Posts tagged with "Metropolitan Museum of Art":
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will delay the redevelopment to its southwest wing by up to seven years as the institution faces cutbacks.
The museum has slashed its budget by $31 million in recent months as it faces deficits. Work on the wing was due to be carried out by British architect David Chipperfield. It was touted to cost around $600 million with the wing housing modern and contemporary art.
Had all gone to plan, the Met would have been able to celebrate its 150th anniversary with the new wing. Construction would have taken place while the museum used the Met Breuer. According to the New York Times, the Met had not changed its position on the eight-year lease of the former Whitney Museum—something that costs the Met $17 million a year for the privilege.
Work though at the museum will continue. Skylights and a roofing system are in line to be replaced but this is only due to start in 2018, the work of which will be stretched out over four years.
“It’s logical that that’s the urgent project we pursue first,” said Thomas Campbell, the director of the Met in the New York Times. He added that the museum was “baking these long-term projects into a responsible master plan that matches our capacity with our ambition.”
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Kathleen Curran uses the erudite German term Kulturgeschichte for the kind of art museum display known more commonly as composite or contextual installation. Her research has unearthed the minutiae of U.S. museum history, adding to the extensive, existing publications about its European precedents.
The author starts with the well-known roots of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (called the South Kensington Museum when it moved to its first permanent building in 1857) in industry and the mechanical arts. Installation of the collections was based on materials and technique, and Curran fails to tell the reader that the change to a cultural, rather than a craft, display began to take place in the mid-1930s.
In contrast with the V&A, museums in Munich, Berlin, and Zurich had adopted chronological arrangements of objects in period settings—also favored by directors and board members in the United States. Likewise, the Americans looked to national museums like the Musée de Cluny in Paris. Their interest in emphasizing the era of each gallery was guided by the Cluny’s unusual chronological arrangements, exhibits of sculpture and architectural elements in the period style of the rooms where they were exhibited, and illumination that heightened the historical emphasis.
Considering that early museum installations were not photographed, the author has done a good job in supplementing existing black and white illustrations with plans of the buildings under discussion. Within the text, figure numbers printed in red are helpful.
Upon its completion in 1902, the Boston Museum of Fine Art took the lead in what Curran describes as setting “the standards for the first great era of public art museum construction in the U.S.” Among other fine points, it is fascinating to learn that in contrast to the whirlwind visits of comparable trips undertaken by search committees today, the museum’s president, building committee chairman, and the architects they had chosen (Sturgis Wheelwright) spent three months in Europe, visiting every major museum and gallery there. Their investigation decided the group on the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt (Alfred Messel, 1906), a Kulturgeschichte museum, as a model.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City followed suit. In describing its beginnings, Curran brings to light the outstanding men responsible for it. Wilhelm R. Valentiner, a young and talented Dutch Rembrandt scholar almost single-handedly created the Met’s new decorative arts department, where he began to work in 1907 at the request of John Pierpont Morgan. Valentiner, was in turn influenced by the formidable Wilhelm von Bode, director of the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin, whom he assisted for two years. Then and now—after a sensitive renovation completed in 2006—the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum is a touchstone of high-quality composite arrangements of decorative arts, painting, and predominantly, sculpture.
When it opened in 1910, the Met’s Wing of Decorative Arts designed by McKim, Mead and White was the first part of the museum building planned with direct reference to the objects it would contain. Based on the open court plan of the Musée des Art Decoratifs in Paris, the New York museum followed the ideals of Kulturgeschichte that were expressed throughout the Boston MFA.
Morgan’s relationship with Francis Goodwin (president of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, 1890–1919), another luminary in this constellation of brilliant museum enthusiasts, produced strong architectural similarities between the two buildings. I, for one, had never noticed that the Morgan Hall in Hartford (by Benjamin Wistar Morris) is almost an exact replica, although slightly smaller, of the Met’s Decorative Art Wing.
A chapter devoted to midwestern art museums also contains riveting nuggets of information. One, for example, explains the origin of “period rooms” in Minneapolis (inaugurated in 1915), where Valentiner’s associate curator, Joseph Breck, was the first director. Breck was able to include paintings in his composite displays, something Valentiner had not been allowed to do at the Met. For the Minneapolis director “period rooms” contained objects selected to represent a specific period of art; they were not rooms transferred intact from historical houses.
According to Curran, Cleveland’s museum (1916), which turned out to be a condensed version of the Boston MFA, set the standard for a series of midwestern museums. The garden court in Cleveland, with walls designed to reflect the artistic periods of adjoining galleries, was particularly influential. An interesting issue raised in this chapter is the contentious relationship that developed at times between the museum architect and its staff, with critics divided as to which should take the lead.
