Amsterdam is a city riddled with wonderful museums. You can hardly whip around a corner on your bicycle without coming across something fascinating. If you're into contemporary art, there's the Stedelijk. Curious about what high society was like in the Netherlands back in the day? Museum Van Loon is sure to tickle your fancy. Whatever you're feeling, there's something sure to delight.
But there is one place that stands head & shoulders above the rest, a place that we'd happily spend hours winding our way through. No matter the day, no matter our mood, the Rijksmuseum is where we want to be. Always.
Ever since it welcomed its very first visitors way back in 1885, the Rijksmuseum has been a true temple of culture. "The Rijksmuseum may have been built by the state, but it was really filled by the people," Taco said. "In the Netherlands, you've got the royal family & the national football team, & then you have the Rijksmuseum. They're all known & beloved by everyone here. The Rijksmuseum is a treasure accessible to all." And that's exactly it, exactly the thing that sets the museum apart from others in the city as well as from national museums across the globe.
Despite being at the helm of one of the most fantastic, well-respected museums in the world, Taco holds firm that he was never really all that ambitious. While others were mapping out their career paths as diligently as they might a round-the-world sailing route, Taco bounced happily from opportunity to opportunity, carving a path he loved along the way. A heady combination of talent, charm & passion made his ascent to the top a breeze.
After years spent criss-crossing the globe - falling in love with early Italian gold-ground paintings in Siena, poring over sketches in Cambridge, working at The Getty in Los Angeles & drumming up business for Christie's throughout Europe - Taco felt it was finally time to take a breath & return to the Netherlands. "I had always had this feeling that the party was somewhere else, but all those years of travelling really cured me of that. I found myself sitting in a foggy airport in Milan, surrounded by men in grey suits, & just realised that this wasn't what I wanted to do."
Luckily, the Rijksmuseum had already approached him. Though the museum was about to close, Taco wasn't deterred. In fact, he saw this as an ideal opportunity to reinvent the museum.
Slowly but surely, Taco worked his way up from curator to director. The longer he was there, the more the museum grew & transformed. What had been staid before suddenly became fresh & inclusive. The diversity Taco brought into the museum helped make it more innovative & more interesting than every before. It was no longer just a place to look at paintings; it was a place where people could truly engage with history & expand their minds for the future.
"Internationally, we've always been in a position where we can be drivers for change," Taco said. "It was no longer about diversity as a sort of fashionable statement. I wanted the museum to really make an impact. The nice thing about the Netherlands is that everyone has an opinion, so while I am the director of the Rijksmuseum, there are really 17 million directors of the Rijksmuseum."
That idea that our heritage is in our hands is palpable throughout the museum. Under Taco's careful direction, the Rijksmuseum became & remains a place that is as much about each priceless piece hanging on a wall as every visitor who steps across the threshold. The museum not only transports you but also transforms you. "Art is very poetic. It's not only about knowing. It's about allowing yourself to roam free in your mind."