. (Yes, it was.) And yesterday, when I walked across that same path and entered the building I felt something I can’t put into words for you. I think it’s similar to the climax of this clip: after waiting and waiting and guessing what it could look like, it was finally there- more beautiful than ever. It was similar to seeing the pet lion all grown up and my heart was hugging itself internally. Now you should know I’m like an emotional faucet but this time I could (however, barely) contain myself.

The last time I remember walking underneath the building was on Queensday 2003, towards Museum Square because that was cool back then

Show me the information! And the money!
After the kind people of ‘het Rijks’ bestowed no less than 400 pages worth of information on me it was time for the introduction. Wim Pijbes, director of the museum, emphasized that this is the museum of the Netherlands. Next, it was Jet Bussemakers turn. She told the story of the millennium gift: 100 million guilders back in 1999, that were given to the Rijksmuseum by the Dutch government because they had ‘some’ spare money. She added that the museum was a gift ‘for’ and ‘of’ the people. I thought to myself: “you forgot to mention ‘by’ the people” since the eventual cost of the museum is somewhere around –hold on to your seat- 375 million euros. Don’t worry, you’ll forget all about the nights you ate peanut butter instead of sushi because of the high taxes when you walk around. Pinky promise.

Cuypers’ bones
The Rijksmuseum originally opened its doors in 1885 and was designed by Pierre Cuypers. In 2001 a design contest was issued, and from seven architectural gems the design by the Spanish Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz (Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos; left and middle on the last photo) was unanimously chosen as winner. Mostly because it was the design that showed the true original building. It upheld the grandeur of the olden days, so to speak. Of course the architects were limited in what they could change but when I asked Ortiz what he would have done with a carte blanche he answered: “We were asked to bring the building back to its original position. Changing it too much would have been a mistake. Even if I could alter everything I wanted, I would have done the same thing.” Clearly, there is a great media-coach at work, because I remember the struggles around the passageway through the museum vividly. (So does the internet!) Being completely honest, using that space as an entrance would have installed a Louvre-like appeal and I for one would have seen it as an improvement; but hey, we’re Dutch and the Dutch cycle. So now, it’s almost back to its original state.


It upholds the grandeur of the olden days, so to speak

Upon entering the building the first thing you notice are these larger-than-life chandeliers that not only work to break up the height of the space, but also to give the area better acoustics. The windows are covered with panels painted with vertical stripes: the most decorative thing the Spanish gentlemen added. It would have been ‘conspicuous’ if they had kept them plain, according to them. They also lowered the courtyard beneath the passageway so that there can be interaction between the visitors and inhabitants that are just passing by. The interior in the Front Hall and Gallery of Honour is highly decorated with the original paintings and murals (from which colours were found during the renovation). Not everywhere though, some galleries are clearly by the hands of Cruz and Ortiz because restoring all the lost murals would result in the loss of too much wall space for all the 8000 pieces of art.

Only four shades of grey
Apart from the decorations there are four shades of grey used for the walls. This bold decision was in the hands of Jean-Michel Wilmotte, a French interior architect (to the right on the last photo). They range from light grey to a very dark, blue/ grey hue, which is also used in the Gallery of Honour. It makes the paintings stand out more, and together with the lighting (that seems to be an homage to the daylight museum that the ‘Rijks’ once was) the paintings appear clearer than ever before. Plus, the lighting adjusts to the seasons so it always seems like it’s a bright day, even during our everlasting winters.

The lighting adjusts to the seasons so it always seems like it’s a bright day, even during our everlasting winters

Well, let me close this –way too long- virtual tour by telling you something about the collection. I’m trying to keep it short but I didn’t even get a chance yet to tell you about the mosaic in the Entrance Hall (completely new!) and the glass windows (only room that isn’t climate controlled!), or the Asian pavilion outside. But here goes: there is a chronological order to the collection, but a relation between the subjects also pulls them together. Let’s say you have a painting by Rembrandt, and next to it is a painting by a friend of his, and maybe his wife had a great silverware collection, which you can also see. Not only will you be able to perceive the entire collection this way (I know I tend to skip the silverware for example) but you’ll also have a better understanding of it.

The museum really is a combination of art, history and the Dutch identity, even if it took two Spanish men and a French one to make us comprehend it. So go see our ‘lion’ and admire how beautiful he is, all grown up.

Photos by me

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