Towards a New Museum

Overview

Since first publication in 1998, Towards a New Museum has achieved iconic status as a seminal exploration of the late-20th-century revolution in museum architecture: the transformation from museum as restrained container for art to museum as exuberant companion to art. Author Victoria Newhouse critiqued numerous institutions for the display of art opened in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, culminating in Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao and Richard Meier's Getty Center in Los Angeles. In this expanded edition, she ...
See more details below
Hardcover (Expanded Edition)
$41.15
BN.com price
(Save 17%)$50.00 List Price
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (12) from $22.51   
  • New (6) from $28.54   
  • Used (6) from $22.51   
Sending request ...

Overview

Since first publication in 1998, Towards a New Museum has achieved iconic status as a seminal exploration of the late-20th-century revolution in museum architecture: the transformation from museum as restrained container for art to museum as exuberant companion to art. Author Victoria Newhouse critiqued numerous institutions for the display of art opened in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, culminating in Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao and Richard Meier's Getty Center in Los Angeles. In this expanded edition, she continues her investigation of new museums, assessing the radical, 21st-century changes that have propelled Herzog & de Meuron's De Young Museum in San Francisco and SANAA's 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, to the forefront of this building type.

Among the institutions added to this new edition are the Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Pinacoteca, perched atop an enormous Fiat factory in Turin, Italy, and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, both by Renzo Piano Building Workshop; three notable updates of the museum as sacred space, two by Yoshio Taniguchi and one by SANAA; the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati by Zaha Hadid; and expansions of the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art in Madrid by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis by Herzog & de Meuron, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York by Taniguchi. Finally, the De Young Museum, reflecting its own eclectic conditions, and the 21st Century Museum, consisting of non-hierarchical spaces for every conceivable kind of contemporary artwork as well as facilities for social exchange, are innovative hybrids that propose new directions for the future of museum architecture.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

D.J.R. Bruckner
This fine collection of ideas, questions, critiques and inspirations never bewilders or exhausts her reader. And the large number of artists, architects and critics Newhouse draws into the discussion is never distracting; her clarity of purpose is exemplary. -- NY Times Book Review
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580931809
  • Publisher: The Monacelli Press
  • Publication date: 12/14/2006
  • Edition description: Expanded Edition
  • Pages: 349
  • Sales rank: 1,098,580
  • Product dimensions: 8.15 (w) x 10.65 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Victoria Newhouse is an architectural historian and the author of Art and the Power of Placement and Wallace K. Harrison, Architect. She lectures frequently on museums, and her articles on the subject have appeared in the New York Times, Architectural Record, Architectural Digest, and ArtNews. Newhouse also founded and directed the Architectural History Foundation, a nonprofit publisher of scholarly books.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

TOWARDS A NEW MUSEUM


By VICTORIA NEWHOUSE

THE MONACELLI PRESS

Copyright © 1998 The Monacelli Press, Inc.. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-885254-60-1


CONTENTS
 Acknowledgments......................................................7 Preface..............................................................8 Chapter 1  The Cabinet of Curiosities: An Update....................14 Chapter 2  The Museum as Sacred Space...............................46 Chapter 3  The Monographic Museum...................................74 Chapter 4  The Museum as Subject Matter: Artists' Museums and            Their Alternative Spaces................................102 Chapter 5  Wings That Don't Fly (And Some That Do).................138 Chapter 6  The Museum as Entertainment.............................190 Chapter 7  The Museum as Environmental Art.........................220 Afterword..........................................................262 Notes..............................................................272 Illustration Credits...............................................282 Index..............................................................284


CHAPTER ONE

The
Cabinet of
Curiosities:
An Update

Museums
satisfy ... a
deep natural
want...
as deep and
as natural
as sex or
sleeping.

Philip Johnson

Most major art museums are based on private collections that were assembled long before these public institutions came into being. Louis Palma di Cesnola's collection of Cypriot antiquities formed the nucleus of the Classical collection for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as the Lizzie P. Bliss bequest initiated the holdings of that city's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). In Europe princely collections are the core of today's great public museums: to wit, Francesco de' Medici's holdings now at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Hapsburg treasures at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. From the first Renaissance acquisitions of antiquities and art for their own sake, collectors have felt the need to exhibit them in specially established spaces.

