Category Archives: African

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

NY-16New York City, New York is home to perhaps one of the most iconic museums in the world, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – today’s “Museum of the Day”.

Located on the upper east side of Manhattan on what is commonly called “Museum Mile” by New Yorkers, the Guggenheim is housed in a building designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright and could be called “the” museum building that is most recognizable as an art museum.

In June 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright received a letter from Hilla Rebay, the art advisor to Solomon R. Guggenheim, asking the architect to design a new building to house Guggenheim’s four-year-old Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The project evolved into a complex struggle pitting the architect against his clients, city officials, the art world, and public opinion. Both Guggenheim and Wright would die before the building’s 1959 completion. The resultant achievement, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, testifies not only to Wright’s architectural genius, but to the adventurous spirit that characterized its founders.

Wright made no secret of his disenchantment with Guggenheim’s choice of New York for his museum: “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum,” Wright wrote in 1949 to Arthur Holden, “but we will have to try New York.” To Wright, the city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit.

Still, he proceeded with his client’s wishes, considering locations on 36th Street, 54th Street, and Park Avenue (all in Manhattan), as well as in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, before settling on the present site on Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets. Its proximity to Central Park was key; as close to nature as one gets in New York, the park afforded relief from the noise and congestion of the city.

Nature not only provided the museum with a respite from New York’s distractions but also leant it inspiration. The Guggenheim Museum is an embodiment of Wright’s attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture. His inverted ziggurat (a stepped or winding pyramidal temple of Babylonian origin) dispensed with the conventional approach to museum design, which led visitors through a series of interconnected rooms and forced them to retrace their steps when exiting. Instead, Wright whisked people to the top of the building via elevator, and led them downward at a leisurely pace on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp. The galleries were divided like the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet interdependent sections. The open rotunda afforded viewers the unique possibility of seeing several bays of work on different levels simultaneously. The spiral design recalled a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another.

Even as it embraced nature, Wright’s design also expresses his unique take on modernist architecture’s rigid geometry. The building is a symphony of triangles, ovals, arcs, circles, and squares. Forms echo one another throughout: oval-shaped columns, for example, reiterate the geometry of the fountain and the stairwell of the Thannhauser Building. Circularity is the leitmotif, from the rotunda to the inlaid design of the terrazzo floors.

The meticulous vision took decades to be fulfilled. Originally, the large rotunda was to be accompanied by a small rotunda and a tower. The small rotunda (or monitor building, as Wright called it) was intended to house apartments for Rebay and Guggenheim but instead became offices and miscellaneous storage space. In 1965, the second floor of the building was renovated to display the museum’s growing permanent collection, and with the restoration of the museum in 1990–92, it was turned over entirely to exhibition space and rechristened the Thannhauser Building in honor of one of the most important bequests to the museum.

Wright’s original plan for the tower—artists’ studios and apartments—went unrealized, largely for financial reasons. As part of the restoration, a 1968 office/art-storage annex (designed by Wright’s son-in-law William Wesley Peters) was replaced by the current structure, designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects, LLC. This tower provides four additional exhibition galleries and, some thirty-five years after the initiation of construction, completed Wright’s concept for the museum. In 2001, the Sackler Center for Arts Education opened to the public. Located just below the rotunda, this 8,200-square-foot education facility includes the Peter B. Lewis Theater, part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original architectural design for the building.

Some people, especially artists, criticized Wright for creating a museum environment that might overpower the art inside. “On the contrary,” he wrote, “it was to make the building and the painting an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never existed in the World of Art before.” In conquering the static regularity of geometric design and combining it with the plasticity of nature, Wright produced a vibrant building whose architecture is as refreshing now as it was 40 years ago. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is arguably Wright’s most eloquent presentation and certainly the most important building of his late career.

I always make a stop at the Guggenheim when in NYC. It’s not the only landmark building in the city, but it is one of my personal favorites; I always love to see what artist is on display in the rotunda, since the inside perspective is always uniquely interpreted by the artists who are blessed with the opportunity to be featured there. It’s a “not to be missed” museum!

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Art Institute of Chicago

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Chicago, Illinois – Home to one of the best art collections in the world, the Art Institute of Chicago stands tall in the realm of important art museums of the 21st century. It was voted #1 Museum in United States in 2013 by the TripAdvisor.com users.

