A few weeks ago, while visiting Amsterdam with a friend, I finally visited the Van Gogh Museum. As we were standing in line to check our coats and bags, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of my favorite Rietveld chairs on display (up high) in the gift shop.
I was curious as to why they were on display, but soon got distracted by the actual museum exhibits. There really is something thrilling to see the impasto of Van Gogh’s work. To see the swirls of paint colors and their dimensionality really does add a whole new level of connection to the paintings.
Still, after our trip through the museum, we couldn’t resist heading back to the gift shop to see what was on offer and I took the opportunity to look a bit more closely at the Rietveld chairs. I could just read the small sign next to the chairs that explained that Gerrit Rietveld (my beloved Utrecht architect and designer) was the designer for the main building of the Van Gogh Museum! I’ve been slowly checking off the various Rietveld-designed buildings here in Utrecht, but haven’t looked into many of his buildings outside the Utrecht region, thus my surprise. Also a good reminder that I need to look further into his other buildings throughout the country.
The Van Gogh Museum was Rietveld’s last commission, and in the end, he was only able to come up with the design before his death in 1964. His partners, Van Dillen and Van Tricht, carried out his plans, and the museum was opened in 1973. One of the main features of the building is the large central staircase that leads visitors through the multiple levels. It includes a skylight at the top that allows natural light to shine through. Or lets the grey light filter in, as it did on the overcast day we were there. Regardless, it’s an attractive, geometric, and nicely proportioned staircase.
The Rietveld chairs weren’t the only surprise at the museum gift shop. There was also one item that elicited a number of comments, most from people a bit horrified, finding the item tacky or in poor taste. I don’t know what it says about me, but I thought it was wonderfully irreverent and appreciated the sense of humor that the museum staff displays in stocking the item. See for yourself:
Yes, those are plastic key chains in the shape of an ear. Brilliant!