The new wing is shocking. It not only doesn't fit in with its surroundings, it doesn't even look like a building: it looks like a bathtub. It was designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects, who explained that they wanted a structure that looks like it came from 2012. The main part of the building is made of a molded synthetic material that is usually used for the hulls of boats, and similar things.
The overhang creates a wide shady area around the building. Here's an internet grab that shows both the old and new buildings.
The tub sits up on legs; under it are the entrance hall, bookshop and restaurant, in a space surrounded on three sides by glass walls. What it lacks in grace, it makes up for in functionality; the expanded museum is a great place to show art, and it has a very friendly and convenient atmosphere.
|The Bathtub meets a brick wall|
We liked their café and ate lunch there a couple of times.
|Captain Dan at the Stedelijk café|
|Jan at the Stedelijk café|
Photo by Dan L. Smith
The entrance is decorated by an amazing and beautiful work of art: a broad loom wool carpet that covers 3 walls of the tall entrance hall, more than 2100 square feet.
|Petra Blaisse & Marieke van den Heuvel|
Inside Outside, 2012
Another custom wall decoration was created for one of the galleries by Sol LeWitt, one of my favorite artists. LeWitt frequently took a simple geometric motive and tried it in four logical variations. In this case, he used broad bands of intense colors and arranged them horizontally, vertically, and diagonally in both directions. He called these works 'wall drawings,' but they are actually applied with acrylic paint. I believe the colors have a different order in each variation. The same gallery had a very interesting sculpture by LeWitt; similarly, he combined variations of triangular shape.
|Sol LeWitt, 1928-2007|
Wall Drawing #1084, 2003
|Sol LeWitt, 1928-2007|
Complex Form #70, 1989
This sculpture by Carl Andre has a similar aesthetic to LeWitt's wall drawing: repeated identical elements in a geometric arrangement. The same units could be used in different arrangements, like toy building blocks. The red cedar is very attractive in itself.
|Carl Andre, b. 1935|
Bloody Angle, 1985
A similar aesthetic motivated this sculpture by Richard Long. Long always uses the circle as his shape; the circles always consist of fairly uniform samples of a certain type of stone, randomly arranged. In the example below he gathered these samples from a mountain range in Italy called the Dolomites. It seems remarkable that he was able to get so many similar slabs. There must be quarries in that region. Did he hack them out himself? Probably quarry men followed his instructions.
|Richard Long, b. 1945|
Bluestone Circle, 1978
Patterns formed by repeating a simple unit were an important part of sculpture in the 20th century. Some artists used ready-made objects as the repeated units. A Dutch artist known as Armando noticed the aesthetic potential of tires.
|Armando, b. 1929|
Car Tyres, 1962
In this amusing piece, Dutch artist Henk Peeters used plastic bags filled with water; from a distance it has a glamorous sparkle.
|Henk Peeters, 1925-2013|
An interest in practical objects in the real world also motivates Claes Oldenburg. His work always features one practical object that has been recreated in an impractical form.
|Claes Oldenburg, b. 1929|
Saw - Hard Version II, 1971
The painter Ellsworth Kelly has no interest in the real world. He is concerned only with abstract aesthetic values. He is the perfect minimalist, examining one shape at a time, for its own sake, in a simple color scheme. The canvas below is shaped like a left triangle; the hypotenuse is black.
|Ellsworth Kelly, b. 1923|
White Curve I, 1972
An important pioneer of this analytical approach to painting was Russian artist Kasimir Malevich.
|Kazimir Malevich, 1879-1935|
Yellow Plane in Dissolution, 1918
Somehow, the idea of painting scenes from the 'real' world that had dominated painting for the previous centuries lost its appeal for many artists in the 20th century. Those who sought out subject matter, tended to look at the media. Roy Lichtenstein embraced the aesthetic of the comic book.
|Roy Lichtenstein, 1923-1997|
As I Opened Fire, 1964
The Stedelijk also has a trove of paintings from the late 19th and early 20th century. Here are two of the most important ones. They are rather soothing after all this abstract thinking.
|Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906|
La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, c. 1888
|Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890|
Kitchen Gardens on Montmartre, 1887
Art of the 20th century doesn't offer the pictorial richness or meaning of older art, but there is something cleansing and calming about all that analytical thinking. You can't moon around saying, "Oh isn't that pretty"; you have to think about the paintings, you have to concentrate your mind on particular values, you have to engage with the art. Our day at the Stedelijk was very refreshing.