Stedelijk Museum: Amsterdam’s Premier Contemporary Art Museum Reborn

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Friday, September 28th, 2012

View of the Stedelijk Museum from Museumplein in AmsterdamAfter being closed for nine years to receive a major overhaul, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum just reopened to the public on September 23, 2012. Originally established in 1874, it’s not the first time the museum has been closed for a substantial period of time. The previous renovation on the Neo-Renaissance building, designed by Adriaan Willem Weissman and opened in 1895, also took place over a nine year period from 1945 to 1954. Located at Museum Square in the Amsterdam South borough not far from the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Concertgebouw, the reborn Stedelijk features a new wing designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects.Photo of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam pre-renovation

The museum’s collection features more than 90,000 objects of art, including paintings by such renowned artists as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. The museum is also home to  photographs by Erwin Blumenfeld and Man Ray and to video art by Nam June Paik, Bill Viola and Bruce Nauman. The 1980s and 1990s saw the acquisition of many South American works, as well as art from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Lacking climate control and the space to feature its vast collection, the deteriorating building was forced to close in late 2003 for being out of compliance with fire regulations. Benthem Crouwel Architects was the company selected to handle the renovation with a bold design that would double exhibition space in the museum with a new 98,400 square-foot wing. Whether fondly or with derision, the new wing is often referred to as “The Bathtub,” featuring a vast glassed entrance that opens onto Museum Square (Museumplein), the upper level temporary exhibit galleries, and a basement level area for exhibiting items from the permanent collection.View of the Stedelijk Museum from Museumplein in Amsterdam

The 328 foot tall wing, which only slightly resembles the shape of a bathtub, is an amazingly shiny white structure that gleams in the sun. It has a dramatic, gravity-defying overhang that extends outward from the side of the structure so far that it looks as if it could break off at any moment. Patrons need not fear, however, as the material used is a composite far stronger than steel. The blazing white is in honor of the museum’s director during World War II, Willem Sandberg, who stripped the interior of the building and painted it white to create a neutral background for art. He also had to go into hiding to avoid being arrested by a German search party.Photo of The Bathtub at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

Constructed of 271 panels of Twaron aramid fibers along with Tenax carbon fibers attached to a steel structure, the Stedelijk is the biggest composite building on the planet. Mels Crouwel’s ultramodern design makes the building itself as important to the museum’s contemporary design collection as anything found inside. Modern design enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to see this brilliantly designed space in person.Photo of The Bathtub at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

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