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Seven hundred highlights from the Stedelijk's collection are presented in a landscape of freestanding, ultra-thin walls
Installation view STEDELIJK BASE, collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo Gert-Jan Van Rooij.

AMSTERDAM.- STEDELIJK BASE opened on 16 December. AMO architects Rem Koolhaas and Federico Martelli developed a playful, lightweight exhibition concept specifically for this new collection presentation at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Seven hundred highlights from the collection are presented in a landscape of freestanding, ultra-thin walls created especially for this installation. This unique architectural feature was made possible through the innovative application of steel.

Perfect introduction to modern art and design
STEDELIJK BASE is a fresh, accessible way to discover art and design from 1880 to the present. Spotlighting masterpieces by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, Charley Toorop, Gerrit Rietveld, Ed van der Elsken, Jeff Koons, and Marlene Dumas, the display invites visitors to embark on a journey through art history. Engaging and unorthodox, the display epitomizes the Stedelijk’s tradition of bold, experimental presentations. The exhibition display for STEDELIJK BASE enables visitors to experience the collection in an open-ended parcours. The perimeter walls offer a chronological overview of developments in art and design, while free-standing architectural elements create thematic zones of related artworks. The lay-out understands the collection as a network of relations rather than as a presentation of individual artworks. To capture these networks, very thin walls define an almost urban environment of free association and multiple relations.

Rem Koolhaas: “I’ve been visiting the Stedelijk Museum since I was twelve; the Stedelijk was my university and shaped my sense of aesthetics.” For STEDELIJK BASE, Koolhaas envisaged a landscape of slender architectural elements: ’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.’

According to Margriet Schavemaker of the Stedelijk Museum, who was jointly responsible for the selection of works and the presentation: “STEDELIJK BASE is our way of making the collection relevant today, in the 21st 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.”

180 tons of steel
Tata Steel Nederland incorporated no less than one hundred eighty tons of steel in the exhibition walls for STEDELIJK BASE. As Chairman of the Board Theo Henrar claims, “This truly is a world first and an amazing feat of Dutch engineering. An achievement realized through the innovative capacity, creativity, and flexibility of everyone involved. I’m extremely proud that Tata Steel Nederland was able to make such a significant contribution to this project.”

The structural mathematical models that were used by technical design firm Arup played a key role in achieving walls both strong enough and sufficiently slender for the design concept.

Confrontational statements
STEDELIJK BASE is divided over two spaces. Art from 1880 to 1980 is featured in the lower level gallery (Part 1), while a presentation of art after 1980 is located on the first floor (Part 2). Between the two floors, on the mezzanine, the visitor enters an immersive artwork by Barbara Kruger. In 2010 Kruger developed a “wall wrap” especially for the Stedelijk. The work incorporates confrontational, emotionally-charged statements about what people think of each other. Kruger wrote texts for this wall installation herself, but also quoted from George Orwell’s novel, 1984, and the notebooks and writings of philosopher Roland Barthes. It is a powerful, challenging work, realized here for the third time at the Stedelijk.

STEDELIJK BASE is the finale of the museum building’s revitalized interior. The building benefits from a clearer layout, with two thirds of the space now dedicated to the collection. STEDELIJK TURNS, on the ground floor, features temporary collection presentations, each focusing on new perspectives, research, and relevant themes. Under the banner STEDELIJK NOW, the Stedelijk presents temporary exhibitions on the first floor. Another renewed architectural element is the entrance area which, in collaboration with Benthem Crouwel Architects, has been transformed into a welcoming meeting place for visitors. The new layout of the building and the presentation of the collection are inspired by the vision of Beatrix Ruf and implemented by the Stedelijk Museum team.

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