The grouping together of precious objects has gone on since antiquity: Egyptian tombs, ancient temples and medieval church crypts and royal treasuries--the Schatzkammern--all sheltered such collections. But the attractive presentation of these pieces, including art, as opposed to their secretive storage, marked the beginning of what we know as the museum. At the beginning of the 16th century, in English country houses and French castles, painting collections, at first confined to portraits, were shown in long, connective corridors. Referred to as galleries, these passageways were widely used as places to take exercise, and art was hung on their walls to distract, much as television does today for people on treadmills.

    In early-16th-century Italy the studiolo provided an accessible, art-oriented version of the Schatzkammer. Whereas the small study was the privilege of a few prominent palaces, by midcentury there had developed a variant of it that swept Europe in a veritable craze. The cabinet of curiosities, or Wunderkammer, was a room whose walls and ceilings, cupboards and drawers, housed collections that included a bizarre spectrum of natural curiosities as well as art objects: one Venetian cabinet displayed corals, crystals, oysters with two pearls, horns, teeth and claws along with antiquities and paintings. In contrast with the devotional and didactic purpose of religious collections, these cabinets were intended primarily to "entertain and amuse" and only secondarily to instruct or uplift. Exhibits randomly juxtaposed what were considered to be scientific objects and art; there was no attempt at specialization or classification in what was an encyclopedic approach meant to create a miniature cosmology.

    Cabinets of curiosities were so popular throughout Europe that even members of the bourgeoisie--pharmacists, for instance--created them. Art, however, remained for some time the purview of the aristocracy, who from the early 16th century on had turned to gardens as settings for art structures: in England summerhouses--and in Italy loggias, pavilions and grottoes--were used to exhibit antique sculpture. (Bramante's Belvedere sculpture court at the Vatican, begun in 1503 for Pope Julius II, is the first and most famous example of such an installation.) By the end of the century several aristocratic collectors had separated art from their other holdings in Kunstkammern, usually in independent structures. One of the first to do so, the Hapsburg archduke Ferdinand II, both constructed new buildings and renovated a corn silo for this purpose at his castle of Ambras in the Tyrol, thus establishing a precedent for adaptive reuse that is still followed. Soon the Hessian landgraves in Kassel, Emperor Ferdinand I in Munich and Emperor Rudolph II in Prague were among those creating private museums. Besides the additional space they provided, these buildings may have reinforced the prestige attached to important collections, visits to which were routinely requested by foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and heads of state.

    As new collections were put together in the 19th and 20th centuries, private individuals also began to commission architecture for them. One of the most remarkable designs was Gottfried Semper's for Conrad Hinrich Donner near Altona, Germany (1834), which returned to the association of sculpture and gardens by combining a neoclassical art pavilion with a greenhouse and a small orangerie. Semper later applied ideas he had used for Donner to his famous Picture Gallery in Dresden. The Glorietta (1937)--a gallery in Lugano for Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza by Giovanni Gerser--featured enfilades based on the galleries of 17th-century Italian palaces like the adjacent Villa Favorita (which the baron inhabited). Marble door jambs and rich damask and velvet wall coverings were meant to evoke the periods of the Old Masters that the Glorietta houses.

    Dear to most collectors is the idea that what they have assembled will be kept together even after their death, in perpetual tribute to their distinctive taste. In some instances--the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the Frick Collection in New York and Sir John Soane's Museum in London (whose eclectic collections recall those of the cabinets of curiosities)--this has been accomplished by the bequest of a home for their treasures. In others, as with the Robert Lehman wing at the Metropolitan, the collector stipulates to the recipient museum that the gift must be displayed separately (see Chapter 5). For this kind of separate display, however, collectors now more than ever before are building their own museums. Alan Turner, for five years the president of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, feels that "to put a private collection in a museum is to lose it, because it is buried in a place that is too big." (In a historical throwback, Turner will use his weekend farm's corn silo, currently being renovated by Stanley Tigerman, as one of several pavilions for his contemporary collection.)

    Some of these galleries were designed for private enjoyment, accessible only to the owners and their friends; others were designed for public attendance. Many start as the former and end up as the latter. A strong incentive for opening a private museum to the public is the owner's wish to provide an alternative to institutional settings. The collector's reaction against art's institutionalization is frequently as decisive as the artist's (see Chapters 3 and 4). Repeatedly, collectors say they want their holdings to be seen in a setting that is more like a home than a museum. And even a consummate museum professional like William Rubin, the curator of MoMA's Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1967 to 1988, asserts that art is ideally viewed in a domestic setting. For Rubin:

Museums are essentially compromises... Their weakness is that they are necessarily homogenized--emptied of all connotations other than art. And that is, finally, an artificial situation.

