May 15, 2009 / 3:01 PM / in 9 years

Dutch art circles globe as museum revamp drags on

AMSTERDAM (Reuters Life!) - A renovation process that is bogged down in permit delays means Dutch art treasures will be without a permanent home for years, the director of Amsterdam’s famed Rijksmuseum told Reuters.

<p>The world famous painting De Nachtwacht by Rembrandt van Rijn is wheeled out of the Rijksmuseum by a moving company to its new, temporary, destination in Amsterdam December 11, 2003. REUTERS/Michael Kooren</p>

Wim Pijbes said the process has been overly complicated, if not well-intentioned. The museum has needed permission to do things as simple as moving trees.

In the meantime, the city estimates the economic damage from the delays at between 4.5 million and 9.6 million euros ($6.09 million-$13 million).

Close to 2,000 art objects from the collection are on show in about 120 museums in countries from Spain to Canada. But Amsterdam’s collection at home remains limited as the revamp, which started in 2003, has faced delays and is unlikely to be completed before 2013.

“It’s a shame that it is taking so long, because the country’s most important museum has not been able to use its building for 10 years,” Pijbes said.

“But it’s important that the collection is still shown during the renovation. We aim to store no more art than usual during the refurbishment.”

While a side wing still displays some of the highlights, such as Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ and Jan Vermeer’s ‘The Kitchenmaid’, problems securing building contractors and permits is keeping the rest of the museum shut.

More than 80 permits had to be plowed through for every last detail of the refurbishment. Meetings with groups such as the bike lobby were also required.

“These rules and permits are all introduced with good intentions, but applying them to a complex building like the Rijksmuseum is a monstrous task,” he said.

The refurbishment was most recently due for completion in 2008 and was aimed at improving access for mass tourism and improving the climate conditions in the museum.

In a facelift resembling modernizations at the Louvre and Gare d‘Orsay museums in Paris, the 19th century Rijksmuseum, designed by architect Pierre Cuypers with a richly decorated exterior, is due to get a giant new underground entrance hall.

“Compared to a restaurant the menu of the day will not change for 10 years. Although it’s a fantastic dinner, my goal is to bring more variety into the menu as soon as possible,” Pijbes said.

Some tourists at the museum also felt they were missing out with most of the museum closed.

“The beautiful big rooms were overwhelming during my last visit, so it was very disappointing how small and crowded it was this time,” said U.S. visitor Jane Callahan. The museum attracted just under 1 million visitors last year.

Reporting by Elke Bun, editing by Paul Casciato

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