Sunday, April 14, 2013

The importance of art in Holland

When Pamela and I spent a long weekend in Amsterdam, one of the most memorable places we visited was the Rijksmuseum where we stood in awe at the impressive collection of Dutch masterpieces. We were fortunate because a few years later the museum was closed for a renovation. That process has taken 375 million euros and 10 years to complete.

Before the re-opening, Holland’s most famous painting, Rembrandt’s Night Watch, was processed through the streets of Amsterdam in a vast, reinforced steel box: a sealed carnival float for a carnival occasion. Thousands came out to watch, there were even naked cyclists braving the cold. The same workers who had removed the picture ten years before were rehired for the occasion.

It is hard to imagine the re-opening of a gallery in Britain capturing so much attention even though the country has an equally if not more impressive history of art

So what has changed?

Previously the rooms at the Rijksmuseum were organised in terms of the materials used; glass, paintings etc. That is how it was when Pamela and I visited. Now you walk through periods of art. The exception is for the works of Rembrant which still hold pride of place in the museum. Apart from the Night Watch, there is the 17th century Jewish Bride to marvel at.

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