Close to my hometown of Peoria, I remember many visits to this venerable institution growing up. My most recent trip to Chicago did not allow for a visit inside, but the time I spent exploring Millennium Park allowed me some great views of the new wing.

The Art Institute of Chicago collects, preserves, and interprets works of art of the highest quality, representing the world’s diverse artistic traditions, for the inspiration and education of the public and in accordance with our profession’s highest ethical standards and practices.

The Art Institute of Chicago was founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879, a critical era in the history of Chicago as civic energies were devoted to rebuilding the metropolis that had been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871. Its first collections consisting primarily of plaster casts, the Art Institute found its permanent home in 1893, when it moved into a building, constructed jointly with the city of Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. That building, its entry flanked by the two famous bronze lions, remains the “front door” of the museum even today. In keeping with the academic origins of the institution, a research library was constructed in 1901; eight major expansions for gallery and administrative space have followed, with the latest being the Modern Wing, which opened in 2009. The permanent collection has grown from plaster casts to nearly 300,000 works of art in fields ranging from Chinese bronzes to contemporary design and from textiles to installation art. Together, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the museum of the Art Institute of Chicago are now internationally recognized as two of the leading fine-arts institutions in the United States.

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Museum of African Art & Culture

e5ccf9_970728786cf5aeb8249a321770cd8c35.jpeg_srz_p_555_763_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Portland, Maine is home of one of the most culturally specific museums about African art and culture, today’s “Museum of the Day” is a relatively new addition to cultural diversity in Maine.

The Museum of African Culture was founded by Oscar Mokeme and Art Aleshire and opened on August 8, 1998 in Portland Maine. It is the only institution in northern New England devoted exclusively to sub-Saharan African arts and culture. There are over 1,500 pieces in the collection of the museum, ranging from large-scale, elaborately carved wooden masks to smaller scale figures, cast copper alloy (bronze) figures, textiles, utilitarian objects, ceramic, bone, ivory and composite objects.

The oldest mask in the collection dates back to 1600 AD. Many of the bronzes are 1,000 years old and the ivory flutes and clay vessels are up to 2,000 years old. These pieces are important as they preserve the religious and cultural legacy of Africa that is fast disappearing in a globalized world.

The permanent exhibit features an extensive display of African masks. In addition to the permanent gallery, the museum has a Heritage Gallery with rotating exhibits featuring themes that include art from all over Sub-saharan Africa. The contemporary gallery has rotating exhibits that feature art inspired by the African Diaspora, and is home of the Black Artist Forum.

I know I would really enjoy to visit and learn more about the museum and its collections from the founding director.

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Figge Art Museum

20140202-193204.jpgDavenport, Iowa is the location of today’s “Museum of the Day”.

The Figge Art Museum is the premier art exhibition and education facility between Chicago and Des Moines. With soaring glass walls reflecting the constantly changing sky, the museum’s expansive galleries and intimate rooms are home to some of the Midwest’s finest art collections. Studio-style classrooms allow young and old to participate in the creative process.

The museum opened as the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery in 1925 with a gift of 350 European and Mexican Colonial paintings, creating the first municipal art gallery in the state of Iowa. Today, the collections include more than 3,500 paintings, sculptures and works on paper from the 16th century to the present.

In 1987, the museum changed its name to the Davenport Museum of Art. Then in 2003, the museum relocated to the heart of downtown Davenport, following a major capital campaign. In recognition of the $13.25 million lead gift to the new building project from the V. O. and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Foundation, the museum was renamed the Figge Art Museum.

The Figge Art Museum opened at its new home on the banks of the Mississippi River in August 2005. The 114,000 square-foot facility was designed by British architect David Chipperfield. The combination of reflective, transparent and opaque surfaces continuously transforms the appearance of the facade in relation to the sun and changing cloud patterns. The building is a civic landmark in downtown Davenport, and enables the museum to further its mission as a regional exhibition space and a community-oriented education center.

The museum manages the majority of the extensive collections of African artifacts and Modern art from the University of Iowa, my alma mater. The University experienced serious damage during a flood in 2008 and is still raising funds to rebuild a museum.

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