Curran considers the galleries devoted to American art the greatest evidence of Kulturgeschichte’s impact. Beginning with the display of this country’s art at the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in 1909, she describes how Kulturgeschichte installations combined with elements of European national museums influenced the American Wing. Opened in 1924, the Met wing was among many near contemporary ones that “embraced historical rooms and composite displays as the preferred method for presenting life and art in colonial America.”
Fiske Kimball, the prodigious scholar of American history, enters the narrative here in his seminal role in the creation of the Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing. He exerted an equally decisive influence on the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he became director in 1925, and mapped out an alternation of period rooms and composite display galleries in a triumph of Kulturgeschichte.
Curran’s work on the invention of the American art museum calls to mind Mary Anne Staniszewski’s illuminating history of installations at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. Curran’s concern is historical fine and decorative art; Staniszewki’s is modern art. For all those interested in museums and their origins, these behind-the-scenes accounts are deeply engaging, not least in their revelation of how what goes around, eventually comes around.
The Invention of the American Art Museum From Craft to Kulturgeschichte, 1870–1930 Kathleen Curran, Getty Trust Research Institute, $49.95
Technology within the realm of the fashion industry is seldom appreciated from an artistic perspective. Instead, it is synonymous with churning out standardized sheets of fabric, lacking the charm and value inherent in handmade garments.
Andrew Bolton, curator of The Costume Institute, is hoping to change that with Manus x Machina, a daring new fashion exhibition at the Robert Lehman Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Director of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture New York, Shohei Shigematsu, led the exhibition design working alongside the Met’s design department.
Featuring more than 170 ensembles, spanning the 1900s to the present, Manus x Machina seeks to identify the role technology has played in the fashion industry since the emergence of haute couture in the 20th century. Shigematsu said he was wary of representing the difference between man and machine literally. Instead, his team sought to create a “neutral, themeless” environment that could be used as a platform for discussion about the exhibits themselves. “It’s all about people paying attention to detail,” explained Shigematsu.
Shigematsu’s design also offers a sense of ephemerality, juxtaposing the permanence of the Met’s stonework with scaffolding and a translucent screen—a “theatrical material that has different properties of translucency and transparency depending on the light,” said Shigematsu. “You can see the structure through the scrim,” he continued. “You have the classical language of the arches and domes, but it has a very contemporary material and a sense of temporality that doesn’t exist within the Met. It’s a fresh internal space.”
When walking into the exhibition, visitors enter into what appears to be an all-white church. Despite avoiding any theme when developing the exhibition design with Bolton, Shigematsu said, religious themes arose. One of the main exhibits, chosen by Bolton, is an ornate Karl Lagerfeld–designed Chanel scuba knit wedding dress. “We [Bolton and Shigematsu] noticed that the pattern on the dress was really beautiful, so we thought to project this pattern onto the dome, almost creating the feel of the Sistine Chapel. We really inspired each other to make it look like a church.”
“We had to block out a lot of natural light because there are a lot of sensitive garments. So we basically decided to create an inner shell—then that started to look religious because of the existing structure’s spatial configuration,” he added. Interestingly, the entrance to this “religious” wing only has one entry point—a medieval exhibition currently on display that “already looks like a religious room,” said Shigematsu. “We thought that we could extend that world, but in a completely different material, creating a sense of classical continuity… I thought that this tension between the classical and the contemporary was quite interesting,” he continued.
He also opined that the exhibition was a good opportunity for OMA to alter its image. “Our firm tends to be known as focusing too much on the intellectual side,” he continued. “I really would like to change that culture… I think that this exhibition was a great realization for us to do something very pure and also maybe ‘romantic.’”
The tree-house-sized installation, Transitional Object (Psychobarn), was created by Turner Prize–winning artist Cornelia Parker, who has previously used architectural fragments in her work to explore themes of memory, transition, and transformation. Psychobarn plays with our preconceptions, and its menacing exterior belies a surprisingly wholesome origin. Daunted by the skyline, Parker decided to create a small domestic structure to contrast the city’s glass and stone towers. Looking to Edward Hopper’s paintings for inspiration, she found her answer after learning that his 1925 House by the Railroad was the model for the iconic Bates residence in Hitchcock’s masterpiece. To re-create the house while cultivating tension between the familiar and the unfamiliar, Parker used repurposed wood and rusted metal salvaged from an old red barn slated for demolition. She built her house like Hitchcock built his: A stage set that looks whole only from the right perspective. The metal scaffold behind its facade is clearly visible from half of the rooftop. Like its cinematic inspiration, Transitional Object (Psychobarn) is part fiction and part reality.