    With a single client and no board of trustees or staff to deal with, the architect's task is simplified; the existence of a strong collection to which the architect can design is also an asset. Where no such collection is in place, museum architecture almost always fails. Clearly formed ideas--usually one person's--of what and how art should be viewed, and reaction against operational aspects of public museums, have generally resulted in private museums' matching art and architecture most successfully. In that they are usually produced by a single person, private collections have a strong identity--unlike the more anonymous museum collections amassed by many. This holds true especially for the Menil in Houston and the Insel Hombroich near Dusseldorf, which present unorthodox combinations of disparate art objects--as do the Beyeler in Basel and the Pulitzer in St. Louis, with their juxtapositions of tribal and Modern art. Unusual also are the Saatchi's in-depth holdings of contemporary artists and the Rubell's cutting-edge selections, in London and Miami respectively.

    Several of these museums entail a physical challenge: at the Insel Hombroich, visitors have to walk considerable distances over uneven terrain; at Philip Johnson's compound in New Canaan, they cross a precarious bridge; at a private gallery in Montana, they must pass through a deep berm (the gallery is remote in the first place). The importance of effort in connection with viewing art was understood early on by museum architects: stairs were monumental; doors had to be opened (as exemplified in Vienna by the Kunsthistorisches Museum's enormously tall and heavy portals to the gallery enfilades). By having to overcome obstacles (like the need to find the hidden treasuries of ancient times), the viewer earns a privilege, something that is increasingly rare in new museums where escalators move people like packages and a combination of audioguides and labels tells them what they are supposed to be seeing. In the words of Dominique de Menil, whose museum is discussed below: "The great things are those you discover."

PHILIP JOHNSON PAINTING GALLERY

New Canaan, Connecticut
by Philip Johnson
1965
3,150 square feet
2,990 square feet of exhibition space
$215.000

One of the first Modern designs for a private museum was by Philip Johnson for his own collection of contemporary art. In addition to satisfying his need for more space, there were a number of related motivations for the painting gallery Johnson built on his 40-acre Connecticut estate. The architect professed dissatisfaction with the way pictures looked in the museums he had designed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, asserting that "Big museums are a bore." In addition, he anticipated the problem of growth that would soon lead to innumerable--and in many cases problematic--museum expansions (see Chapter 5). His gallery, in which the viewer can sit while paintings move past on panels, addressed the issues of both viewer fatigue and storage.

    It is typical of Johnson, whose long career has been marked by an uncanny sensitivity to new trends, that he chose to put the gallery underground at just the time when artists attempting to escape the gallery system were making their first earthworks. Not wanting his new gallery to compete with his famous Glass House, he left only the entrance exposed in a grassy mound that has been compared with "a cross between a Mycenaean beehive tomb and an atomic shelter." Johnson calls it his Kunstbunker, and it is reached by a footbridge he describes as made of the thinnest possible layer of steel, with a high camber and no handrail, "so that it would be springy--and precarious, with the uneasy feel of a rope bridge!"

    Within, a long, low entrance hall leads to four tangential circles of varying diameters; three of these contain swiveling newel posts to which off-white carpeted panels, like postcard racks, are attached. The different diameters--the largest is 40 feet--are meant to accommodate a range of painting scales. The gallery's organization derives from Sir John Soane, but it is also a fact that Johnson had recently completed the Museum for Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, which was based on a circular motif punctuated by wide cylindrical columns.

    The arrangement has worked well for Johnson's art, but its applicability to a public museum is questionable. Security is one concern, since the way in which the paintings are exposed would necessitate an escorted system of viewing them. Even more restrictive is the large amount of space required by the circles' radii, and these in turn limit the size of the paintings that can be shown.

PHILIP JOHNSON SCULPTURE GALLERY

New Canaan, Connecticut
by Philip Johnson
1970
5,000 square feet
4,900 square feet of exhibition space
$383,000

The Kunstbunker presented problems for Johnson as well: he had to move sculpture out of the way of the pivoting racks. This practical issue, together with his feeling that the outdoor sculpture he had placed on the property distracted from the landscape, gave him a welcome excuse to build another gallery: he chose a site west of the painting gallery to which a row of old maples leads like an allee. The sculpture gallery's simple white-brick exterior is barnlike, but its interior has been described by the architectural historian John Coolidge as "one of the most artfully intricate of twentieth-century buildings."

