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Monday, March 25, 2019

Expanding Art Muesums

This, is an art museum? Yes, and one of the better expansion decisions to be found. It is the New Orleans Museum of Art's new Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.
Have you ever visited an art museum that was too small? Whether you realize it or not, if you've ever visited such an institution at all, then it was likely too small. Virtually no art museum on this planet has space to exhibit everything it owns. In some cases, such as the MET in New York, despite its immense size, displays only about 10-20% of its holdings at any one time. Thus, whether they like it or not, the MET and other such glorified art warehouses find themselves rotating their stock (or loaning it or building branches for it elsewhere on the globe). Of course, the obvious "solution" to this overstock problem is to expand, as the Met has done so many times the original building is now lost in a maze of new additions added down through the years.
Artist, Linda Pace's Artpace, Southtown, San Antonio, Texas, 2014--and art museum much in need of a new, larger home (more on this later).
Art Museums should grow, if for no other reason than to fulfill the old adage, "more is better." Old adages aside, as I see it, there are two major problems in this practice of forever expanding the floorspace to try and accommodate more...and more...and more. First of all, more is NOT necessarily better. I started by asking if you'd ever visited an art museum that was too small. Now, let me ask, have you ever visited one that was too BIG? With some notable exceptions, the answer to that would likely be "yes" as well. Just ask your feet at the end of your visit. When is an art museum TOO big? When it becomes overwhelming; when you can't see (or even find) all you came to see in one long, tiring day; or when your eyes glaze over from seeing too much of a good thing. I could spend the rest of this posting just listing museum around the world that have this expansion problem. The second pitfall in this rush to grow, grow, grow, is one of aesthetics. To illustrate this point, let me start with the Peabody Essex Museum of Art in Salem, Massachusetts.
The Peabody Essex Museum's expansion rendering. See the problem?
The Peabody Essex justifiably needed to expand. It was certainly in no danger of becoming too big. The problem faced by the expansion architects of Ennead, a nationally known New York architectural firm, was the contrasting styles of their plans and that of the existing structure (above). It's a persistent problem faced by a great many such expansions. Some try to accommodate the new in an old-style skin. It's a noble thought, but one that goes against the innovative impulses of most museum architects, and in fact, it's seldom very successful in that regard. The alternative is to simply tack on the new to the old and let the chips fall where they with the Peabody Essex expansion. Founded in 1799 by visionary New England entrepreneurs the museum holds a wondrous collection of art from people and cultures around the world. Succeeding generations of New Englanders have continued these efforts. Today PEM’s collections exceed 1.8 million works spanning more than 12,000 years of human creativity. The recently opened expansion is but one of four exciting new projects to share these extraordinary collections, many of which are among the finest of their kind.
The PEM expansion is a beautiful, contemporary style addition that fortunately avoids yet another expansion pitfall--a building that competes for attention with the art it holds.
The PEM's newly constructed, expansion will add 40,000 gross square feet to the main facility. It will include 15,000 square feet of Class A galleries, a light-filled atrium, an entry for school and group tours, linkages to existing galleries, and a beautiful new garden. It also enlivens downtown Salem and helps reveal the exceptional beauty of East India Marine Hall, the museum’s original building, now a National Historic Landmark. How do you add onto a historic landmark? The museum holds an extremely diverse collection of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Native American, Oceanic, African, American Decorative Art, American Art, Photography, Maritime, Asian Export and Fashion and Design collections reflecting a legacy of New England's shared heritage of creative expression worldwide. The new expansion provides the highest quality storage, care, preservation, and research access to these large and extremely important collections that have never been possible to display until now. Fine, but that doesn't make the contrasting styles any less jarring.
