It has been buried under scaffolding and dustsheets for almost a decade, shielded from the 21st century. Now, €375m later, with 12,000 square metres of airy exhibition space, 52,000 new bricks, a spectacular entrance and a fresh lease of life, the Rijksmuseum is back. Never has a national museum undergone such a metamorphosis.
The space has been sliced and diced by Cruz y Ortiz architects of Seville, who have restored the original layout conceived by Pierre Cuypers in 1885. A tight sequence of 80 chronological galleries will now whisk us through 800 years of Dutch art and history. With streamlined edges, slick glassy add-ons and dazzling courtyards, the Rijksmuseum is almost unrecognisable—but it hasn’t become a stark white cube. Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who won wide acclaim for his interior design at the Louvre, has chosen fabrics and furniture in tune with the 19th-century building.
There are 8,000 works on display, including "The Bend in the Herengracht" by Gerrit Berckheyde (1671-72, above). Rembrandt’s "The Night Watch" (1642) is the only painting not to have moved. There are 30 hefty rooms for the Golden Age and a Gallery of Honour for Vermeer, Steen and Hals, but also 123 new pieces, such as Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian Dress (1965).
The showstopper is the Asian Pavilion. A freestanding zig-zag structure surrounded by water, linked to the main building by an underground passage, it stands effortlessly between the great walls of history and will house a trove of Asian art. It faces the new landscaped gardens, which will stage summer exhibitions of sculpture, led by Henry Moore this June.
If time is tight, there’s the Rijksmuseum Schiphol, the first art museum beyond passport control. Here’s hoping your flight is delayed. ~ Olivia Weinberg
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam reopens April 13th
EXHIBITIONS AT A GLANCE
Steve McQueen (Schaulager, Basel, to Sept 1st). Biggest show yet for one of today’s most important artists. His films are mostly black-and-white, intense and physical, with a gritty political undertone.
Life and Death: Pompeii and Herculaneum (British Museum, London, March 28th to Sept 29th). The eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD wiped out two cities in 24 hours—and preserved a way of life. A rare chance to see 250 items that have stood the test of millennia (Satyr and maenads, Herculaneum).
Photography and the American Civil War (Met, New York, April 2nd to Sept 2nd). America’s bloodiest war was also the first to be captured on camera. This survey has 200 of the most poignant shots.
From Rule to Fancy: Spanish Artists in Italy in the Early Mannerist Period (Uffizi, Florence, to May 26th). In 1500-20 a fleet of Spanish artists sailed to Italy, soaked up the atmosphere and learnt from the best. Powerful works by Berruguete and Ordóñez join Leonardo et al.
Joan Miró’s Spanish Dancer (Israel Museum, Jerusalem, to June 30th). A 25-year fascination caught in paintings, drawings and sketches.
Beyond Brancusi: The Space of Sculpture (Norton Simon, LA, Apr 26th to Jan 6th). His clever use of space and material was way ahead of his time. A lean show of 19 works from the museum’s renowned collection includes Hepworth, Judd and Noguchi but, oddly, no Brancusi.
German Thought and Painting, from Friedrich to Beckmann, 1800-1939 (Louvre, Paris, March 28th to June 24th). Two camps: great artists (Caspar David Friedrich, Paul Klee, Otto Dix) v great thinkers (Goethe, Hegel, Nietzsche). An ambitious show with a dollop of waffle.
Saloua Raouda Choucair (Tate Modern, London, April 17th to Oct 20th). Choucair, now 96, is a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East, yet this is her first exhibition in Britain. Influenced by Léger, she is all about big shapes and unusual tones. ~ OW