Hopper, Hitchcock, barns, Cornelia Parker, stage sets—I love all those things, which makes it all the more frustrating that I don’t love Psychobarn. The work’s title is a reference to psychoanalytical theory related to the emergence of a child’s identity independent from his parents. Perhaps it’s appropriate then that Psychobarn struggles to separate itself from a rich artistic heritage. It’s clever, I guess. Funny, even. But it doesn’t quite transcend the role of pop-culture punch line to become something greater, something that offers more profound insight, which Parker is certainly capable of producing. She first came to my attention with her pieces Mass and Anti-Mass—two nearly identical, large black cubes composed of charred wood fragments suspended at each end of a large gallery space—Mass is the remains of a church that burned down after a chance lightning strike; Anti-Mass is a church that was burned down by arsonists. It’s a challenging and provocative piece that I still think about often. Psychobarn has none of that power or complexity. There is no hidden psychosis.
I’m not saying that I need to have a deep emotional experience on the Met rooftop. This is, after all, a summertime installation that’s only 50 feet from a bar. It should be fun, and it is. But previous Met rooftop installations managed to be fun while also transforming our perception of the roof, the museum, or even the entire city. Dan Graham and Günther Vogt’s phenomenal Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout (2014) and Tomás Saraceno’s Cloud City (2012) come to mind. These interactive installations distorted, refracted, and re-presented the skyline to the rooftop revelers at the Met. Psychobarn aims for a similar populist appeal (and it will surely capture hundreds of likes on Instagram), but unlike those previous projects, it doesn’t need to be experienced to be appreciated. It gains nothing by being on the Met’s rooftop. Worse, the rooftop gains nothing by having it. Originally, Parker wanted to build an entire barn on the roof. That would have been a transformative experience. Imagine stepping out of the refined galleries of the city’s greatest fine arts museum into a dirty, hay-filled, chicken-clucking space. Alas, it proved unfeasible.
Don’t let this deter you from making a pilgrimage up to the Met rooftop this summer. There is that aforementioned bar up there that, for the duration of the installation, will be serving Hitchcock-themed drinks. I recommend the Corpse Reviver (gin, Cointreau, Lillet, and absinthe). Like any good cocktail, the thoughtful blend of ingredients results in something that’s more than the sum of its parts. I just wish I could say the same for the art.
Transitional Object (Psychobarn) is on view through October 31 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Roche’s declared design intention was to create an open urban plaza that defers to and displays the monumental Beaux-Arts façade of the museum. He wanted to distinguish the urban face …on Fifth Avenue from the park portions of the other three sides... (The Chapter) is hopeful that any modifications to the present plaza, to the extent that they are necessary, conform to the underlying principles of the Kevin Roche design-preserving an open urban plaza with unimpeded access to (his ingeniously three –sided) entrance stairway and unobstructed visibility of the stairs, adjacent facades and ground level entrances.And with the results now plain, how right they were. With the exception of a masterwork of exterior nighttime illumination by Hervé Descottes and his L’Observatoire International that subtly responds to the architecture’s classical hierarchies and the replenishment of the subsoil, it is only now that the relative dignity of this earlier renovation is fully evident. Restoration of the restoration was a worthy option after all. Apologies are due them. Despite some working drawings from McKim, Mead, & White in which the option of flower and shrub beds appeared alongside the façade elevation, their final intent was clear with the dignified built encounter of limestone and pavers accentuated further by the pedestrian-scaled Roman grills that inform urban places of majesty and safe-keeping. OLIN’s decision to place such beds there seems a pallid suburbanization vying to extend the park setting instead of contrasting it. Imagine flowers alongside the Pantheon or its Renaissance-descended Palazzo Farnese? Meanwhile, the new fountains, while retaining a classical symmetry, end up compromising the pomp and circumstance of the Roche-thrusting and much expanded grand stairs with a tight perplexing proximity. The visitor today cannot help but wonder if it is some disguised stab at crowd control. And while their new placement was meant in part to make more legible the secondary street-grade entrance at 81st Street, the trade-off is untested and dubious; who can resist mounting those stairs? This is a classical threshold at its iconic best. The waterworks vary in height and rhythm in a mannered echo of WET Design’s signature creations yet at low height the sprouts seem more than a tinkle. The previous fountains recalled the classical rigor that informed so much of high Modernism. This was never meant as a playful place. Instead it was always meant for unencumbered dignity; all who enter should arrive as big shots knowing that they each held a key to this great repository of beauty and truth. Likewise the addition of dozens of trees even as now young and leafless obscures the architecture. What about in 20 years? It is hard to object to more trees in this warned up day and age but here is one place where the sum is less than the design parts. Finally and through no fault of either client or landscape architect there is a the all too frequent New York curse of visual pollution as arises in public places, where governing statures collide and, in turn, destroy the clarity of the guiding design blueprint. Here at the Met plaza, it is the curbside licensed food vendors. Ironically the spot-on instinct on the Museum’s part to include in its initial plan outdoor kiosks for such inevitable trade was denied by the oversight Landmarks and Public Design Commissions in convenient disregard for the ultimate reality of the streets. With the present redesign, Mr. Koch might well wish that for now at least his name not be its site label after all. He seems shortchanged as much as those he generously aims to benefit.