The MoMA expansion on paper, where they remained for two long years.
On the other side of the coin, in the case of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, adding onto a contemporary glass, steel, and concrete art edifice presents no problem no problem as to contrasting styles. Instead there was the problem of the high price and limited availability of Manhattan real estate. Adding the new to the old is one thing, but tearing down the old to make way for the new is quite another. For decades, right next door to MoMA was the venerable American Folk Art Museum (owned by MoMA). The uproar when MoMA announced plans to raze the museum to allow space for its new addition held up the project for two full years. Some of architects Diller, Scofidio, and Renfro's the more controversial elements in the initial plan for the museum—including the "Art Bay," a glassy entrance facing the street, and the public sculpture garden entrance on 54th Street—have been cut from the design. The total price for the project was adjusted to around $400 million.
MoMA's 53rd Street entrance, now and then.
The new building on 53rd Street features, with its more than 107,000 square feet, features an expanded ground floor of galleries and public and garden spaces that are free to all. Local and international visitors will find a global perspective in the art and artists on display. With 30% more gallery space, the museum can now present the true breadth of their collection, highlighting the most resonant and innovative art, from early masterpieces to cutting-edge works. Across three expanded floors of displays, a visitor can discover modern and contemporary art’s many stories, shifting histories, and approaches from around the world. A state-of-the art studio and performance center is at the heart of these galleries. It will support a broad range of experimental programming with new commissions, live performance, dance, music, sound works, the spoken word, and artist residencies. This unique space will situate live and time-based artworks as an integral part of the collection galleries, emphasizing the central role of this work within the history of modern and contemporary art.
Though distinctive, and somewhat radical in appearance Adjaye's design proves museum architecture can make a statement without drowning out the art work within.
Perhaps the best case scenario when it comes to museum expansion is to simply start anew. That's what Linda Pace's Artpace Foundation did with it's new facility dubbed "Ruby City" (Linda's favorite color). The name also pretty well describes the new museum, designed by the British architect, Sir David Adjaye (born in Tanzania). It may seem small at just 14,000 square feet, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in character, with its dramatic lines and subtly shifting planes of red rippling over the building’s exterior and into the adjacent plaza. It provides a beautiful home for the foundation’s robust, 800-work-strong collection of contemporary art, but also helps cement San Antonio’s place on the art world’s map.
Linda Pace, artist, collector,
and philanthropist.
Linda Pace was driven by the belief that art is a vital social force. As an artist, she revealed the symbolic potency of everyday images and objects in her drawings and assemblages. As a collector, she gathered hun-dreds of contemporary artworks into a personal, ex-pressive collection which is now managed by the Linda Pace Foundation, founded in 2003. The Foundation con-tinues to acquire work which reflects Linda’s sensibilities from a feminist perspective, engages social issues, while considering aspects of spirituality and beauty. And as a philanthropist Pace boldly fostered the work of those who are considered to be today’s most adventurous artists with her founding of Artpace in 1993, an international artist in residency program. In addition to her work in Texas, Pace served on several committees and supported the work of contemporary artists both nationally and internationally.

