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New kid on the block: Amsterdam's latest arty offering
There's no denying Amsterdam's commitment to the arts; its museums and galleries are ranked as some of the best in the world. And although cities such as Berlin and Vienna have overshadowed it somewhat in recent years with exciting openings, as the global recession continues to cripple the creative industry, Amsterdam is going against the grain and choosing to invest wholeheartedly in its cultural offerings.
This is exactly what has happened with the Stedelijk museum, which has had to lie low for the past eight years undergoing not only £120 million pounds' worth of renovations, but also the build of a brand-new wing, which has moved the museum's entrance to face the green spaces of Museum Square (where you can also find the Van Gogh museum www.vangoghmuseum.nl and Rijks museum www.rijksmuseum.nl).
The wing has opened up 10,000 square metres of additional space so that for the first time the full extent of the museum's collection, which is renowned as some of the world's best modern and contemporary art, can now be on permanent display.
Holland Tourist Board
The redevelopment has meant that the original building - which is Victorian-built and restricting in its design, is now made up of bright, spacious galleries. Art works from Picasso to Pollock can be seen in all their glory.
In a style typical of contemporary art in the city, the new wing is unashamedly bold and uncompromising with its bathtub-like shape and positioning alongside the original red-brick building. A strange combination you might think - one part 1895, one part 2012 - but somehow it works.
The director of the museum is Ann Goldstein, who was previously senior curator at the Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art. Speaking about the new building, she commented that her focus had been for the visitor to experience the museum as one, not two parts,. As a result of this, she positioned the same sort of works to flow between the spaces.
Walking into the entrance hall, you can't help but stare at the huge expanse of space above you. The new airy interior creates a large, bright entrance area, complete with restaurant and bookshop. There's a practical side too; it will also provide enough space for the estimated 500,000 visitors who will pass through the museum's doors over the next year.
The museum is a labyrinth of modern art work and evolving exhibitions, with surprises at every corner. It has an ability to make every visitor at least slightly lost at some point but rather than being frustrating it's actually wonderful to amble on your own path and find new rooms you didn't know were there. That's no happy accident, according to Goldstein:
''By keeping our collections fresh we are giving visitors the chance to have freedom to explore. We want to turn confusion into curiosity,'' she said.
No doubt traditionalists will find fault with the museum's confident and sometimes minimal style of curation - with sparse areas aplenty - but it provides a refreshing and unconventional way to see some of the world's best art, from local unknown artists to Matisse and Cézanne.
With the Van Gogh and Rijks museum's undergoing their own renovations, the Stedelijk is now the star attraction at Museum Square. For art lovers, this has to be your first stop.
The trip: For more details, visit the Stedelijk Museum website. Ginny travelled with KLM. Fares start from £79 return. She stayed at the College Hotel, Roelof Hartstraat 1, 1071 VE. Rooms start from €165 for a double room including breakfast but exclusive of 5% tax. Visit the website for more details.