    In plan, a square and a pentagon are twisted at a 45-degree angle to one another. The resulting forms are identified by Johnson as his first break with the geometrical tradition of the International Style, which eventually led to the radical, free-form "Monsta" gatehouse he built on the property in 1995. It also influenced his designs for the Art Museum of South Texas at Corpus Christi (1972) and for the angular, prismatic office buildings he was constructing at the time. At the periphery of this complex container, a stair with a ten-inch parapet spirals down around a central courtyard to connect five alcoves, or "shelves," as the architect calls them. These pivot out from the stair and satisfy one of Johnson's main concerns, that "each sculpture should have its own background" without the conflict of one work being seen behind another. The glass ceiling rising in two slopes to an 84-foot ridgepole fulfills his wish to provide the natural light he feels is ideal for sculpture. The cathode tubes attached to the rafters do not effectively soften shadows as they were supposed to, and Johnson laughs off the much-admired striated patterns cast by the roof structure as a "happy accident."

    Three shelves identical in plan and area have ceiling heights that range between six and twenty-five feet; their walls relate differently to the slanted roof; and access to each one varies. Thus, not only is each sculpture--those by Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg and Frank Stella, among others--given its own background, but these backgrounds are themselves distinct from one another.

    Johnson's individual presentation of both sculpture and painting--one to each shelf for the former, a single painting on a single panel for the latter--ties in with William Rubin's belief that "it is not such a good idea to hang a lot of paintings on a wall; ideal is one painting at a time." Still, the juxtaposition of the three painting racks in the underground gallery and the overall view available everywhere in the sculpture gallery allow a dialogue between the artworks.

THE MENIL COLLECTION

Houston, Texas
by Renzo Piano Building
Workshop and
Richard Fitzgerald
and Partners
1987
100,000 square feet
24,000 square feet of exhibition space
$24 million

When Philip Johnson was designing his sculpture gallery he said he wanted a building that looked small on the outside and big on the inside. This was exactly how Dominique de Menil described the museum she wanted. Both collectors envisaged buildings with exterior modesty and interior intimacy that at the same time accommodated as much material as possible. Although Johnson had thought of the application of his painting gallery design to institutional storage, it--and the sculpture gallery--was never meant to serve the public until after his death. The de Menils (who preferred to drop their name's particle for the American institution) had other ideas. Conceived with her house in mind, the museum was meant to convey to the visitor the excitement felt by a collector in the presence of her acquisitions.

Dominique de Menil, an heir to the Schlumberger oil-field services fortune, has lived since 1941 in Houston, where she (with her late husband, Jean) has made a considerable impact on the city's culture. In 1949 Johnson built a home for the de Menils that was the city's first example of International Style Modernism. By 1971 the couple had inaugurated their Rothko Chapel, designed by Johnson and constructed by the Houston architect Howard Barnstone, in which fourteen of the artist's somber late works are shown in a suitably contemplative ambience. Father Marie-Alain Couturier, a Dominican priest who was a factor in Le Corbusier's commission for the Monastery of La Tourette, encouraged the de Menils in their first acquisitions and may have influenced the spiritual atmosphere of the collection's settings: two chapels--the Rothko and the recent Byzantine Fresco Chapel by Dominique de Menil's architect son, Francois--and the ethereal Cy Twombly Gallery.

    Disenchanted with their relationship with existing institutions in Houston, in 1973 the de Menils approached Louis Kahn about building their own museum. Jean de Menil's death, later that year, followed by Kahn's in 1974, put an end to these discussions. The formality of Kahn's scheme--so different from what was eventually built--suggests that the client might not have proceeded with it in any case. Dominique de Menil subsequently discussed her project with other architects, including Luis Barragan, until 1981, when Pontus Hulten, director of Paris's Centre Georges Pompidou, introduced her to Renzo Piano, primarily known for his part in designing that building. By then the de Menil collection included more than 10,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs and rare books, from the Paleolithic to the present. Over the previous 20 years the de Menils had also acquired 12 acres in the Montrose suburb of Houston where the museum was to be located. The houses near the museum are in wood, painted a uniform gray with white trim, and are used for related activities: auditorium, bookstore, services and guest quarters. Unlike the monumental museums that had been built in Texas during the preceding decades--Mies van der Rohe's in Houston, Louis Kahn's in Fort Worth and Edward Larrabee Barnes's in Dallas--the Menil echoes Montrose's vernacular scale and materials. At the same time, in deference to Mies's presence in the nearby museum district and to Johnson's adjacent International Style St. Thomas campus, the Menil museum is a Miesian rectangle, with one entrance set back in a configuration reminiscent of Kahn's Kimbell. Its single-story wood-and-exposed-steel exterior is in the tradition of the Case Study Houses, the influential southern California experiments in low-cost residential architecture of the 1950s and 1960s.