The new and expanded Academy of Motion Pictures Museum in Los Angeles.
On a much larger scale, it would seem another art institution has likewise started from "scratch" to build a new museum to house its burgeoning collection. In fact, the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is also an addition (to the old May Department Store building on the corner of Los Angeles' famed Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax). In this case, the new addition, at 300,000 square feet, is actually larger than the original structure, which makes it seem like a totally new museum. To encourage visitors to explore, dive deeper, and directly interact with exhibitions, collections, filmmakers, and fellow film lovers, the Museum’s public programs includes panel discussions, symposia, gallery talks, and other public events. The 288-seat Ted Mann Theater will offer daily thematic and exhibition-related screenings. Special showings and events will be held at the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater (the heart of the big ball shape). In addition, the Museum now offers an innovative range of digital engagement platforms and interactives, including a groundbreaking new app.

Okay, so it looks like a leftover prop from Close Encounter of the Third Kind, but the giant sphere is designed that way to house the new 1,000 seat movie theater.
For nearly a century now, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has primarily been known by most Americans as the people who pass out the Oscars each year. Since 1929, the Academy Awards have been the ultimate recognition of moviemaking excellence. Originally a dinner for industry insiders only, the ceremony has gradually become a global phenomenon watched by millions around the world. Visitors to the expanded museum can now trace the rich history of the Academy Awards and the story of the Oscar in an exhibition that includes favorite highlights, memorable winners’ speeches, private backstage moments, and rarely seen materials from the Academy’s collection. The exhibition looks back at the show, its glamour as well as its controversies, and the ways in which the Academy Awards ceremony has evolved to become a mirror of our culture.

Way too much for an afternoon at the movies.
Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, with contributions by Studio Pali Fekete, the museum relieves the somewhat shocking realization that Los Angeles did not have a major museum devoted to the art form it revolutionized. The group that gives out the Oscars is making up for that with an otherworldly Renzo Piano–designed complex right next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures addition is designed to complement the historic Saban Building's Streamline Moderne style. It got a full restoration—and a dramatic, spherical building sprouting out back. The complex will house two cinemas, as well as 50,000 square feet of exhibition space that will show off items including Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939), the typewriter used to write the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), and an 1887 collotype plate of a galloping horse by motion picture pioneer, Eadweard Muybridge.

An aerial view of the huge Academy of Motion Pictures Museum complex.
Museum Director, Kerry Brougher said, “We want the Academy Museum to add to the public’s understanding of the evolution of the art and science of filmmaking around the world—to increase appreciation for this great art form and encourage people to examine the role of movies in society. At the same time, we want to bring to life the most important reason of all for caring about the movies—because they’re magic. That’s why we intend to transport our visitors into a world that exists somewhere between reality and illusion. Like the experience of watching a movie, a trip to the Museum will be a kind of waking dream in which visitors feel as if they’ve slipped through the screen to see how the magic is created.”

And finally, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) seems to have the right idea. Rather than build on, they simply moved a sizable number of their sculptural pieces (those which can withstand the tropical elements) into an outdoor museum that is restful, rather than tiring or overwhelming. The result is the new Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden (top). The sculpture garden occupies approximately five acres in City Park adjacent to the museum. Atypical of most sculpture gardens, this garden is located within a mature existing landscape of pines, magnolias and live oaks. The garden design creates outdoor viewing spaces within this picturesque landscape. A reconfigured lagoon bisects the site and creates two distinct halves (below): a mature pine and magnolia grove adjacent to the museum, and a more open area of 200-year-old, Spanish moss-laden live oaks across the lagoon near the New Orleans Botanical Gardens. The Sculpture Garden has grown from its inception in 2003 to include 64 sculptures, most of them donated to NOMA by the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Foundation.

Rendering of the expanded Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The New Orleans Museum of Art’s picturesque sculpture garden, connects the museum to the historic City Park surrounding it, becoming one of the institution’s star attractions. The park now displays the work of an almost embarrassingly long list of artists such as Coosje van Bruggen, Claes Oldenburg, Henry Moore, Fernando Botero, Antoine Bourdelle, Gaston Lachaise, William Zorach, Jacques Lipchitz, Isamu Noguchi, René Magritte, Barbara Hepworth, Seymour Lipton, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Kenneth Snelson, George Rickey, Elisabeth Frink, Masayuki Nagare, Lynn Chadwick, Louis Bourgeois, Jesus Bautista Moroles, George Segal, Deborah Butterfield, Alison Saar and Joel Shapiro. and others amid lagoons, canals, and oak and cypress trees laden with Spanish moss. The park has more than doubled in size. In addition to many more sculptures, the new stretch of park will boast an outdoor amphitheater and a small gallery building. Set amid five glorious acres are priceless sculptures, all of which make up the magnificent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The Sculpture Garden is the latest cultural destination for visitors to New Orleans and provides a unique opportunity for visitors who treasure the arts.


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