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Discover Van Gogh Museum
Discover Van Gogh Museum

Vincent Van Gogh is a name that has become almost synonymous with the concept of the tortured painter, and it is no surprise to find a fine museum dedicated to his artworks and his place in the history of art. The Van Gogh Museum contains hundreds of his paintings and drawings. Perhaps it might be more appropriate to call it the “Vincent and Friends Museum”, since it also includes a nice impressionist collection by the likes of Gauguin, Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec among others.

The original building with the gridded exterior was designed by Gerrit Rietveld and opened in 1973. Rietveld was the great De Stijl architect perhaps most famous for his boldly colored Schroder House in Utrecht. Rietveld died in 1964, so his architectural partners J van Dillen and J van Tricht carried out the functionalist design. The exhibition spaces are fairly open and spacious to accommodate the crowds. A skylight that allows natural light into the galleries tops the central staircase. Van Gogh’s works are organized in chronological order into five periods on the first floor of the main building for your viewing convenience. You can see the timeline of his artistic development and his mental decline. Observe the thick strokes on the self-portraits, the flowers, and the French landscapes. Other floors contain his drawings, along with Japanese prints and the works of other artists.

The rectilinear Rietveld building has become almost a background for the shiny new Exhibition Wing designed by Kisho Kurokawa in 1999 (Kurokawa also designed some of the new seating in the original building). The annex, which has earned nicknames like “the mussel” because of its clammy elliptical shape, houses special exhibitions on its three levels. A shallow pond acts as a sunken plaza element next to the building, and can be appreciated from the promenade inside the annex. The Print Room is housed in an aluminium “cube” that juts out from the building. This geometric element refers itself to the modernist block that is the Rietveld building. The Kurokawa addition has fast become a darling for photographers with its simultaneously slick and somber titanium and stone facade.

The Rietveld and Kurokawa buildings are linked by the transitional space called the Node, so they appear as independent objects from the outside. Martien van Goor, whose firm also helped renovate the Rietveld building, designed the node. Walk around the lawn to see how these two blocks interact with each other and with the other buildings of the Museumplein. Check out the shop and restaurant before you leave the museum.

The Van Gogh Museum is open from 10am to 6pm, and on Fridays it does not close until 10pm. If you have limited time or money, a visit here may currently make for a more satisfying visit than the neighboring Rijksmuseum, which is showing its “greatest hits” of Dutch masterpieces while the main building is undergoing a complete overhaul.

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