    To ensure an intimate setting, Dominique de Menil decided to show only 10 percent of her collection at any one time, with art rotating to the galleries for limited periods. The bulk of the art was housed in a structure running the entire length, and over a third of the width, of the building. This windowed penthouse, more like a crowded gallery than most museum storage, which is never meant to be seen, is accessible and inviting to curators and scholars. By calling the area her "treasure chamber," Dominique de Menil evokes the medieval treasury; the heterogeneity of the collection, with its filing cabinets full of Joseph Cornell boxes and exotic objects, including one from Captain Cook's inaugural voyage, relates it also to the cabinet of curiosities.

    Of equal importance to context, domestic scale and the "treasure chamber" concept was the client's insistence on what she termed "living light": illumination that would vary with weather and time of day. This request inspired the platform roof, with its leaf-shaped light diffusers, which Piano designed with engineers Peter Rice and Tom Barker. Having just constructed a yacht in reinforced concrete, the architect decided that the fine texture and thinness of this material would adapt well to the leaves' organic form. They are held by ductile iron trusses revealed on the exterior as a white colonnaded roof. Each of the massive, fixed, 40-foot-long leaves incorporates natural and artificial light, spatial definition, ventilation, weatherproofing and drainage.

The formal, recessed entrance from the park and a more modest access from the street are joined by a broad cross-axis. It, in turn, is intersected by an east-west promenade almost 320 feet long, with the galleries fronting the park on one side and service areas facing the street. Glazing at the ends of both circulation spines allows views to the surrounding neighborhood. The exhibition space is divided into six rooms, several of which can be further partitioned; they have white walls just over 16 feet high and black-stained pine floors more typical of a manufacturing environment than of a gallery. The black and the rough finish provide a rich contrast with the smooth white wall surfaces in an interesting departure from the light-colored wood or stone floors of most museums.

Twentieth-century art (up to the time of Jean de Menil's death), and particularly Surrealism, constitutes the largest, most inclusive part of the collection--and this is what is best served by Piano's loftlike, naturally lit spaces. In a direct reference to the de Menil home, the art of tribal cultures is installed in galleries with glass-enclosed garden courts that give it an appropriate context. The less cohesive grouping of antiquities, Byzantine and medieval art fares somewhat less well in darkened rooms: without the natural light and the ceiling articulation provided by light baffles, the building's character is obscured.

Unique to this private museum and visible to the public are its extensive facilities for exhibition planning and conservation. As someone who has curated her own scholarly exhibitions, Dominique de Menil understandably wanted what she called "a working museum," and she has achieved this admirably. The accessibility of the treasure chamber and the openness of areas for support services are constant reminders of the uniquely art-related activities that animate this sophisticated version of an art barn.

BEYELER FOUNDATION MUSEUM

Basel Riehen, Switzerland
by Renzo Piano Building
Workshop with
Burckhardt+Partner AG
1997
71,200 square feet
29,170 square feet of exhibition space
$37 million

When Ernst Beyeler, one of Europe's leading dealers in Modern art, decided to create a museum near his hometown of Basel, he intended to select an architect through a competition. Precious time was lost in discussions with the conductor and philanthropist Paul Sacher, who wanted Beyeler to build next to the Tinguely Museum he was planning (see Chapter 3), before the dealer opted for Piano simply because he liked the Menil museum. More uniform than the Texas collection, the 20th-century masterpieces acquired by Beyeler and his wife, Hildy, are housed in homogeneous spaces that have none of the dichotomy in ceiling treatment of Piano's earlier museum. Beyeler played an active role in developing the design, stating his program as "a museum where one can find luxe, calme, et volupte." The architect/client relationship flourished. "Without a good client, the architecture is nothing," according to Piano. "It becomes just an academic exercise."

    Two museums completed by Piano in the decade between his work on the Menil and the Beyeler use natural, zenithal light as the guiding design principle. For his Cy Twombly Gallery across the street from the Menil in Houston and his Brancusi Studio in Paris (see Chapter 3), new technology helped to refine complex ceiling systems that, in contrast to the earlier leaves, are hidden. In both a flat metal-and-glass roof appears to float above masonry walls. The Beyeler Foundation is a continuation of Piano's development of the theme: in this case, he pulls the glazed roof beyond its masonry supports. He completely concealed the mechanical systems in all three museums, whose serene spaces represent a dramatic switch from the exposed trusses, columns, cross-bracings and brightly painted ductwork of his Pompidou.

