Skip to main content

Ten years and $489M on, Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum reopens

By Bryony Jones, CNN
updated 10:30 AM EDT, Sat April 13, 2013
Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, home to one of the world's greatest art collections, reopens to the public on Saturday April 13, after a mammoth 10-year US$489m renovation project. The exhibits have been reorganized into chronological order, with paintings, furniture and other objects displayed side-by-side to tell the history of the Netherlands. Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, home to one of the world's greatest art collections, reopens to the public on Saturday April 13, after a mammoth 10-year US$489m renovation project. The exhibits have been reorganized into chronological order, with paintings, furniture and other objects displayed side-by-side to tell the history of the Netherlands.
HIDE CAPTION
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
Rijksmuseum reopens after 10 years
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum reopens after a 10-year, $489 million rebuilding project
  • Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands opens gallery -- one of her final duties before abdicating
  • The new-look Rijksmuseum showcases 8,000 works of art spanning 800 years of Dutch history
  • At its heart is Rembrandt's "Night Watch," which the original museum was built around

Explore the Rijksmuseum's most treasured possession, Rembrandt's "Night Watch" in our interactive.

(CNN) -- The Rijksmuseum, home to one of the world's most celebrated collections of art and historical artifacts reopened Saturday after a 10-year, $489 million rebuilding project which saw many of its treasures travel the world while the gallery was closed.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands performed the opening ceremony in Amsterdam, one of her final official duties before she abdicates at the end of the month.

Once open, the Rijksmuseum will welcome visitors 365 days a year.

Thousands attended the ceremony and poured into the museum, eager to reacquaint themselves with old favorites including Rembrandt's "Night Watch," Vermeer's "Milkmaid," and Frans Hals' "Merry Drinker," or to catch a glimpse of new highlights: An Yves Saint Laurent "Mondrian" dress, a 16th Century sculpture of the "Mater Dolorosa," or a war plane dating to 1917.

Rijksmuseum: Facts and figures

- 8,000 works of art and artifacts from the Rijksmuseum's million-strong collection are on display

- Objects span 800 years of Dutch history, and are displayed chronologically

- Only one painting has returned to its original location: Rembrandt's "Night Watch"

- Largest object, "The Battle of Waterloo" (1824) by Jan Willem Pieneman, measures 5.76m by 8.23m

- The walking route through all 80 galleries is 1.5km long

- Original Rijksmuseum was designed by Pierre Cuypers, and opened in 1885

- New-look gallery has been redeveloped by Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz

- The redevelopment has cost an estimated $489M

Interactive: Explore Rembrandt's 'Night Watch'

"It is the beginning of a new era, an exciting new future for a new museum, the museum of the Netherlands," says Rijksmuseum director Wim Pijbes. "Everything is new.

"Everything has changed, the only thing that hasn't is 'The Night Watch'. It is the altarpiece of the Rijksmuseum, and the whole place is arranged around this beautiful masterpiece."

The new chronological displays place paintings and historical objects alongside each other "to give context," says Pieter Roelofs, curator of 17th century art at the museum. The aim, he says, is "to tell stories, to tell the story of Dutch history and culture."

"We want to give visitors a sense of time, and a sense of beauty," says Taco Dibbets, director of collections. "When you enter the Rijksmuseum, you are transported into another world -- the world of Rembrandt, of Vermeer and of Mondrian."

The renovation has seen some parts of the gallery, designed by Pierre Cuypers, restored to their former glory.

The original entrance hall's opulent stained glass and wall paintings, considered so cathedral-like they sparked protests in fiercely Protestant Amsterdam in 1885, are back. The four-story library, featuring ornate ironwork, a vertiginous spiral staircase and 5.4km (3 miles) of bookshelves, is open to the public for the first time.

But huge swathes of the gallery have been radically modernized -- Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz have stripped out the makeshift galleries installed in the museum's courtyards over the decades. In their place is a huge, bright and airy atrium.

Interior architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte has overseen the removal of all potentially distracting elements from the galleries: Gone are the colored walls, heavy drapes and gloomy display cabinets.

Instead the jewel-like paintings are hung on minimalist gray walls, priceless items are displayed in ultra-clear glass boxess. If glass boxes are not absolutely necessary, we don't use them," insists Roelofs. The whole collection is illuminated with the latest LED lighting.

But while the displays themselves are the height of modernity, there is one 21st Century touch missing from the galleries: "There are no video screens and no computer screens in the galleries," says Dibbits. "We believe the works of art should speak for themselves."

In any case, the experts say, most visitors interested in a high-tech view of the collection will have smartphones or tablets with which to access the Rijksmuseum's new website.

While the main museum was under reconstruction, some of its best-known artworks, including "The Night Watch" were kept on display in a small annexe. Others were lent to exhibitions around the world, from Los Angeles and Vancouver, to Sao Paulo, and to Sendai, after the 2011 Japanese earthquake.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Arts and Culture
updated 1:13 PM EDT, Tue July 30, 2013
First came the discovery of the long-lost remains of Richard III. Now archaeologists exploring the same car park have found a coffin within a coffin.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
If you're of the opinion that the only thing better than viewing great art is owning it, put these destinations on your travel itinerary.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Wed May 22, 2013
A quarter century after his death, American pop artist Andy Warhol has popped up in China again after his first and only trip to the country in 1982.
updated 7:07 AM EDT, Fri March 22, 2013
David Bowie has released his first songs in a decade, just as a new exhibition of his life and career opened at London's V& Museum.
updated 11:08 AM EDT, Fri April 12, 2013
Rembrandt van Rijn's
Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is reopening after a massive 10-year rebuild. Get up close to its most treasured possession with our interactive.
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
Thieves have forced Paris' Louvre museum to close, but an art heist was not to blame. Instead staff walked out in protest at pickpockets.
updated 6:36 AM EDT, Thu May 2, 2013
Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter
A three minute jazz record was enough to cast a spell on a wealthy European heiress who became determined to meet the artist behind the tune.
updated 7:02 AM EDT, Fri April 12, 2013
Artist Zao Wou-ki, widely regarded as one of the foremost Chinese painters of the 20th century, has died at the age of 93.
updated 5:42 AM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
Phallic good luck charms, an amber gladiator amulet and wooden buildings are among a trove of Roman artifacts found in London's financial district.
updated 8:13 AM EDT, Wed April 10, 2013
Leading philanthropist and cosmetics tycoon Leonard Lauder offers to donate 78 Cubist works to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
updated 8:47 PM EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
Detail from Vladimir Tretchikoff's
With her glossy hair, exotic outfit and ruby-red pouting lips, she's every inch the classic pin-up... except, that is, for that greenish-blue skin.
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Mon March 18, 2013
The newly identified Rembrandt self-portrait, donated to the National Trust and on display at Buckland Abbey.
A mystery portrait donated to a British heritage charity has been identified as a work by Rembrandt van Rijn -- worth more than $30 million.
ADVERTISEMENT