A slew of new museums, expansions, survivals, and preservation projects — more than we could imagine a few decades ago– continues to lift the cultural world, especially in cities that attract active travelers. Check out our museum lineup from Stockholm, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Dakar, New York, Zurich and elsewhere.
New York City is sizzling, with about 10 major museum projects recently completed or underway; plenty of other cities and locales have much to celebrate. The Prado in Madrid just turned 200 ! The Miami museum scene is robust. California – the world’s 5th largest economy – soon will have the Lucas Museum in Expo Park (George Lucas, of Star Wars fame)
There have been losses and setbacks: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has had to scrap its latest expansion plans (the cause, not enough $), the Delhi (India) Museum of Natural History was virtually destroyed in a fire, Rio’s esteemed natural history museum, filled with priceless specimens and early artifacts, fell victim to a devastating fire, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s classic Art Nouveau-style Glasgow School of Art suffered its second, and perhaps now-fatal, fire.
The Stars Are Out
The big names in design – humorously known as starchitects – are red carpet regulars whose museum designs can be seen all over the world. (Touch the links below to see recent or current museum projects) by Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Tadeo Ando, Diller Scofidio & Renfro, Annbelle Seldorf, Steven Holl, Herzog & De Meuron, David Adjaye, Bjarke Ingels, Jean Nouvel.
A Renaissance for Frank Lloyd Wright, The Eameses, Le Corbusier
Four design masters of the 20th century – Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier – are being acknowledged for the projects they designed – and sometimes lived in — to worldwide recognition.
The Corbusier Pavilion
Before there was London’s Serpentine Gallery, there was Le Corbusier’s final design, intended as his own museum to exhibit his own works in his native Switzerland. His death in 1965, a year after construction started, left a vacuum – the building was completed but not well-managed for decades, although intended as a preeminent place of recognition. Now, all of that has changed. Made of steel and glass construction with prefab elements, The Corbusier Pavilion in Zurich came under “new management” in 2014 by the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich – a major Swiss design institution . Careful restoration in the hands of local architects Silvio Schmed and Arthur Rüegg, have yielded the Pavilion as a museum worthy of this master architect-designer. See the video
The inaugural exhibition Mon Univers contains a wealth of objects and artworks from Le Corbu’s personal collection, on loan from the Fondation Corbusier in Paris, demonstrate what informed his design sensibilities. Moreover, there’s a public programs of music, dance, and discussion as
The Eames House – A Conservation Plan
The high-spirited, multi-talented Charles and Ray Eames—best known for their distinctive furniture– designed their home and studio in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades as a “Case Study House” for creating efficient and inexpensive homes in the post-WW II era. Watch a short video on Charles and Ray
Built in 1949, the Eames House is simplicity itself, with a steel frame and large expanses of glass, with mellow tallowwood paneling throughout the interior. The exterior features cobalt blue, mustard and red accents. It served as home and studio for the duo for 30 years; and was landmarked in 2006. Now its long-term future is being planned under a joint agreement with the Getty Conservation Institute.
The Eames studio pursued architecture, industrial design and manufacturing, furniture design, and the photographic arts. They wrote books, designed toys, developed exhibitions, and were talented filmmakers. The government turned to them during World War II to develop products that followed the lineage of their famous molded plywood furniture, to design products for the war effort.
Today Eames furniture is still in production – and much sought after — including their molded plywood chair (1946) called “the chair of the century,” and the leather lounge chair and ottoman (1956) (see below).
Charles Eames’ five granddaughters (from a daughter in his first marriage) run the Eames Foundation and launched the 250 Year Project to ensure that the landmarked property is carefully maintained for generations to come.
“We want the Eames House to look as though Charles and Ray ( he died in 1978, she in 1988) just stepped out for the day… working with the GCI [Getty Conservation Institute] has helped us clarify what the site needs in order to meet this goal,” said 250 Year Project director Lucia Dewey Atwood. Check out the conservation plan from the Getty with good archival photos
(Eames lounge chair)
The Eames Foundation teamed with the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) – a private institute under the Getty Trust dedicated to heritage conservation – to develop the scheme after finding that the existing practices were “no longer adequate for the conservation of several ageing structural elements”.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Legacy – World Heritage Recognition
There’s competition for who is recognized as the greatest architect of the 20th century. But there’s no disputing that Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings are in a special category of their own. In July, UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, recognized the importance of Wright and his oeuvre by adding eight signature works to the World Heritage List.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and his studio designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. Some 400 are still in existence – a towering achievement.
With some open to the public as museums and historic residences/studios, the eight selected properties are noted as The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright— wondrous designs of the Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, the Robie House in Chicago, as well as Taliesin and Taliesin West, both of which served as residences and studios for FLW firm.
