The Van Gogh Museum proudly presented the long-awaited opening of its new entrance hall on September 4th.
To mark this opening, 125,000 sunflowers, representing 125 years since Van Gogh’s death, were exposed on Museumplein. These sunflowers created a gigantic labyrinth that was open to the public, free of charge, from 9am to 5pm. Visitors were also pleasantly surprised by performances of various artists throughout the day that brought a festive atmosphere to this celebratory occasion. The hall was opened, solely for those who were invited, at 8pm, followed by an inauguratory speech by Axel Rüger, the director, in which he explained the philosophy behind this new project and why it was a necessary contribution to the museum’s progress.
The Van Gogh Museum had been experiencing extremely large influxes of touristic crowds, totalling more 1.6 million people yearly. As Axel Rüger said in his speech regarding his appointment as director of the museum in 2006, the entrance would always prove to be a source of irritation due to its inefficiency and size with respect to the number of visitors. This expansion not only facilitates the entry for the museum’s numerous crowds, but it’s also in line with the exhibition wing’s philosophy, which was previously occupying that space.
In fact, before the entrance hall was built, the area was an open space solely occupied by a slow flow of water atop a display of rocks. Kisho Kurokawa, renowned Japanese architect who designed this exhibition wing in 1999, intended it as a peacefully open space at the disposal of all visitors to use as reflection and contemplation preceding, and following, the visit of the museum. The hall’s peacefulness was seen as essential since it contrasted with Van Gogh’s vivid paintings and rigid technique. The new entrance hall mirrors this effect: it is a contemporary open hall with minimalistic details that, as the exhibition hall previously did, allows for peace and mental clarity after such an intense visual experience.
Upon entering the new hall we were astonished by its aesthetic impact, due to the entirety of the hall being made out of glass. The organization was impeccable, as was expected, and in line with the museum’s quality: the entrance was extremely smooth and effortless, delicious drinks were endlessly being offered to the guests and we were warmly greeted by musical performances from a DJ and a band. Axel Rüger’s speech, full of humour infused anecdotes and explanations of the hall’s architecture, resonated with the crowd and fuelled an already vibrant atmosphere. Other than the quality of the event itself, the layout of the room caught our eye: a very simple but tasteful display with minimalistic furniture and featuring a colourfully arranged gift shop.
Our overall experience of the entrance hall, also considering our renewed knowledge of the ideology behind the hall and its previous use, was extremely pleasing and paves the way for a new, developed Van Gogh Museum that we hope will continue attracting the numerous visitors it deserves.