Profile - Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

The Van Gogh Museum is a young museum. It opened its doors in 1973 and has since grown into one of the world’s most prominent and popular museums. Its reputation stems from its unique collection, the quality of its exhibitions, its outstanding research, pristine publications, and its two internationally renowned buildings on one of Europe’s leading cultural locations. The museum collects and preserves Western paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints from the period 1840 to 1920. At the heart of the museum is the estate of Vincent van Gogh, the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work anywhere in the world. Around this the museum presents a broad range of nineteenth-century art.

The Van Gogh Museum consists of two buildings: the main structure designed by Gerrit Rietveld and opened in 1973, and the Exhibition Wing by Kisho Kurokawa completed in 1999. The architecture of the museum has a complex history: apart from these two architects, several others have contributed to finishing, rebuilding or remodelling parts of both buildings.

Originally the Van Gogh Museum just consisted of the main building on the Paulus Potterstraat, and housed both the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. At present it is used only for displaying the permanent collection. It was designed in 1963-64 by Gerrit Rietveld and completed after his death by his partners. The museum opened in 1973.

Rietveld was a leading member of De Stijl, a group of progressive artists and architects which was active in the 1920s and published its own magazine. In line with his Modernist approach, Rietveld favoured geometrical forms and light, open spaces. The most striking feature is the staircase in the central hall, where daylight enters through a high atrium and floods into the museum galleries.

In 1998-99 the museum building was renovated by Greiner Van Goor Huijten Architects BV and a new office wing was added.

The Exhibition Wing was designed by Kisho Kurokawa, a Japanese architect with an international reputation. He is best known for his original designs for several Japanese museums and for Kuala Lumpur airport. His work is characterised by geometrical forms, such as cones, ellipses and squares, and a symbiosis between Eastern and Western principles in philosophy and architecture. For the new wing of the Van Gogh Museum he created a sober design that accords perfectly with the existing building. Rational (Western) geometry forms a symbiosis with Eastern asymmetry.

The addition of a new wing specially for exhibitions was made possible by a gift from The Japan Foundation. The funds for this donation came from the Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company, Ltd. of Tokyo.

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