If you approach Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum from the city centre in the north-east – crossing evocatively named canals such as Spiegelgracht and Prinsengracht, which tease the ear of anyone with a smattering of Afrikaans – the building that looms ahead of you is somehow simultaneously austere and baroque. Walk through the tunnel that takes you to the southwestern façade, however, and the architectural mood changes. As it opens onto the expanse of Museumplein, the red brick of the Rijksmuseum is softened by jocular tourists clambering over one of the city’s ubiquitous "I amsterdam" signs. A rectangular pond serves as an ice-skating rink in winter and a place to cool off in summer. In recent years, this has become the temporary home of large sculptures seeking to offset the museum’s belle époque seriousness. This year, with the Dutch anticipating a sustained July-August heatwave, a new piece was installed: a 12m high version of Joseph Klibansky’s Self-Portrait of a Dreamer, which features...

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