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Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam reopens September 23rd

15 August '12 by the editors

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam will celebrate its opening ceremony on Saturday, September 22, 2012, and will begin welcoming the public on September 23, following the completion of the most ambitious renovation and expansion project in its history.

A complete renovation of the Stedelijk’s historic building, designed by A.W. Weissman and dating back to 1895, has converted virtually all of its program spaces into galleries, enabling the first comprehensive display the Stedelijk has ever mounted of its permanent collection, widely acknowledged to be among the world’s most important collections of modern and contemporary art and design. The dynamic new building—designed by Mels Crouwel of Benthem Crouwel Architects and measuring 10,000 square meters (98,400 square feet)—will provide 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 Amsterdam’s Museumplein (Museum Plaza), activating a vital public space that is shared by the Stedelijk and its neighbors: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw.

“With this long-awaited opening, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam will reaffirm and strengthen its place among leading international art institutions, showcase Amsterdam as a center of artistic experimentation and bring new life to the Museumplein, re-establishing it as a cultural destination,” Ann Goldstein stated. “And with the completion of Mels Crouwel’s bold yet brilliantly functional building, we are effectively adding a major new work to our exceptional collection of Dutch modern design.”

The museum also announced details of the permanent collection installation and of two inaugural temporary exhibitions. Beyond Imagination will feature new projects and commissioned works by an invited group of 20 artists, both Dutch and foreign-born, now active in the Netherlands. It will be installed in the new second-floor galleries and spill out into the auditorium and public spaces in the new building. The first temporary exhibition in the new building’s 1,100-square-meter (10,800-square-foot) gallery will take full advantage of this unique space by presenting large-scale contemporary works and installations from the collection by Carl Andre, Rodney Graham, Joan Jonas, John Knight, Barbara Kruger, Melvin Moti and Diana Thater, among others. This vast, column-free, open-plan gallery brings exciting new possibilities for monumentally scaled works to be presented indoors in Amsterdam.

The Stedelijk will proceed with its plans for the eagerly anticipated retrospective 'Mike Kelley'. The exhibition will open at the Stedelijk on December 15, 2012, and then travel to other major museums in Europe and America.

The Permanent Collection

With the opening of the renovated and expanded Stedelijk Museum, half of the historic 1895 building’s ground floor will now be dedicated to an installation of visual arts from the 1870s to the 1960s, presented in a dozen galleries. Although roughly chronological overall, the installation will offer distinct groups of works organized by subject matter (landscape/ cityscape), art movement (Expressionism), time period (circa 1913) and other themes. Among the highlights will be key works by Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Franz Marc, Chaïm Soutine, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Kazimir Malevich, Charley Toorop, Max Beckmann, Jackson Pollock, Asger Jorn, Karel Appel and the artists of the CoBrA group. Inner rooms, protected from the light, will permit shorter-term installations of works on paper (a major group by Malevich for the opening installation) and the Stedelijk’s outstanding collection of photography.


The other half of the ground floor ring of the historic building will now be dedicated to the Stedelijk’s first installation of its highly important collection of industrial design, graphic design and applied arts. Organized in three main sections (the development of modernism, 1900–1950; postwar modernism, 1950–1980; and post-modernism to the present, 1980 onward), the installation will encompass glassware, ceramics, jewelry, posters, furniture and textiles, presented so as to highlight the changing relationships among craft, design and technology in the context of their respective ideas and ideologies. Although the installation will be fully international and will include major figures including Josef Hoffmann, Ettore Sottsass and Philippe Starck, special attention will be paid to aspects of design history that can be best appreciated here: the work of De Stijl; the Stedelijk’s own projects (such as its landmark 1968 exhibitionVormgevers, or Designers); and the influence of the Stedelijk’s own graphics, including those initiated by director Willem Sandberg and long-time in-house designer Wim Crouwel (father of the architect of the new Stedelijk, Mels Crouwel). Among the highlights on view will be the complete Harrenstein Bedroom, 1926, by Gerrit Rietveld. A suite of galleries in the design ring, set aside for temporary exhibitions, will open with an examination of the influence of the Bauhaus in the Netherlands, from industrial design to textiles, typography and photography.

