The Stedelijk – The Goldilocks of Museums

Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

This past February the Beast From The East descended upon Amsterdam just as we arrived to visit. It was cold. Really cold. In fact, it was miserable walking around the city and bikes seemed like it would only make it worse as we would have to cut through the cold wind.

So what to do Amsterdam when it is colder
than a Polar Bear’s toenails outside?

Head inside. Thankfully, my daughter loves art and plans on studying art history, so off we went to the Van Gough Museum. The next day there was a discussion of going to the Rijksmuseum. I opted out. No offense to anyone, but Dutch Masters aren’t my favorite period of art and I’ve seen it. I said I’d find something else to do.  But my mind wandered to the modern building we had seen the day before. Hidden in the shadow of the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gough museum is the Stedeljik.  

The Stedelijk is the Goldilocks of museums. It is not too small, not too big. It is just the right size.

The collection is primarily modern art, but it also houses quite a few paintings from other artistic genres. For a medium sized museum we all agreed that it is packed full of great art.

The Stedelijk Building

As I mentioned, the Stedelijk can be found tucked behind the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseums on Museumplein.  The Stedelijk is a contemporary art museum and thus, it is fitting that the building itself,  a modern glass and steel structure, is a stunning piece of architectural art on its own.

Benthem-Crouwel-Architects-Lensvelt-Stedelijk-Museum-Amsterdam

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo credit: www.lensvelt.nl

Stedelijk Museum

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo credit: ArchDaily by Jannes Linders

The Original Building

The original collection was made up of art and antiques that were donated to the city of Amsterdam by Sophia Augusta Lopez Suasso de Bruyn, a wealthy widow who wished to have a museum opened in her home and in her name upon her passing. Indeed, the Stedelijk was originally called The Suasso Museum and was housed in her home.

Eventually, Madame Suasso’s home was deemed too small and a new building was designed by A.W. Weissman, a local architect. The new museum building designed by Weissman has a neo renaissance façade with several ornate, figurative sculptures. When the new, modern, wing was added many of the flourishes were lost to modernization and renovations. The Stedelijk´s original and main building was constructed between 1891-1895 at Paulus Potterstraat, at the short walking distance from the Rijksmuseum.

The New Building – aka The Bathtub

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Stedelijk Museum. Photo John Lewis Marshall

A more modern and more functional building was opened in 2012 after almost a decade of renovations. The modern addition, designed by Dutch architects Adriaan Willem Weissman and Benthem Crouwel Architect, is a pretty sharp contrast in style to the Weismann building. After the unveiling of the new addition, many locals thought that the modern aesthetic clashed with the old Stedelijk building, The Concertgebouw, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Essentially, they didn’t think the modern style went well with the other buildings in the neighborhood. Locals took to calling the new addition “the bathtub.” In my opinion, the new building fits its purpose of showcasing contemporary art and, an added bonus, it offers amazing views of the Museumplein. I sat and people watched through those big beautiful windows for 40 minutes as I sipped my coffee, warm and toasty away from the cold. It was lovely.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Overlooking Museumplein

The museum’s purpose has changed many times over the years – going from a private collections of art, collectibles, furniture, and antiques to medical instruments and finally resting on contemporary art and design.

Along with the masters of modern painting genres such as Impressionists, Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, the Stedelijk also has a unique collection of furniture, and, photography.

The Collection

The collection includes modern and contemporary art and design from the early 20th century up to the 21st century and features famed masters such as Vincent, van Gough, Wassily Kandinski, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, and Keith Haring.

Highlights From The Collection

The Stedelijk has everything from quirky artists previously unknown to me . . .

to the masters of the modern movement . . .

The Water Bull. Jackson Pollack. 1946.

to the masters:

And, The Keith Haring Velum

American artist, Keith Haring, began his career in 1980, drawing graffiti in the New York subway.  During a brief, but intense, career that spanned the 1980s, Haring’s work was featured in over 100 solo and group exhibitions. In 1986 alone, he was the subject of more than 40 newspaper and magazine articles.

