Gemeentemuseum (Museum Gemeente)
The Hague, Netherlands
Gemeentemuseum (Museum Gemeente) The Hague Reviews
In need of some harmony and peace? Go to Gemeentemuseum Den Haag! Jul 20, 2008
I can (almost) hear some of you asking, ‘another museum review from Rudolph?’ and the answer is yes! This time however, not a review about the opening hours, the prices in the coffee corner, the museum shop or even the collection on display. For that, I recommend visiting their website that is available in English. This review is about the museum itself, the building. Because, let me tell you, the ‘Gemeentemuseum’ in The Hague is worth a visit for the building alone.
When entering the museum a sense of peace and harmony come over you. The dimension of each space is perfect, as is the lighting. Coloured tiles determine in what kind of area you are; red for public spaces and yellow for service areas. However, the tiles are modestly used and the whole museum is airy and light. Without being able to point them out, you instantly feel great care is given to each and every detail of the building. The building has rhythm and fits around you like your favourite old coat.
One of the greatest Dutch architects, Hendrik P. Berlage, designed the museum. Berlage was born in 1856 and died in 1934. Between his first exemplarily building in 1903 (the Amsterdam Stock Exchange) and his masterpiece, the Gemeentemuseum of 1934, he was responsible for creating a whole new building style, modern architecture ‘avant la lettre’, that has influenced every Dutch and many foreign architects ever since.
Designed specifically as a museum, The Gemeentemuseum isn’t disfigured by horrendous features like ugly radiators in the middle of the room or covered up windows to protect the artwork from damaging light. The opposite is true. Many ingenious features complement the artwork and keep them safe from harm. The walls, heated through a system of warm water piping, radiate indirect heat that in its turn provides a constant and even temperature, which is best to preserve the artwork on display. For the paintings on the second floor, glass ceilings covered with white, translucent cloth were constructed. This ensures you have a well-lit clear view of the paintings without any distracting reflections on them.
Thoughts went into the design of the route through the museum as well. The exhibit rooms have corridors running around them. Once a visitor has entered a room, passers by won’t be disturbing him. The aforementioned rhythm of the building comes from the use of mathematical principles and measurements. Every length in the museum is based on the number 11 or derivatives of it (e.g. 5.5, 22 and so on). The floor plan of the museum is a complex puzzle of interconnecting squares, rectangles and cubes. For some, the lay-out of the museum will be complicated and confusing. Others may well be dreamingly wandering through the seemingly endless corridors, going from one part of the extensive arts & crafts collection to another.
At the beginning I said I wouldn’t mention the collection. Well, I lied :) Now that we are on the subject, let me tell you just a little bit about it :)
The Gemeentemuseum houses the biggest collection of paintings and drawings by Piet Mondriaan (1872 – 1944), a Dutch master in modern and abstract art. In his paintings he tried to reduce the form of his subject to the very essence, resulting in a series of rectangles, squares and cubes formed by black lines, some filled in with primary colours only. ‘Accidentally’ they are the same colours used for the tiles in the museum. Although Mondriaan’s work seems to be made for this museum, it is not. Both Mondriaan’s work and the museum are a great reflection of one of the most exciting eras of the last 150 years. Therefore, they go together so well.
While viewing the items on display it is apparent that, with all that modern art (and crafts), the last two centuries are the main inspiration and source for the museum’s extensive collection. However, it also comprises VOC silverware, Venetian glass, Delft pottery, furniture, musical instruments and one of the most important fashion collections in the world. In the basement you’ll find an ultra modern, interactive exhibition, with which the museum is trying to attract younger visitors.
Every time I visit this museum, joy fills my heart. One sad truth has to be said though. Photography, in whatever form, is not allowed! However, to convince you to come and see the museum for yourself, I took the below photos with the risk of being arrested and expelled from the museum forever.
It will come as no surprise to you, I strongly recommend paying the Gemeentemuseum a visit.
Part of the A day in The Hague travel blog
3 / 3 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Nov 11, 2007
When I visited the museum, they'd swapped a fair bit of their collection for a collection from Copenhagen for a temporary exchange. This means that I didn't get to see the famous Mondrians, which is a bit of a shame, but I did get to see some really great French Impressionists. I'll gloss over them - if you go the Mondrians will probably be back - but they were very nice.
The permanent collection also contains some Picassos, some nice cartoons from the Impressionist era, and some more modern/ conteporary art from the mid twentieth century onwards. I particularly enjoyed a painting with some quilted crows in it - I forgot to write down the names because I was really tired - from the Royal Art Prize room. It is next door to Museon, which is a science museum, and near a photo museum.
Facilities include a book shop with a nice collection of postcards, a grand café, and there's a cool water garden outside. The museum itself is large and quite labyrinthine, but I was really happy to see so many little benches and seats where you could sit to enjoy the art. It is laid out so that there are lots of smaller rooms and bays where the paintings are hung, and it's decorated with the sorts of blue tiles you find in well preserved public baths from the 1930s. Whilst I realise that sounds awful, it actually creates a really nice, relaxing sense of calm. It was one of the nicest physical gallery spaces I've seen.
Well worth a trip, and a good counterpoint to the more famous Mauritshuis. It's a little way out of the town centre, and I would recommend taking the bus or tram.
Part of the Utrecht 2007 travel blog