Senegal’s Museum of Black Civilizations
It took a half century, but the dream that lingered for decades – of a post-colonial cultural capital with a vibrant museum integrating art and culture – has been realized. The vision of Senegal’s first president and a poet, Leopold Sedar Senghor, in 1965 at the World Festival of Black Arts, attracted the likes of American literati Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka, jazz great Duke Ellington, and Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie. But the dream languished for lack of money to create the museum.
In December, Senegal’s new Museum of Black Civilizations (Musée de Civilisations Noires) opened in Dakar, with 14,000 square meters of floor space and room to put the full sweep of African experience – from human beings trafficked to the New World to contemporary art – in place. There’s space for telling the stories of diaspora communities where Africans have had an important role in development — Brazil, the Caribbean and the US. Story from Al Jazeera
A major impetus for the new building was a $34-million gift from China, which has a strong economic relationship with Senegal.
The Musée des Civilisations noires (MCN) is a 150,000-square-foot structure, with a disc-like shape modeled after the traditional houses of Senegal’s Casamance region. The four-story interior space is vast, open to the roofline, with galleries that hold heavy copper ribs.
Inaugural exhibitions feature an interpretation of early Africa, a history of masks, traditions of Sufism and Christianity, and The Caravan and the Caravel, a powerful portrayal of human trafficking and how communities in the New World benefited from slavery. Smithsonian Magazine article
But there’s a quandary here too, as reported by the New York Times: “Up to 95 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is held outside Africa by major museums. France alone holds 90,000 sub-Saharan African objects in its museums.”
French President Emmanuel Macron commissioned a report in 2017 from two academies to study the question of restitution of African art and artifacts, making the pledge “African heritage cannot be a prisoner of European museums.”
There’s support too from Stéphane Martin, the director of the ethnographic Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris which holds 70,000 objects from subSaharan Africa. “…[N]owadays we cannot have an entire continent deprived of its history and artistic genius.”
Stay tuned to see how this complex issue plays out in the years ahead.
Sweden’s Nationalmuseum Modernizes
Ready to visit the Nordic countries? You won’t lose out if you plan a trip to Sweden’s Nationalmuseum while you’re in Stockholm. A five-year, $132-million renovation has expanded gallery space by 30%, created a first-level area that is free and open to all, and a restaurant that restoration architect Gert Wingard says “…is the finest room in the entire museum.” Wingard was joined by Erik Wikerstal, and renovation architect Fredrik Eriksson in making it all happen.
While the idea for a museum was first proposed in 1792 to house King Gustav III’s collections, plans were stymied until the next century. The Nationalmuseum dates from 1866 to function as both a museum and the king’s library, but the library function was scuttled . Its space was altered over decades to create functional areas for museum operations, such as storage and a conservation lab.
Now the original awkward courtyards – one of which overlooks the royal palace – have literally been raised: one to serve as a light-filled sculpture hall , the other a lecture hall and accessible space for visitors to move about. The entrance level is part of the plan to generate a wider audience, especially the next generation. Installation of protective exterior glass makes it possible to enjoy abundant natural light– a must for a city that endures a lot of dark days in the winter. Telegraph travel article
The Nationalmuseum boasts a collection of 700,000 pieces – from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century. Its design and applied art collection covers four centuries, to the present.
Most intriguing is a bold color scheme that includes pink, yellow and blue—we often think of Gustavian colorways in pale gray and white, but Gustavian style (from the era of King Gustav himself!) also included saturated colors. See more
Two Asian Museums Take Root
There’s new reasons to visit Hong Kong and Jakarta, Indonesia: Museums in Asia and the Pacific are part of the economic bustle that is invigorating new and established cities. We found two that should pique your interest: M+ Museum in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District opening in 2020; and Museum Macan in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Coming soon! Hong Kong’s long-planned M+ Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District is arriving at a time of strong pro-democracy activism by residents, intended to thwart censorship and create a more independent state within China. Designed by the Swiss firm of Herzog & DeMeuron – they designed the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics — combining both museum and a 17-floor skyscraper – the project has topped out ahead of its 2020 scheduled opening. But it’s anyone’s guess whether social protests by pro-democracy forces will affect its opening, and future curatorial plans, exhibitions, and public programs.
This project is a whopper: with $640 million in government money (in 2017), the inverted “T”-shaped structure will have 185,000 square feet of exhibition space (in the horizontal area) on the bottom. (New York’s Museum of Modern Art has around 125,000 sf devoted to exhibitions.) Then there’s offices, a members’ lounge and restaurants. Put that together, and it’s 700,000 square feet devoted to visual culture. It’s ambitious, and purposely so, intended to make M+ Museum a competitor to the Tate Modern (London), Pompidou (Paris) and New York’s MoMa. There’s an underground tunnel that connects M+ to Airport Express — an ambitious effort to establish a different sort of exhibition space.
