After 10 years, the Rijksmuseum is almost open! What the papers say

On the 13th of April, Amsterdams’ Rijksmuseum will open its door after a 10-year rennovation programme. According to the newspapers it was worth the wait.

The Volkskrant is jubilant. ‘Perfection has been reached almost everywhere’ it writes. After ten years of cogitating, head scratching, restoring and categorising, looking for cohesion and meaning the Rijksmuseum has done it’, the paper says.


Ten years was a long time, the paper admits, but they were needed to marry a number of objectives: displaying the history of the Netherlands through art and keeping happy the foreign visitor who wants to see great art but is not necessarily interested in its place in Dutch history. Another challenge, VK writes, was to form a cohesive whole out of a collection that originated in widely varied donations and legates.

The paper provides some statistics as well: the renovation took ten years, one year more than it took to build the Rijksmuseum. The original budget was €272.5m; the renovation ended up costing €375m. The main building is 44,500 square metres, with an exhibition space of 21,500 square metres. The route past all the exhibits is 1.5 kilometres long.


Trouw headlines its article with ‘Wondrously beautiful and oh so familiar’. ‘Is this going to be a story full of superlatives?’, the papers asks itself before going into raptures about ‘how beautifully arranged together!’ the Vermeers are.

But, the paper adds, the real dazzler is the combination of the paintings and the building. The harmony between the two is well, wondrous to behold. ‘The Rijksmuseum feels good. It makes you happy’, Trouw writes.

NRC has the only dissenting voice in the chorus of contentment. It quotes 76 year-old architect Moshé Zwarts who dislikes the museum’s ‘intense and Catholic character’.

‘We are talking about the most important museum in the Netherlands. Great Dutch artists like Rembrandt and Frans Hals would turn in their graves if they knew where they’d been all this time,’ the paper quotes him as saying. ‘People laugh when I say this but I mean it. And what has this renovation done? It is emphasising the museum’s Catholic character even more’.

Curatorial revolution 

‘At last. There they were, all my old friends, missed these past 10 years, propped up against the wall, waiting their turn to be back where they belonged: on the walls of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam’, historian Simon Schama writes in the FT.

Schama, who calls the renovation ‘exhilarating brilliant’, praises the museum’s director of exhibits Taco Dibbets and it general-director Wim Pijbes for having achieved a ‘curatorial revolution’.

‘When you see those early Rembrandts or the great mannerist ‘massacre of the Innocents’ of Cornelis van Haarlem with its ballet of twisting rumps, you will also encounter, as would those who would first have seen them, the silver, the weapons and cabinets that were the furniture of the culture that made those pictures possible. You will enter the Netherlands at a particular moment’.

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