Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Located in the midst of Amsterdam’s iconic Museumplein—the majestic Museum Square area where you’ll also find the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum—Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is arguably the city’s go-to destination for modern art. With significant collections of contemporary art and design, too, the Stedelijk is one of Amsterdam’s most vibrant art museums.

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History of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

In 1874, several private citizens and wealthy local families banded together to establish the Stedelijk Museum. They donated their personal art collections and significant funds in the hopes of creating a permanent facility within the city of Amsterdam devoted to modern art. Their vision would be realized in 1895, when the Stedelijk moved into a new building designed by the architect A.W. Weissman and largely financed by the generosity of Sophia Adriana de Bruijn, the prominent art collector.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Highlights

The impressive permanent collection of the Stedelijk contains approximately 100,000 distinctive artworks, only a tiny fraction of which (on average anywhere between 500 and 800 pieces) are on display at any given moment in time. Among the Stedelijk’s prized holdings are creations by a who’s who of modern artists like Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, and Jackson Pollack.

In the early days of the Stedelijk, the museum’s collection was quite varied and eclectic. However, as the twentieth century progressed, the museum’s leadership sharpened the attraction’s focus to encompass primarily contemporary art, design, and applied art. The Stedelijk underwent a major renovation from 2008 to 2012, and an entirely new wing was added to the existing site. Nicknamed “The Bathtub” on account of its striking appearance, this contemporary building more than doubled the Stedelijk’s gallery space.

The Stedelijk’s permanent collection is organized into three ongoing exhibitions arranged chronologically. Yesterday Today highlights works created between the years 1880 and 1950, with a special emphasis on placing noteworthy artistic movements like the Amsterdam School, Bauhaus, and De Stijl into conversation with the work of avant-garde artists such as Olga Rozanova and Kazimir Malevich. Everyday, Someday, and Other Stories shows how art changed and design evolved between the years 1950 and 1980, especially as it relates to the rise of mass media and the increasing influence of popular culture. Artists featured in this show include Andy Warhol, Hans Eijkelboom, Cindy Sherman, and Willem de Kooning, just to name a few.

Tomorrow is a Different Day collects the work of notable artists active from 1980 to the present. The show aims to demonstrate how contemporary artists push back against the status quo, promote alternative agendas, and respond to the many challenges facing the citizens of the world today. Among the pieces on display in Tomorrow is a Different Dayare works by El Anatsui, Martine Syms, Steve McQueen, Rineke Dijkstra, Marlene Dumas, and many, many more.

More to See and Do at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

As one of Amsterdam’s foremost destinations for lovers of modern art, contemporary art, and contemporary design, the Stedelijk has a lot to offer visitors. Keep reading for some additional details of note.

*Another hallmark of the Stedelijk is the museum’s commitment to staging cutting-edge shows and exhibits by innovative artists. Because of the very nature of the Stedelijk’s rotating temporary exhibitions, these shows are ever-changing. However, recent shows here include General Idea, a survey of the career of the satirical Canadian artistic collective; Apocalypse, an in-depth look at five decades of incisive work by multidisciplinary artist Felix de Rooy; and THE WAY I SEE IT, . . ., the fourth installment of type designer Kristyan Sarkis’s POST/NO/BILLS series.

•The Stedelijk also regularly hosts a variety of special events, many of which are free with your standard admission ticket or attraction pass. These include everything from guided tours designed for families to introductory lectures on contemporary artists to museum-wide treasure hunts. For more information about the types of special events that might be taking place when you’re planning to visit the museum, be sure and check out the Stedelijk’s official website ahead of time.

•The Stedelijk offers each and every visitor a free audio guide with their admission to the museum. These useful resources are available in English and Dutch, and cover the museum’s primary permanent exhibits as well as its temporary showings.

•There are two options for visitors to the Stedelijk desiring to enjoy a meal, snack, or drink while on the premises. TEN Good Food Café is the museum’s formal, sit-down restaurant: it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner alongside a full drinks menu. Zadelhoff Café is a smaller, more casual space within the museum that serves coffee, tea, and snacks.

•The Stedelijk Museum Shop is famous for being the first store in the Netherlands to carry titles courtesy of the acclaimed artbook publisher Walther König. In addition to its tremendous literature section, the Stedelijk’s gift shop sells an assortment of souvenirs, jewelry, art prints, textiles, and more.

Why Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Should Be on Your Must-See List

Amsterdam is famous for its world-class selection of art museums—so much so, in fact, that it can sometimes prove challenging to decide which ones to visit during your trip (when in doubt, of course, simply try and visit as many of them as you can!). If you have the slightest bit of interest in modern art, contemporary art, or contemporary design, you won’t want to miss Stedelijk Museum. Not only does it feature a terrific permanent collection and sponsor outstanding temporary exhibits, it’s often much less crowded than its more famous neighboring institutions.