    Beyeler's collection of some 160 objects represents his vision of Modernism, beginning with Monet, ending with Warhol, and excluding major movements like German Expressionism. In a gesture popular with many collectors, tribal sculpture--in this case from Alaska, Africa and Oceania--is scattered among the Modern art. This integration of separate categories of objects is another reminder of the cabinet of curiosities, which constitutes an important part of Basel's history. Indeed, the legacy of Erasmus (who died in Basel in 1536) was preserved in a cabinet whose acquisition by the city in the mid-17th century made it the first civic community to support a public museum.

The site of Beyeler's museum is in a narrow 19th-century park that runs north-south parallel to a highway in Riehen, a suburb two miles outside Basel. An existing structure on the property, the historic Villa Berower, will be used for offices, a library and a restaurant, thus reserving the museum primarily for the exhibition of art (with books related to it available in the bookstore). Picking up on the street walls of local red sandstone, Piano has enclosed the eastern edge of the building with a wall of a similar but richer stone, a red porphyry from Patagonia that he used throughout. This wall and glimpses of the diaphanous glass roof are all that is discreetly revealed to the roadway. A narrow lobby runs from the main, south entrance to the north, garage access. On one side of the lobby, built into the protective street wall, are the ticket counter, bookstore and service facilities.

At the south of the old estate a gate in the wall opens to a sloping hill. Because Beyeler wanted level space, the entrance is almost seven feet below the grade level of the site's highest point. It is reached by gentle terraces that end in a pool beside the glazed south facade. Views into this southernmost gallery reveal a huge Monet that harmonizes with the landscape it overlooks.

    The street wall is the spine, in front of which four load-bearing walls, each nearly 400 feet long, run parallel, forming the lobby and three rows of gallery space. Lateral divisions are flexible. Ail the galleries are approximately 23 feet wide with 16-foot-high ceilings and will usually be partitioned into lengths of 36 feet, ideal dimensions for the various scales of work exhibited. A basement space with lower ceilings, which receives some natural light, will be used together with one main-floor gallery for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. Beyeler rejected the stretched fabric ceilings of the Twombly and Brancusi museums in favor of white steel screens that diffuse light evenly and allow occasional views to the sky. Above them is a 5.25-foot space for mechanical equipment, electronically controlled louvers and incandescent light (used only at night), topped by the roof of tilted brise-soleils, whose glass is partially silkscreened to make it opaque. Most walls are white with some individualized color schemes--as in the case of a pale gray gallery for works by Giacometti. Light French oak floors, in which air vents run laterally, are uniform throughout. Tiny reveals at the bottom of partitions and window frames embedded within the walls dissolve the distinction between exterior and interior and further enhance this architecture of space and light.

    The museum's walls are intended to rise from the earth like old ruins, and indeed its trabeated architecture recalls the temples of antiquity. A winter garden parallels most of the museum's western facade, which faces a large grazing meadow, one side of which extends into France, the other into Germany. The incongruity of this protected farmland juxtaposed with the museum's sophisticated forms and content lends a special charm. Only from this side, where the entire length of the building is visible, can the extension of the glazed roof beyond its two supporting columns at each end be appreciated. (An earlier design with a second pair of end columns projected the roof further into the landscape, even more gracefully.)

    Piano's statement that "the collection governed the forming of space, the circulation and the light" explains the complementary nature of this building to its contents. The architect's classic Modernism is perfectly matched to the museum's Modern masterpieces.

MUSEUM INSEL HOMBROICH

Dusseldorf, Germany
by Erwin Heerich
1987
280,000 square feet of park and pavilions
39,400 square feet of exhibition space
cost undisclosed

The guiding philosophy for this museum in the German Rhineland is surprisingly similar to the cabinet of curiosities' mixture of natural and artificial. At Insel Hombroich, nature is represented by the landscape rather than by a rare object, as it would have been in the cabinet of old, but the visitor's immersion in the natural environment is so intrinsic to viewing art that it becomes part of the display, and handmade objects are as unexpected as those in any Wunderkammer.

In 1982 the real estate developer Karl-Heinrich Muller bought Hombroich Island in the small Erft River between Dusseldorf and Cologne. While sowing 150 different kinds of plants, Muller at the same time insisted that vegetation be allowed to grow freely, in accordance with his philosophy that "nature helps itself, we don't need to interfere." Consequently, the site's three topographies-a cultivated 19th-century park, the woods, meadows and marshes of a floodplain and agricultural fields--grew together into a single, seemingly natural landscape. The island shelters a variety of wildlife, and birdcalls and the croaking of toads mix with the far-off sound of cars on a country road. Along with the scent of wildflowers and marsh waters, the odor of manure is a surprisingly pleasant aspect of the experience of this unusual museum. The incorporation of smell and other senses--sound, touch--in what has come to be the exclusively visual experience of art raises interesting possibilities.

