The extraordinary 17th century Vasa warship that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 and was rediscovered in 1961 has been sunk again since the National Museum closed for renovation in 2013. Now Sweden’s largest art museum reopens after 5 years of renovation
In 1866, when Sweden’s Nationalmuseum opened it was one of the most modern museums in Europe. However, after 150 years the museum appeared outdated and space was lost to offices and storage limited severely the potential for the museum to display its world-class collection.
After five years of closure, the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden’s Museum of Fine Arts and Design, reopened to the public on 13 October. The $132,000 ovehaul by the Swedish architects Gert Wingårdh and Erik Wikerstål has transformed the exhibition spaces and created a new sculpture courtyard, restaurant and creative workshops.
Sweden’s Largest Art Museum Reopens after 5 Years of Renovation
The building, which stands on the waterfront overlooking the royal palace and the old town, was designed by German architect Friedrich August Stüler in classic neo-Renaissance style. He also designed the Neues Museum in Berlin.
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The renovation project has revolutionized both the building and the way the collection is presented. The courtyards have been opened up, given glass roofs and incorporated into the main building. The exhibition space has been dramatically increased giving room for three times more artefacts on display than before. The windows have been unblocked so that visitors now have views right through the building itself across the sea to the city.
More space and new logic
Nearly 50 office spaces, a conservation studio, and more than 3,000 square meters of storage that were carved out of the museum’s interior over the years have been removed. Now the museum has the capacity to display 5,200 works at once from the diverse collection from the 16th century to today, compared with about 1,700 before the renovation. This is still just 8 percent of the museum’s collection.
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There is also a new logic to the displays. Visitors start on the top floor and follow a timeline from (roughly) the 16th century to the present day, and the paintings are exhibited alongside the decorative arts. You can for example see Lalique glass in the same room as Renoir and Monet.
As well as renovation and updates, new additions have changed the character of the museum. The color scheme was uplifted by bright hues, from canary yellow, to a pale purple and a deep red, each inspired by the original 1866 designs of the museum.
A new space called The Treasury will house small objects including 600 portrait miniatures and a collection of jewelry with recent acquisitions.
Among the highlights among several great Rembrandts are one of his earliest self-portraits and his last painting, which depicts St Simeon, on the verge of death holding the infant Jesus. World-class are also Watteau’s Italian Serenade, Gustave Courbet’s oil sketch of his redheaded lover, displayed on a rotating basis because of the risk of light damage.
The opening exhibits include the first John Singer Sargent exhibition in the Nordic region and “Design Stories,” a view of the current design landscape in Sweden, told through the stories and objects of 10 prominent designers, who all happen to be women (until January 13).
Sweden’s Largest Art Museum Reopens after 5 Years of Renovation, written by Tor Kjolberg