Art enthusiasts know Amsterdam museums as home to the Old Masters, such as Rembrandt or Vermeer, and home to most of Van Gogh’s artworks. However, the Netherlands was also a birthplace of crucial modern art styles, like de Stijl, and artists such as Piet Mondrian or Gerrit Rietveld. Amsterdam is still one of the European capitals of contemporary art. The place to go to Amsterdam to enjoy some of the top modern and contemporary art is the Stedelijk Museum.

Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

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Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam has an extensive modern and contemporary art collection created by Dutch and international artists. It comprises around 90.000 objects, including paintings, drawings, photography, videos, etc. At the Stedelijk Museum permanent collection, you can see artworks representing each significant art movement from the 20th and 21st centuries. They regularly organise temporary exhibitions presenting some leading modern and contemporary artists.

However, the museum doesn’t only display art. Something I especially love about it is that it often starts dialogues with the public about relevant topics and creates a safe space for contemporary discussions.

Another reason I love visiting it is that it isn’t pretentious. It’s a place where you feel welcome and safe to ask questions and enjoy art that sometimes might be a bit difficult to understand. But also to experience some of the provocative and uncensored art expressions, like, for example, at the current Marina Abramović exhibition.

Read more: Best museums in Amsterdam & Tips for visiting them

Stedelijk Museum Highlights

The Stedelijk Museum highlights provide a terrific overview of modern and contemporary art. Located in a historical 19th-century building, you’ll need around two hours to browse through them slowly. Here are some you shouldn’t miss.

Wassily Kandinsky: Improvisation 33 (Orient 1)

Created in 1913, this painting is part of Wassily Kandinsky’s ‘Improvisation’ series. The artist approached the classical theme of the Garden of Eden with an abstract style.

Robert Delaunay: Formes Circulaires. Soleil, Lune (1912)

This French artist explored the different light forms within his series called ‘Formes Circulaires’. The painting you’ll find among the Stedelijk Museum highlights, is an excellent example of the style Delaunay founded, the Orphism art movement.

Marc Chagall: Self-portrait with Seven Fingers (1912-1913)

The Stedelijk Museum has around forty of Marc Chagall’s paintings in its collection. Made in 1913, this is the artist’s self-portrait representing him working on one of his paintings. He made this painting shortly after arriving to Paris. We can recognise the city by the sight of the Eiffel Tower visible through his window.

Henri Matisse: The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952-1953)

Made in 1952-1953, this massive artwork (337 x 768.5 cm) is one of the Stedelijk Museum highlights. Henri Matisse experimented with collages and cut-outs, which became predominant in his later oeuvre. This artwork consists of repeating floral shapes of vivid colours composed on a white background. The parakeet and mermaid appear only once and give the artwork its name.

Kazimir Malevich collection

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam is home to the most extensive collection of Kazimir Malevich’s artwork outside Russia. If you are interested in this artist’s work and the development of Suprematism, be sure to check them out among the Stedelijk Museum highlights.

Piet Mondrian collection

Piet Mondrian is among the most important Dutch modern artists. He was one of the founders and most prominent members of the De Stijl movement. Many of his famous paintings are among the highlights of the Stedelijk Museum, offering a great opportunity to learn more about this fascinating Dutch artist.

Roy Lichtenstein: As I Opened Fire (1964)

The work of one of the most famous Pop Art artists, Roy Lichtenstein, is also included in the Stedelijk Museum highlights. Famous for references to cartoons and comic books in his artworks, ‘As I Opened Fire’ will give you a great overview of that artist’s work.

Willem de Kooning: North Atlantic Light (1977)

A Dutch-American artist, Willem de Kooning, was one of the most famous representatives of the style known as Abstract Expressionism. Although at first sight the painting seems completely abstract, by closer observation, you’ll recognise it’s a seascape.

Barnett Newman: Cathedra (1951)

In his work ‘Cathedra’, Barnett Newman explores the aesthetics of colour in art by creating a monumental ultramarine blue surface. Similar to Mark Rothko’s theories, Newman also believed the massive colour surfaces could stimulate a spiritual experience in observers.

Read more: What to see at Museumplein in Amsterdam

Stedelijk Museum Building

Stedelijk Museum building is equally exciting as the artworks exhibited inside of it. The original building was designed in the late 19th century by Adriaan Willem Weissman. This is where the museum’s permanent collection is located.

However, with the Stedelijk Museum collection growing significantly over time, it needed a thorough reconstruction at the beginning of the 21st century. The museum was closed or partially opened between 2003 and 2012, when the original building was restored and updated for modern museum needs.

However, it was also when the new addition, the Benthem Crouwel Wing, was added to it. Finished in 2012, it’s a massive glass building which serves as a new museum entrance, space for temporary exhibition galleries, a museum shop, a restaurant and a library.

Because of its unique shape, it quickly got the nickname “The Bathtub“ among the locals.

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Marina Abramović Exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum

The Stedelijk Museum regularly organises some of the leading modern and contemporary art exhibitions. The one on display now is the Marina Abramović Retrospective. Although the famous artist lived in Amsterdam for around fifteen years, this is her largest ever exhibition in the Netherlands. The exhibition is on display until 14 July 2024.

TIP: Get your Stedelijk Museum and Marina Abramović exhibition ticket including an audio guide on this link.

Tips for visiting Stedelijk Museum

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam is less busy than its neighbouring museums on Museumplein, like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum or Moco Museum, which means you can visit it at a more relaxed pace. However, it could still get busy with its popular temporary exhibitions, so here are a few tips for visiting the Stedelijk Museum.

Stedelijk Museum online ticket – I always recommend buying museum tickets online in advance. That way you are sure you won’t need to queue in front of the museum. Here is the link where you can get your online Stedelijk Museum ticket.

Stedelijk Museum Tour – Modern and contemporary artworks can be more complex to understand. That’s why I love visiting these kinds of places during museum tours. It makes a great difference seeing these fascinating artworks when you know their context or the story behind them. You can check all the tours organised by the Stedelijk Museum here.

Stedelijk Museum shop – Stedelijk is home to one of the best museum shops in Amsterdam. It has a great collection of modern art and design books, presents for design geeks, and some nice gifts you can usually find in these kinds of shops. It’s my go-to place when looking for presents for my art-loving friends. And you don’t need an entrance ticket to visit it.

Read more: Is the I amsterdam City Card worth it?

Stedelijk Museum is one of the best museums in Amsterdam and definitely worth a visit. With its fantastic architecture and fascinating art collection, you’ll find some of the finest examples of modern and contemporary art among the Stedelijk Museum highlights.

Have you been to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam? What did you like the most there? Let me know in the comments.

Read more:

10 Things you didn’t know about the Rijksmuseum

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The Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam

Best Tours in Amsterdam – Recommended by a former tour guide

10 Fun things to do in Amsterdam this summer

The best souvenirs from Amsterdam

Cover photo by Liam McGarry on Unsplash