24 January 2019
Stockholm has reclaimed its finest jewel, the Nationalmuseum, designed by the architect Friedrich August Stüler, also responsible for the Neues Museum in Berlin. After a 5-year closure for the first restoration and renovation operation in its 150-year history, the Swedish capital’s leading museum has reopened. The museum holds more than 700,000 works, ranging from masterpieces by artists such as Arcimboldo, Bellini, Cranach and Dürer to 3D printed ceramics produced last year, not to mention Rembrandt’s monumental masterpiece The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis and the first flat-pack chair ever sold, designed in 1943 by Elias Svedberg.
The exhibition space was redesigned by Joel Sanders Architect (New York), in partnership with Swedish designers Henrik Widenheim and Albert France-Lanord and lighting designers from the Kardorff Ingenieure Lichtplanung studio (Berlin).
The main aim of the project was to “strip” the space in order to create a contemporary environment that would respect the original late seventeenth-century architecture but lend itself better to exhibiting the many works of art – so far, the museum has the capacity to exhibit more than 5,000 works at any one time.
The restructuring project has thus delivered a light-filled space – 300 windows, closed since 1930, have at last been reopened – that is open, fluid and user-friendly, in which the art can be viewed on both a large and small scale while preserving the integrity of the architectural heritage. It has improved the character of the museum, especially thanks to the new colour palette, which favours bright colours, from canary yellow to pale violet and deep red, each inspired by original 1866 drawings in the museum. The two original twin entrances to the building have been covered over with a new geometrical, multifaceted glass roof, designed to channel noise onto the soundproofing panels below, enabling the spaces to be used for conferences and events as well as for exhibitions. Two original renovated and reopened courtyards have been connected with the atrium, making for a larger space and a more welcoming visitor experience.
One of the great surprises the museum has in store is the new restaurant, formerly a conservation studio, in a vaulted gallery on the ground floor, looking out over the water. The atmosphere here is less formal than in the Michelin starred restaurants at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the National Gallery in Singapore and MoMa in New York. Nonetheless, chef Fredrik Eriksson’s sophisticated reinterpretation of traditional Swedish dishes is truly excellent. Everything is taken care of down to the tiniest detail, which hardly comes as a surprise in a museum whose mission is to promote Swedish design. The plates, cutlery, glasses and linen tablecloths were custom designed by Carina Seth Andersson and Jakob Solgren, inspired by the coffered roofs and domes of the museum.
The temporary exhibitions include Design Stories (until 17th February), a curious and interesting journey into the world of contemporary Swedish design, in which the storytelling constitutes not just the basis of the product form but also its creative process.