Review: ‘The New Rijksmuseum’ shows what ego, red tape and 375 million euros wrought


Chronicling the 10-year renovation of an Amsterdam landmark, the TV documentary “The New Rijksmuseum” first unspooled in the United States in 2013 as a two-part, 228-minute opus. A year and a half later, director Oeke Hoogendijk has whittled it down to a more manageable 131-minute cut.

The museum’s world-class collection of works by Rembrandt, Hals, Vermeer and others served as mere backdrop to the makeover, which cost 375 million euros (about $395 million by today’s exchange rate). Self-serving administrators working in the insular world of fine art, high culture, money and privilege were forced to reckon with forces of bureaucratic red tape and citizen advocacy. Inflated egos hellbent on throwing their weight around allowed public service and the greater good to become low priorities.

Seemingly emblematic of polite society, indecisive administrators met over and over with architects and interior designers to passive-aggressively hammer out minutiae. With the budget doubling and the delay stretching, general director Wim Pijbes pulled rank and ordered freshly painted walls to be made another color.


If nothing else, patience has rewarded Hoogendijk and moviegoers with an inside look at an art administration without common sense.


“The New Rijksmuseum.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle’s Claremont 5.