Installation view of Stedelijk Base, the Stedelijk Museum’s new presentation of its permanent collection. Courtesy: the Stedelijk Museum.

Stedelijk Museum Teams Up with Rem Koolhaas to Rehang Its Permanent Collection

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam revealed today a major rehanging of its collection of modern and contemporary art. The institution partnered with AMO architect Rem Koolhaas—who says the Stedelijk shaped his sense of aesthetics—and exhibition designer Federico Martelli to reconfigure its presentation of about seven hundred works by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Roy Lichtenstein, Gerrit Rietveld, Ed van der Elsken, Marlene Dumas, and Yayoi Kusama.

Dubbed Stedelijk Base, the new arrangement incorporates new architectural elements. One hundred and eighty tons of steel were used to create thin freestanding walls, which are positioned to help demarcate thematic areas. Commenting on the layout, Koolhaas, who has visited the museum regularly since he was twelve, said, “We did not want to create a rigid circuit for visitors. They’ll have the freedom to explore in different directions, and choose their own route, as adventurous as circulation through any city.”

Margriet Schavemaker, the head of collections and research at the Stedelijk Museum—who was jointly responsible for the selection of works and their presentation—said, “Stedelijk Base is our way of making the collection relevant today, in the twenty-first century. The presentation is crammed with surprising connections and associations, and also offers a clear chronology. This way visitors will always know which period of art history they have entered.”

Divided over two spaces, Stedelijk Base displays art from 1880 to 1980 in its lower-level gallery and art after 1980 on the first floor of the museum’s new wing, designed by architect Mels Crouwel, which opened in 2012. Connecting the two floors is Barbara Kruger’s Untitled, 1985, a site-specific piece made especially for the Stedelijk that incorporates confrontational and emotionally charged statements about what people think of each other.

A program of temporary exhibitions will now be staged in the space where the permanent collection used to hang, known as “the bathtub.” The idea to move the permanent collection originated with former director Beatrix Ruf, who stepped down earlier this year amid controversy over her art consultancy.