(Photo: Erik Smits)
“Ten years of slow days / ten years of wakeful nights / till what was to come would be disclosed,” wrote Remco Campert in a poem commissioned as part of today’s reopening of the Rijksmuseum, the national art museum of the Netherlands. The long-awaited occasion was celebrated with a spectacular opening ceremony during which the soon-to-abdicate Queen Beatrix, wearing a large black chapeau that made her resemble a Playmobil figurine or one of Rembrandt‘s beloved gang of Staalmeesters, followed her private preview of the renovated museum with a trip down the orange carpet to turn a giant golden key before an audience of thousands. Fireworks and free admission (’til midnight) followed.
Designed by Renaissance revivalist Pierre Cuypers and completed in 1885, the Rijksmuseum has been closed since 2003. “It’s a kind of Harry Potter castle. It’s a crazy building, a sort of neo-gothic Arts and Crafts building covered in images. It’s a comic strip,” said director Wim Pijbes in a recent interview with Apollo magazine. “It’s the last hooray for neo-gothic–just a year later, the Eiffel Tower was built, welcoming a new age.” The decade-long overhaul, which cost nearly $500 million, half of which was supplied by the Dutch government, includes the integrative building renovation of Cruz y Ortiz, who burrowed underground to link the museum’s two separate halves and add an atrium, a fresh installation (of some 8,000 objects) masterminded by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, and Copijn’s redesign of the surrounding garden. “What is the new Rijksmuseum about in one word? It is time, time embodied in taste or fashion, however you like,” said Pijbes. “We are a time machine.”