The Stedelijk Museum Reopens
It’s a momentous occasion. After 8 years, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’s museum of contemporary art and design, will finally reopen its doors to the public this Sunday. We got a sneak preview earlier in the week.
Museum politics, for anyone who cares, is a fascinating dog fight dominated by rivalries, politicking and ego. The Stedelijk, now headed by American Anne Goldstein, has escaped none of it. But with just days before its doors officially open the dramas can be put aside so that the public can finally decide if the grand ambitions of regaining a position alongside the likes of Moma, the Centre Pompidou and Tate Modern can be realized.
The buildings new extension, designed by architect Mels Crouwel -- son of iconic Dutch graphic designer Wim Crouwel -- is a masterpiece. Crouwel has managed to design a perfectly seamless extension to create an intuitive museum experience. Old and new are reconciled by a wall tapestry by Petra Blaisse that conjures up movement and long-gone greenery.
A good contrast is the Van Gogh Museum, which sits next door and has an extension designed by Kisho Kurokawa in 1999 that in no way connects to the original Rietveld building. It is an awkward space to use and visitors never feel quite sure how to exit, often backtracking their way back through the exhibition space to the entrance.
From the outside Crouwel’s Stedelijk extension resembles a massive bathtub constructed from twaron fibre – normally used in aerospace or bullet resistant clothing. It’s clean, sexy and fabulously intriguing. The entrance has been sent to the original rear of the building meaning visitors arrive from the difficult public space known as Museumplein, which until now has been the awkward backyard of the city’s principal museums.
Perhaps the best news for us is the prominent, ground floor space given to the museum’s extensive design collection – 13 galleries 2 of which are dedicated to temporary exhibitions. Industrial design, graphic design and the applied arts are organized in three main sections (the development of modernism, 1900–1950; postwar modernism, 1950–1980; and post-modernism to the present, 1980 onward). At the entrance to the design wing, an “object of the month” is presented with an interactive users’ guide for visitors to type questions to designers and curators that will be answered and uploaded. For the opening the piece selected is Dick van Hoff’s Tile Stove.
From here each gallery integrates all the design disciplines from glassware, ceramics, and jewellery to posters, furniture and textiles resulting in a delightful traipse through design history that is full of surprises and which successfully draws connections between eras and movements.
The Stedelijk Museum owes its inspiring collection of design objects to its two most famous directors Willem Sandberg (1945-1963) and Edy de Wilde (1963– 1985) who both had the vision and foresight to anticipate the importance of design in the Netherlands well before the hype began.
Displays in the design galleries draw on work collected from around the world, but the result is a clear narrative on how Dutch design has developed with particular emphasis on the changing relationships between craft, design and technology.
What shines through is the Dutchies’ love of renewal – that constant need to reinvent and create based on fresh ideas. The complete Harrenstein Bedroom, 1926, by Gerrit Rietveld, for example is a particular highlight in how modernist designers rethought the meaning of line.
The Stedelijk reopens this Sunday - alongside a selection of the permanent collection is a temporary exhibition examining the influence of the Bauhaus in the Netherlands, from industrial design to textiles, typography and photography.
Design.nl will continue to cover the Stedelijk’s design collection and will talk with the design curators about their process.
Images: small from top the new musuem entrance, the Restaurant Stedelijk designed by Concern, the old revamped stairwell, Rietveld's Harrenstein Bedroom.
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