For Muller, Bonn's museums are "like cemeteries," and he states that it was not a museum that he wanted to found but "a living place for artists to interact without any bureaucracy, where nature is as important as art." To accomplish this, Muller asked the Conceptual sculptor Erwin Heerich to design a series of pavilions for exhibiting collections that randomly juxtapose art from widely different periods and places. Identifying labels, acoustiguides and signs are banned: "After all," says Muller, "you carry no label, why should you or I? When people listen to an acoustiguide they only remember what it says--[they think] everything must be explained, but love, life, your kids, can't be explained." Muller's personal take on how art should be experienced extends to air-conditioning (which he doesn't tolerate), light and restoration. Because the artists he consulted favored lots of natural light, the objects at first had almost no protection from it, and Muller was subsequently forced to install ultraviolet screens. He has been criticized for the light damage sustained by some of the work exhibited, but he responds that "nothing is forever" and feels that it is preferable to enjoy art in natural temperatures and light even if damage ensues. As for restoration, for Muller "it is like a face-lift: everything accomplished in a lifetime is taken away in a moment." (In this, Muller's ideas are similar to those of the great Impressionist collector Albert C. Barnes.)

    The 12 new pavilions are similar in their highly textured, recycled-Dutch-brick cladding; their 20-inch-thick exterior walls; their hot-dip galvanized skylights and window frames; their white walls and light-colored marble or basalt floors. But each pavilion combines different geometrical forms and distinct interior arrangements.

    The L-shaped ticket building has been compared with a small border station, so like entering another country, or even another world, is the visit it introduces. The absence of signs or any directionals creates a sense of mystery that is compounded by the way some of the pavilions are hidden behind hedges or reached by means of narrow wood footbridges.

    To emphasize the pavilions' presence as sculpture, two of them--the Turm (tower) and Vitrine--have been left empty, to be enjoyed solely in and of themselves. A counterpoint is the large outdoor sculpture: works by Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder and others. Six of the seven pavilions where art is shown depend entirely on natural light, which in all but two is provided by skylights. One of the most effective exhibits is at the edge of a small wood: the single-space Orangerie is rectangular, with one side entirely glazed in a central, rectilinear section and the roof at each end pitching up sharply to make angled facades. Within, giant Khmer heads on individual pedestals gaze impassively toward one of the island's many small ponds.

    The Lange (long) Galerie, used mainly for sculpture, is small in comparison with the island's two largest art pavilions, the square Labyrinth and the rectangular GroBe Galerie. Different types of skylights and different positioning of their entranceways, room arrangements and interior partitioning distinguish one from the other. In both, however, there is a disorienting, mazelike effect that lends an element of surprise to displays that include archaeological objects; African, Oceanian and Pre-Columbian art; Egyptian sculpture; Chinese glass; and 20th-century work by, among others, Kurt Schwitters, Yves Klein, Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, Ellsworth Kelly and Gotthard Graubner, a German artist responsible for all the museum's installations.

    With no openings in what appears to be a continuous brick facade, the Schnecke (snail) is the most austere of the Insel Hombroich galleries. The entrance is hidden behind the longest side of its triangular-prismatic form, repeated within by a mirrored-glass and metal atrium open to the sky. It is reserved primarily for works on paper, which cover a spectrum from Rembrandt to Cezanne and Matisse.

    The gallery that is most ambitious architecturally, the Tadeusz, named after the representational painter Norbert Tadeusz, is the only two-story building. Its tall rectangular volume is separated into two distinct spaces by a wide drop in the ceiling that expresses the cubic room inserted above. The awkward division of the lower space is justified by the serene upper room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows at both ends overlooking the landscape. Reached by a steep double stair and a precarious catwalk, the meditation room has cushions strewn over the floor, offering a restful interlude.

    One generously fenestrated pavilion is occupied by a cafeteria that offers an un-museum-like fare of black bread, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and plum jam. Another serves as a studio/residence for Graubner. The Art Brut sculptor Anatol Herzfield also works on the island, using an old log cabin for his studio. Additional buildings that predate the museum include a barn converted for concerts and a 19th-century house in which Muller lives.