The West Kowloon cultural district sits on about 100 acres that push into the harbor. The district’s showcase also includes an opera house and the Hong Kong Palace Museum – intended to create a hub for visual and performing arts. M+ has been an active presence since 2012 with events and exhibitions at various venues. Go to M Stories online for posts about what’s happening.
Jakarta, Indonesia’s Museum Macan – which opened in November 2017 — is “one of the world’s greatest places,” said TIME magazine in 2018. Located in the Jakarta suburb of Nusantara, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is Indonesia’s first international art museum, and focuses on contemporary and modern art from Indonesia, Europe, America, and Asia. Housed in a new, 43,000-square-foot space, the Museum occupies one floor in a development that includes retail, offices and a hotel. On loan to the museum, the collection is from founder Haryanto Adikoesoemo, a prominent local collector and businessman, who over a 25-year period acquired works by Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor, and Jeff Koons, as well as well-known Indonesian artists.
There’s also exceptional installations in the museum, such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – Brilliance of the Souls, which features a “borderless reality,” an important aspect of Yusuma’s oeuvre.
The museum intends to provide professional development for young professionals and artists, a commitment to community outreach – and a showcase for the vibrant Indonesian cultural community.
A New Experience in History: Statue of Liberty Museum
Whether your relatives came through Ellis Island or any other U.S. border, Lady Liberty, as the Statue of Liberty is affectionately known, is a popular symbol in New York Harbor of a welcoming nation—and of hope. The newest addition to the world-famous sculptural monument is a new, 26,000-square-foot museum that opened in May 2019. The $70-million museum– designed by architectural firm FXFOWLE— creates accessibility to a fuller educational experience for the 4.3 million people who visit the statue annually. It’s free and open to all. Access to a smaller museum inside the monument’s historic pedestal was severely limited after 9/11 when security measures restricted the number of visitors daily to the museum.
The museum is the third leg – so to speak — of a huge effort started in 1982 to restore Lady Liberty and the separate Ellis Island, in a campaign headlined by the late Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca that invited nationwide corporate and individual donations. Those projects were completed in the 1980s.
French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi designed the 305-foot Statue of Liberty, collaborating with engineering genius Gustav Eiffel (he of Eiffel Tower fame), who created the statue’s frame, which was then covered by thin pounded sheets of copper. It was a marvel –transported to New York on a French warship, packed in 214 crates, and dedicated October 28, 1886. It rests on Liberty Island on the former Fort Wood’s star-shaped walls that became its base; with a pedestal designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt.
It’s written that Bartholdi was inspired by Édouard René de Laboulaye, president of the French Anti-Slavery Society, who was interested in creating a gift to the United States from the people of France, as a symbol of freedom for the French against their own repressive government! That occurred just after the close of the American Civil War, and contemporary historians say the Statue is a tribute to former slaves in America. There’s a broken shackle at the Lady’s feet , intended to commemorate the national abolition of slavery.
This rich and layered backstory of Lady Liberty is played out in three gallery areas that tell the story of the Statue, using multimedia and virtual experiences, an interactive gallery with historical artifacts, and the inspiring space that holds the Statue’s original torch and a full-size copy of the face in copper.
Immersive Theater: The theater is a soaring space programmed as a multimedia event to tell a compelling story of constructing Lady Liberty, with a virtual experience of ascending the Statue with rich sights and sounds from the interior. It’s an educational lesson too about “liberty” and what that means today, in terms of free press, free elections and access to education.
Visitors see through multimedia and interactive displays and artifacts the history, design, and production of the Statue: experiencing the studio in Bartholdi’s warehouse, the process of construction (from small plaster models to forming pieces shaped onto copper sheets using negative molds),Guests are invited to document their visit and express their views by adding a self-portrait and collage of inspirational images to an ever-growing digital experience called Becoming Liberty.
The Culmination: A sweeping space that contains Liberty’s most iconic element – the original torch – which was replaced in 1986, (rescued from pollution and deterioration after 100 years outdoors) and a model of the Statue’s face in copper. This space affords a direct view of the Statue against the city as backdrop.
The museum campaign was chaired by Diane von Furstenberg and funded through private donations to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation by well-known New Yorkers and major corporations: Billionaire and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, fashion entrepreneurs Ralph Lauren and Diane von Furstenberg, filmmaker George Lucas, The Tisch Family (real estate), The Walt Disney Company and others.
Liberty Island is an ecological asset in the center of New York Harbor. So, it’s no surprise that environmental and cultural stewardship are key elements of this project. Designed as a LEED™ project, the museum exemplifies many green design components. It has a green roof, water and energy features intended to reduce consumption, an investment in renewable energy. It has glass windows that are technically bird-friendly to reduce bird strikes. And not least: it is built above the 500-year flood level and constructed to withstand hurricane force winds (never again, the devastation of Tropical Storm Sandy in 2012).
Freedom. Hope. Resistance. Democracy