In 1986, at the heigh of his career, Haring agreed to create a special piece for The Stedelijk.  From The Stedelijk website: “The American artist painted the canopy, which filters daylight into the grand hallway, especially for his solo exhibition at the Stedelijk in 1986. For this show, Haring didn’t simply want to present artwork he’d already made – he insisted on making new work. Laying out the velum (which measures almost 40 x 66 feet, 12 x 20 meter) on the floor of one of the museum galleries, he painted it in just one day, using spray paint. Haring turned the event into an energy-fueled performance: while photographers and journalists looked on, he painted rapidly and rhythmically, moving over the canopy, hip-hop playing in the background. He filled the canopy with dancing, waving figures, crawling babies and squirming animals. Known as the ‘Keith Haring velum’, the painting was stretched below the monumental glass cupola above the historic staircase. The painting was an instant hit. Now, more than thirty years later and restored, the velum is back for everyone to enjoy.”

The photos do not do the velum justice. It was beautiful in person with the light slipping through and contrasting the parts untouched by sun.

Keith-Haring-Stedelijk-Museum-Amsterdam

Keith Haring. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Keith-Haring-Stedelijk-Museum-Amsterdam

Keith Haring. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Keith-Haring-Stedelijk-Museum-Amsterdam

Keith Haring. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Keith-Haring-velum-the-Stedelijk-Museum-Amsterdam.

The Keith Haring velum. The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Keith-Haring-velum-the-Stedelijk-Museum-Amsterdam.

The Keith Haring velum. The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Practicalities

Hours:
Monday – Thursday and Saturday and Sunday:  10:00  – 18:00
Friday:  10:00 – 22:00

Tickets:
You can buy your tickets in person or online at Stedelijk museum tickets.

Adults: €17,50
Children under 18: free
Students (29 yrs or younger),
Cultural Youth pass (CJP)
€9

Address:
Stedelijk Museum
Museumplein 10
1071 DJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands


If you get a chance to visit the Stedelijk, I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did. Maybe because we had not planned on going, in fact none of us had even heard of it, it turned out to be one of those serendipitous moments where things did not go as planned, but we ended up with a lovely surprise. 

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  • Reply oregongirlaroundtheworld June 22, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    I kind of love the “bathtub” building. Especially when it houses modern art. Modern Art always stirs controversy doesn’t it. Is that art? Why isn’t it? The conversation alone is worthy. As an Art Historian myself, I love a good museum and seeing so many masters in one unique space would definitely be a draw for me. I adore that de Kooning piece and the Haring vellum would be amazing to see. Thanks kindly for sharing with #FarawayFiles.

    • Reply Niche Travel Design June 23, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      I think you would love it. And I loved that it was just the perfect size. We saw it all, had lunch and did not feel rushed. It was just right. 😉

  • Reply Katherine June 23, 2018 at 1:57 am

    They know how to do public buildings right, don’t they? I loved the Museumplein in Amsterdam, it made me feel cultured just being there (I know, I’m so vain). The collection at Stedelijk was totally not what I was expecting when I read your first description of how the museum began and its collections. It looks pretty funky. I’d totally pass up Dutch Masters for a whirl around Stedelijk! #FarawayFiles

    • Reply Niche Travel Design June 23, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      It was such a pleasant surprise.

    • Reply Niche Travel Design June 23, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      I recommend it!

  • Reply Clare Thomson June 25, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    We didn’t get to the Stedelijk when we were in Amsterdam but it would be a must visit for me now having read your post. The paintings you’ve chosen to feature are so stunning and I love a smaller-sized museum where you’ve got time for a good look at everything. Thanks for sharing with us on #FarawayFiles

    • Reply Niche Travel Design June 30, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      I think it is overshadowed and overlooked by many. Including me on previous trips. I hope you make it there next time. #farawayfiles

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