    Muller cites as his models two other private museums: the Kroller-Muller in Otterlo, the Netherlands, by Henry Van de Velde (1938-53) and the Louisiana in Humlebaek, north of Copenhagen, by Jorgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert (1958-82). Like Insel Hombroich, these museums enjoy bucolic settings taken into account by their architecture, especially at the Louisiana, where Miesian pavilions are connected by glass corridors.

    Muller's museum also invites comparison with Donald Judd's arrangement of discrete structures for the display of art at Marfa, Texas (see Chapter 4). In both cases, architecture is determined by an artist rather than by an architect: each conveys a sense of discovery to art presented in a contemplative, spiritual environment enlivened by the presence of ongoing studio work.

    In 1994 Muller acquired a former NATO rocket-launching station adjacent to the island, where he has converted existing structures and plans to use several well-known architects to build facilities for scientists and artists. For this "cultural laboratory" he would receive outside funding for the first time and would solicit art from other collectors to exhibit in a new space. Expansion could bring about the institutionalization this passionate collector has tried so hard to avoid.

PRIVATE MUSEUM IN MONTANA

by Emilio Ambasz
& Associates
1993
1,200 square feet
cost undisclosed

If in Muller's museum the equation of art and nature recalls the cabinet of curiosities, Argentinian-born architect Emilio Ambasz has more recent antecedents that closely link the two. For many years Ambasz has taken his inspiration from earthworks; instead of creating forms he buries his buildings, giving nature clear precedence in its relationship to architecture. For a collector who shares her husband's passionate commitment to land cultivation and preservation, Ambasz seemed the ideal person to design a gallery separate from a new house on a vast property in western Montana; Ambasz's concept for a gallery related so intimately to the residence that he ended up designing both.

Within a spectacular east-west valley filled with cottonwood trees whose green leaves shimmer to silver in the wind, Ambasz has placed the two structures with exquisite sensitivity. Running through the valley is a creek that feeds a small lake: to the north of it, at the foot of the pine-covered mountainside, is the south-facing house; south of the lake and about a half mile upstream is the north-facing museum. Siting reflects the architect's intention that the museum appear as a neighbor in the wilderness to an otherwise lonely house. To emphasize further the relationship between the structures, in plan the convex gallery fits perfectly into the concave villa; even the gallery's small central recess corresponds with the villa's central bay. Both are partially sunken, leaving prominent facades--in the Western tradition--higher and longer than their respective buildings. Typical of Ambasz's work, the facades' identical materials combine high-tech and natural--in this case, white metal lattice for ivy to cover and, in a further allusion to the vernacular, wood logs. In a series of classical references the colonnades of rough-hewn logs are in turn tipped with metal that simulates capitals, and they lean against facades crowned by bronze cornices.

    The museum's private nature is emphasized by its secretive entrance through a bermed back wall, a configuration similar to Frank Lloyd Wright's semicircular Second Jacobs House, in Middleton, Wisconsin (1948). An enclosed circular sculpture court precedes this entrance through a constricted corridor that leads to the single exhibition space. The detached building came from the clients' wish to see only parts of their contemporary collection at one time. Since they intended to rotate pieces that would otherwise be stored, relatively little space was needed. Even so, a freestanding wall was added to compensate for the lack of hanging space on the glazed north side.

    The dialogue the museum sustains with both the natural and the built environments is as important as the exhibition space itself. When the facade is approached from any direction, the tension between museum, nature and villa builds up one's anticipation of the art. For two unbuilt projects Ambasz designed in the 1980s--one for the New York art dealer Leo Castelli, the other a residence in Cordoba, Spain--he envisioned stark, angular forms that appear surrealistically aloof from their proposed sites. In Montana the architect has moved away from the geometric simplicity of these earlier houses in favor of a theatrical, baroque image reinforced by the simulated rocks in which both structures are carefully positioned. This stage-set quality is particularly appropriate to art that in several cases is performance-like: Tony Oursler's audiovideo of an animated figure could not wish for a more dramatic setting.

[CHAPTER ONE CONTINUES ...]

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Preface 8
Ch. 1 The Cabinet of Curiostities: An Update 14
Ch. 2 The Museum as Sacred Space 46
Ch. 3 The Monographic Museum 74
Ch. 4 The Museum as Subject Matter: Artists' Museums and Their Alternative Spaces 102
Ch. 5 Wings That Don't Fly (And Some That Do) 138
Ch. 6 The Museum as Entertainment 190
Ch. 7 The Museum as Environmental Art 220
Afterword 262
Notes 272
Illustration Credits 282
Index 284
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)