PostHeaderIcon Behind the Museum Doors

rijksp1010743In 2003, Amsterdam’s famed Rijksmuseum, home of Rembrandt’s iconic canvas, “The Night Watch”, along with priceless Vermeer paintings, closed for a total renovation of the 1885 building designed by Pierre Cuypers. Everyone was excited by the audacious new design by two Spanish

Vermeer - The Milkmaid

Vermeer - The Milkmaid

architects, Antonio Cruz & Antonio Ortiz. It gave curators the chance to redo galleries added during earlier times which had compromised the museum’s original layout and its ability to tell the story of Dutch Art in a coherent way.

The filmmaker, Oeke Hoogendijk, decided to film the process.  What he captured was an incredible saga of political and public intrigue that changed the original design, led to a giant leap in construction costs and cost the jobs of several curators and the museum director who had started the project. The result is a four-hour documentary, split in two parts, of the process that tore the museum and Dutch public opinion apart.

A must -see for anyone interested in what The New York Times film critic, A. O. Scott, calls “an exemplary study in the sociology of arts administration.”  If such a rare, behind-the-scenes, look

Night Watch by Rembrandt

Night Watch by Rembrandt

is not your cup of tea, you probably will find it boring but I found it captivating! I wonder what a similarly candid, eye-opening documentary about the design and financial challenges of The Art Institute’s Modern Wing might have revealed. That project had an equally lengthy, 10-year, gestation.

For schedule of screenings, go to The last chance to see both Parts 1 and 2 is next Thursday, July 31 at 6 and 8:15 p.m.

Addendum (7/17): Derek Fincham just posted a fascinating entry on his website entitled  “Art is Therapy” at The Rijksmuseum from a book of the same name by Alain de Botton. I urge you to read it at

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