The second floor of the historic building will feature changing displays from the Stedelijk’s renowned collections of major works from the 1960s through the present. These will include signature works such as La perruche et la sirène by Henri Matisse,The Beanery by Ed Kienholz, Charlene by Robert Rauschenberg and Bellevue II by Andy Warhol, as well as monographic rooms devoted to the work of Willem de Kooning, Rineke Dijkstra, Marlene Dumas, Barnett Newman, Hanne Darboven and Wolfgang Tillmans. Also on view will be many cherished works that have not been seen for years, including those by Lee Bontecou, Rene Daniels, Jan Dibbets, Lucio Fontana, Gilbert & George, Philip Guston, Yves Klein, Joseph Kosuth, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman, Gordon Matta-Clark and Jean Tinguely, as well as new acquisitions by Barbara Bloom, Stanley Brouwn, Marlene Dumas, Dan Flavin, Simone Forti, John Knight, Cady Noland, Martha Rosler, Ger van Elk, Danh Vo and Guido van der Werve, among others.

The Architecture of the New Stedelijk

Although it is unmistakably different in appearance from the museum’s original structure, the new building of the Stedelijk designed by Benthem Crouwel matches the scale and cornice line of the 1895 building and is connected to it directly, so that the two are fully integrated without either one being compromised. According to Mels Crouwel, “The Stedelijk Museum of Willem Sandberg, the director who put the museum on the international map, was our starting point. He stripped the interior of decoration and had it painted white, creating a neutral background for art. Our plan for the exterior is based on retaining the 19th-century architecture, adding 21st-century technology and painting everything in Sandberg white.”

The new building appears from the outside to be an entirely smooth white volume, oblong in shape and canted upward at one end, which is supported on white columns. Already known by many in Amsterdam by the nickname of “the bathtub,” this floating form, which spreads outward at the top into a broad, flat roof, is actually the envelope for the second-floor galleries and auditorium and the offices above. It is entirely encased in glass at the transparent ground-floor level, which houses the main entrance and lobby, bookstore and restaurant.

The roof of the new building has an overhang that creates a 2,000-square-meter (19,700-square-foot) sheltered outdoor plaza at ground level, where programmed activities can be staged and visitors are protected from the elements. This new plaza and the reorientation of the main entrance onto the Museumplein will, more than ever, bring the Stedelijk into the public life of Amsterdam. Mels Crouwel’s striking and innovative design of the new building aligns it with the Stedelijk’s history of collecting, exhibiting and fostering extraordinary Dutch design.

One of the most remarkable features of the new building is related to its smooth white surface, composed of panels made of a new composite material whose key ingredient is a synthetic fiber called Twaron®. Ordinarily used for the hulls of motorboats and racing yachts, sailcloth, aerospace and industrial components and sports equipment such as tennis rackets and hockey sticks, Twaron is being used for the first time at the Stedelijk for a large-scale architectural facade. The Twaron compound not only provides an apparently seamless surface but also permits a structure that is five times as strong as steel with less than half the weight of a conventional curtain wall.

Notable features of the interior include a circulation system that allows visitors to enjoy exhibitions on different floors without distraction, by carrying them on an enclosed escalator that runs directly between the lower level and second floor.

The entrance hall of the new building will be distinguished by two major artworks on an architectural scale. Petra Blaisse, principal of the firm Inside Outside, has been commissioned to create a textile that covers the back wall of the restaurant and extends to the entrance hall, where it rises 14 meters (46 feet) to the top, welcoming visitors in a spectacular fashion. Dutch carpet manufacturer Desso is fabricating the impressive textile. Also rising to the top of the entrance hall will be one of Louise Lawler’s acclaimed series of large-format, stretched photographs.

The Stedelijk Museum

Founded in 1874, the Stedelijk Museum is an international institution in Amsterdam 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. Widely acknowledged as one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in the world, the Stedelijk’s holdings encompass more than 90,000 objects dating from the 1870s to the present and include painting, sculpture, film and video, installations, works on paper, artist books, photographs, graphic design, applied arts and industrial design.

Photo: John Lewis Marshall

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