Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Museums of Amsterdam

The main reason we went to Amsterdam—aside from the fact that we really like it there—was to visit the Rijksmuseum. It was closed when we visited last time and has only recently reopened after a 9-year refurbishment. So that was our number 1 destination.

The Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam's new logo.
Whoever came up with Iamsterdam (Will.i.am?) deserves a raise.
Now, I like to take pictures, and I don’t mean just when I go away on holiday. I carry a camera with me everywhere, even when I walk into town because you never know what might strike me, and a lot of things do. I take photos of the market, flowers, trees, people, buildings—so much so that it drives my wife crazy. Despite this, I am always pleased to see prominent signs in art galleries and museums stating, “No Photography” because it means I can put my camera away and simply enjoy the experience.

There were no such signs in the Rijksmuseum.

This surprised me at first, but then I realized museums were not likely concerned about art theft via photography any longer because you can get a copy of any picture off of the internet. The other reason to ban cameras was that the constant flash could damage the exhibits but, for the most part, cameras no longer need a flash.

Even so, as we entered, I pretending I did see such signs to encourage myself to keep my camera in my pocket. Then I discovered another reason cameras should be banned in museums; they—and the people using them—are highly annoying.

Like many art galleries, the Rijksmuseum has its stars, and the biggest one—in both fame and size—is The Night Watch by Rembrandt. This huge painting was displayed in a large room for all to see. Sort of.

This is a picture of The Night Watch I downloaded from the Internet:


This is what I saw of The Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum:


Granted, most of the people were in the Night Watch gallery, but there were enough people crowding up to other paintings with their mobile phones or tablet PCs held aloft to completely spoil the experience. They were utterly clueless, rude, oblivious to others around them and just really, really annoying. After a while I began amusing myself by stepping in front of as many of them as I could.

It’s strange to think of people coming all that way just to glimpse a timeless masterpiece through the viewfinder of their iPad.

This picture, painted by Coen Metzelaar in 1880, proves that iPads
were around as early as the 1870s, though I expect this was version 01.
On the other hand, whole wings of the museum were all but empty so we contented ourselves by looking at the “stars” on posters in the gift shop and toured the remainder of the exhibits in relative peace.

I think most of these exhibits were titled, "Not the Night Watch."
Only mildly miffed, we extracted as much culture as we could stand then went and had lunch. The next day, we visited the nearby Van Gogh Museum.


The Van Gogh Museum, as the name suggests, is dedicated to the art of this one man, He was quite prolific (although an active artist for only the last ten years of his short life, he produced more than 2,100 paintings) but the museum is a fraction of the size of the Rijksmuseum, yet they charge the same, rather extravagant, price. (Say what you like about Britain, but our museums are free.) 

The other irritating thing we discovered was that there is only one loo, and it is outside the museum—you have to leave in order to use it. That is just not on.

The Van Gogh museum layout; plan ahead.
But at least they forbid the taking of pictures.

This random and startling exhibit was in the Rijksmuseum
and it appears to be the actual beacon used to contact the Mother Ship.
Another museum of note is the Anne Frank House. We had already seen it and, inspiring as it is, we decided not to go again. We did, however, tour the outside and it reminded me of Justin Bieber’s visit last April. The Biebs, after earning the wrath of the British, hopped over to the Netherlands and wangled a private tour of the Anne Frank House.

Somehow, the horrors and persecutions of millions of Europeans—personified by this one young girl—failed to make him see beyond his own little bubble, wondering only if she might have been a benefit to him, because, in the guest book, he wrote: “Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Anne Frank: WWII heroine or Justin Bieber fan? You decide.
What a self-involved little ass-monkey.

But overall, despite the cost and the cameras, the museums of Amsterdam are well worthy of a visit. Just watch out for narcissistic celebrities and twits with cameras.