After its closure of eight years, an extensive € 127 million renovation, cost overruns of € 20 million, multiple delays, a bankrupt building contractor, temporary relocation to the Post CS building, a public outcry at the new design identity and two successive directors, art lovers can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief at the long-awaited re-opening of the Stedelijk Museum for Modern Art. As of September 23, 2012, the museum, now under the leadership of former L.A. MOCA curator Ann Goldstein – the Stedelijk’s first woman and first American director – is ready to face the public.
Founded in 1874, the Stedelijk Museum is dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design. A complete renovation of the Stedelijk’s historic 1895 building, designed by A.W. Weissman, has converted virtually all of its spaces into galleries, enabling the first comprehensive display the Stedelijk has ever mounted of its permanent collection, widely acknowledged to be among the most important in the world.
There are three main elements to the new building: a large glassed entrance, which opens onto Museumplein; upper-level temporary exhibition galleries in a structure nicknamed The Bathtub; and a basement with a substantial display area for the permanent collection as well as experimental, compelling exhibitions and film and video art. With the renovation and expansion, the highlights of the collection are on display in the old building, in a series of changing presentations.
The Museumplein in Amsterdam has gained a new icon. A seamless, 100-meter-long composite façade, added to the original 19th-century home of the Stedelijk Museum, appears as though it consists of a single piece of material. Due to its pearly-white, smooth surface and unusual form, the structure was given the nickname The Bathtub. In architectural terms, the large white ‘bathtub’ is a world first. The 3,000-square meter, shiny surface presents a major contrast to the original structure of the museum. The façade, which is suspended above the Amsterdam Museumplein, was realized by main contractors VolkerWessels and Holland Composites, utilizing a special combination of the fibers Twaron and Tenax, normally used for ship hulls and aerospace. This ensures that the expansion and contraction of the material is minimal as temperatures shift, which is an important attribute for the structure.
The boldly contemporary new building, designed by Mels Crouwel of Dutch bureau Benthem Crouwel Architects, measuring 9,423 square meters (101,428 square feet), provides vast new space for the Stedelijk’s renowned and influential temporary exhibitions, as well as a host of new amenities. The innovative design also re-orients the entire Museum to face onto the great public lawn of Amsterdam’s Museumplein (Museum Plaza), creating an active common ground for the first time among the Stedelijk and its neighbors, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Concertgebouw, with the main entry to the museum now relocated to underneath, between the bathtub’s legs.
“With this long-awaited opening, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam will reaffirm and strengthen its place among leading international art institutions, cast light on today’s Amsterdam as a center of artistic experimentation and bring new life to the Museumplein, one of the world’s most important cultural landscapes,” Stedelijk Director Ann Goldstein stated. “What is more, with the completion of Mels Crouwel’s bold yet brilliantly functional building, we add a major new work to our collection of Dutch modern design.”
Dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design, the Museum aims to provide a home for art, artists and a broad range of publics, where artistic production is actively fostered, presented, protected, reconsidered and renewed. The Stedelijk’s holdings encompass more than 90,000 objects dating from the 1850s to the present and include paintings, sculptures, film and video, installations, works on paper, artists’ books, photographs, graphic design, applied arts and industrial design.
The strengths of the visual art collection include De Stijl, Amsterdam School, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, Suprematism, CoBrA, Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Minimalism and Post-Minimalism, Conceptualism and Arte Povera. The Stedelijk holds key works by artists including, among others, Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Karel Appel, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. The museum’s graphic design collection, has incomparable holdings of works, and encompasses more than 20,000 posters, including work of prominent designers such as Willem Sandberg, Wim Crouwel, Anthon Beeke and Walter Nikkels, all of whom served as designers for the Museum and contributed to its identity.
One of the most important art resources in the Netherlands, the Stedelijk’s Library, comprises more than 130,000 books and exhibition catalogues, 210 ongoing periodical subscriptions, hundreds of documentary videos and a very extensive collection of newspaper clippings, invitations and other ephemera. Originally established as a staff resource, the Library has been freely accessible to the public since 1957.
The Stedelijk Museum expects 500,000 visitors per year. The mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, expressed his hope that the museum will continue to stimulate modern art the Netherlands. “We hope for exciting and controversial exhibitions, which inspire the senses, occupy the thoughts, and encourage discussions.”
Museumplein 10, Amsterdam