The high-profile art theft in Rotterdam, Netherlands, last October, which resulted in the loss of seven paintings worth millions of dollars from the Kunsthal gallery — including works by Matisse, Picasso and Monet — stunned the art world.
While it is too soon to know whether the paintings will be recovered, art buffs can take heart in blockbuster gallery openings and exhibitions in the Netherlands this year, showcasing everything from the Dutch Masters to modern art and photography.
In fact, for a country about the size of Maryland, the Netherlands boasts a disproportionate amount of world-class art. There are more than 1,000 museums in the country, 50 in Amsterdam alone, exhibiting the works of some of the most famous artists in history.
"2013 is an exciting year, as Amsterdam and other cities in Holland gear up to celebrate milestone anniversaries of museums and cultural icons," said Conrad van Tiggelen, director of marketing for the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC).
The biggest news is the projected April reopening of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, whose massive $485 million renovation project included both the restoration of the original 19th century architecture and the construction of entirely new structures. A highlight will be the new Asian Pavilion, being constructed to showcase the museum's Asian art collection. Also new will be a restaurant, cafe and shop designed to ease the flow of traffic through the facility.
The museum typically draws more than a million visitors every year, and the improved facility is expected to boost that number by nearly 50%.
Some of the museum's most famous works, including Rembrandt's "Night Watch" and Vermeer's "The Kitchen Maid," have been on display in the museum's Philips Wing during the decade-long renovation project. That wing will transform into a temporary exhibition space after the museum reopens.
Also set to reopen this spring is the Van Gogh Museum, which closed last September for safety renovations. Seventy-five of the artist's most famous works from that museum are temporarily on display at the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam.
In all, the Van Gogh Museum draws more than 1.5 million visitors a year, ranking it among the world's top 25 most popular museums.
Part of the appeal is the wealth of works, some 200 in all, by Van Gogh himself, as well as paintings and drawings of some of his contemporaries. The building itself is worth visiting in its own right, especially for fans of renowned Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, who designed the original structure.
The May 1 reopening of the museum is timed to coincide with its 40th anniversary, which will be feted with a retrospective of the artist's work called "Van Gogh at Work."
In the meantime, visitors can follow the newly installed Van Gogh Mile, a nearly 1.5-mile walking route from the museum to the temporary exhibition at the Hermitage, located on the Amstel canal.
Along with the two high-profile museum openings and given that 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of Amsterdam's canal ring, the NBTC expects the city to be a hotspot this year.
Concerts, festivals and special events are on tap all year along the canals, and to further boost momentum, the NBTC has teamed with Orbitz Worldwide in a joint marketing campaign aimed at leisure travelers.
The campaign, called Faces of Holland
, features videos highlighting some of the country's most famous images, from art and windmills to cheese and tulips, complete with anecdotes and historical tidbits about each one.
Fans of modern and contemporary art don't have to wait until spring to visit the newly reopened Stedelijk Museum, which was unveiled in Amsterdam in September after a nine-year renovation.
The 1895 building was completely revamped to the tune of about $165 million and now boasts a restored original building and a new, ultramodern extension with a glass entrance and exhibition space for temporary and permanent exhibitions.
Highlights of the permanent collection include works by Chagall, Matisse, Pollock and Warhol.
The museum's first temporary show, "Beyond Imagination," featured the works of contemporary local artists. That was followed by a retrospective of American artist Mike Kelley, which will run through April. That show is slated to then move to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, MoMA PS1 in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.