Category Archives: Mada(M)useo

Beautiful Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese (built 1613-16), what a beautiful place to begin the day, a wistful mansion retreat  built almost exclusively to house hundreds of Italian Masterpieces, not necessarily to live in.  We met first with Maria Assunta Sorrentino, Exhibitions Coordinator and Register, along with some of her colleagues.  The speakers explained how Borghese is one of 3,000 some federal museums in Rome.

Ceiling Painting, Galleria Borghese

Most any cultural institution in Rome is run by the government in some capacity, greatly influencing funding and their abilities to collaborate with other museums or institutions.  Though the collection here is massive a large portion of the original collection survives in Paris.  One of the Borghese sisters married Napoleon Bonaparte and during his raging plunder of European high culture and arts, the Galleria Borghese was not spared.  However, because of his relationship to the sister, the Borghese art was “sold” not stolen.

Hands down the most amazing things (for me at least) here are the collection of Bernini sculptures.  This man was a true artist and my “stolen” photos, aka hip shots, do no justice to the beauty of these pieces.  Every muscle, every expression, EVERY LITTLE THING is intricately perfect. Love, love, love.

Bernini Sculpture

After, we met with Manuela Cuccuru at the Gagosian Gallery to view the exhibition, “Made in Italy.”  There were some big name artists in the show including, Damien Hirst, if you remember my post about the Golden Dipped Cow.  However, you all know me and modern art, our relationship is fairly non-existent.  The meeting with Manuela was interesting however, learning about how they jury their shows and how they feel they are comparing to other galleries around Rome.  We spent a really long portion of our day at Borghese so we all sort of split ways at this point.

A small group of us travelled on over to the Cimeterio dei Cappuccini/Crypt of the Cappuchins.  This is sort of one of those weird things you think only exist on the travel channel. It’s a little crypt under a church, Santa Maria della Concezione, built by the Cappuchin monks out of the dead exhumed from a cemetery, and later their own relatives and brothers. Thousands of bodies literally adorn the walls and ceilings in intricate mosaics of random bones.  You have light fixtures made from spinal discs and walls stacked with skulls.

The bodies age from 1500 to the 1870s, though this particular crypt wasn’t in existence until 1631.  The bodies aging older than that were ordered to be moved from another cemetery in Rome. Unlike most people I wasn’t unsettled by being surrounded by so many dead bodies, I was struck by the fact that people had spent hours below ground with rotted/rotting corpses creating ornate designs in bones and fastening them to walls.  To each his own I suppose.


The Science of Museums – Rome Day 3

Just when you think you’re beginning to get homesick, you find a little piece of home right around the corner from your hotel.  Nothing like Atlantic City, Rome style.

Atlantic City in Rome?

The best part of day three was to get to see museum science in action.  I LOVE THIS STUFF! I mean I have considered being a conservator just so I can discover the history and original form of objects…but I guess I love designing exhibitions more.

Courtyard of Villa Medici

First stop was at the Villa Medici with a tour of the AMAZING garden and labyrinth.  Inside we saw the special exhibition “Poussin and Moses: From Drawing to Tapestry” and something that was very interesting about the exhibition space was a fairly steep incline with “stairs”.  They were really stairs though because each rise was only a few inches and the flat of each stair was a few feet. Charlotte’s (my professor), husband, Derek, enlightened me as to the origin of such stairs.  Villa Medici is built on a large hill and horse stable was located farther up the hill, the stairs were built to be useable by the horses. Learn something random all the time.

Terrible panoramic, beautiful view

The structure was built in 1564 on the ruins of a 2nd century villa,  the walls and structure were ornamented with 1st and 2nd century antiquities, like the piece of freize from the Ara Pacis (you’ll hear about that later) who now has a replica piece.  The Medicis made their start in banking and devised double entry ledger writing.  Along with bringing in a fortune Lorenzo began bringing many artists and musicians to the household until it became a sort of school, which it still is.  Twenty-four artists come from France at a time to stay at Villa Medici, now the French Academy, in order to study in Italy.

The garden is very typical Italian, notice there are no flowers.  Original Italian thought was that man is the center of the universe so he should have complete control over his things.  Bushes you can prune and control, flowers you cannot. Thus the lack of flowers.  My favorite thing in the gardens was the mini sculpture garden depicting the massacre of Niobe’s children.  Essentially Apollo and Artemis were jealous that Niobe had been able to have fourteen children so they killed them all. For a much more informative and romantic version of the story read here.

Sculpture Garden of Niobe Massacre, Villa Medici

The first interesting piece of science for the day you’ll see below.  A room in one of the towers of Villa Medici where you can see they have literally peeled through time back through consecutive layers of paint.  It’s like Christmas and unwrapping the same present with a million different layer of paper, the suspense!

Paint Layers

Next we wandered down the Spanish Steps (actually built by the French) to the Keats-Shelley Museum where we had a tour by the most darling little Irishmen.  Saying that makes him sound old, he wasn’t but he was just pint sized and spritely.  This was the final home of John Keats, the poet, who died from tuberculosis after a truly tragic life.

The Spanish Steps

Those of you who know me, know how I feel about the mixing of the old and new. Incredibly torn.  Sometimes I love it, but most times I really hate it. One instance where I really disliked it was the Museo Ara Pacis Augustae where the Ara Pacis (Alter of Peace) dating is enclosed in a piece of architecture by Richard Meier.  It’s just a big empty, stark, waste of good museum space.

Ara Pacis, Alter of Peace

The interesting thing about marble in Rome is that when you see it now it’s whites, tans and browns.  Had you seen it when it was created a large majority of sculpture and architecture would have been brightly painted.  You can’t get much of the context from this photo but it shows the science of trying to find out what colors would have been used on which areas of the Ara Pacis.

What the colors on the outside of Ara Pacis would have actually been.

View from Janiculum Hill

Next, another of the Roman hills, this time Janiculum Hill where they have restored sculpture for the the 150th Anniversary of the unification of Italy.  Another BEAUTIFUL view.  We finished the evening at the American Academy in Rome.  It serves a purpose similar to that of the French Academy at Villa Medici.  Students and/or artists may reside here to study and practice in Rome and enjoy the Italian Culture.  As it was an open house we were able to view many of the current residents work and studios.

Dinner tonight was at La Tana dei Noiantri inTrastavere which seems to be the hopping place for the teens to thirty somethings crowd.  Pizza, again. Delish. I can’t help it.


The Grand Tour

Hello again friends! I was supposed to write about Rome while everything was fresh in my mind.  You can see that that has happened.  Work, school, moving into a new apartment and the manfriend have all sort of sucked up most of my spare time.  BUT, three weeks later, here is day two of Roma.

Markets of Trajan

Day two in Rome was simply out of control; so much amazing stuff and insane amounts of information to attempt to digest.  Beginning in the 1660s young English and Northern European Aristocratic men would undertake a  journey they referred to as The Grand Tour. The Grand Tour was the name given to the ideal way of obtaining one’s education: they would travel all through Europe, ending in Italy and on into Rome: soaking up the language, sport, art, manners and culture as they went in order to become a “properly” educated citizen of the world.  This day felt like my grand tour and I feel like I did as much in a day that they did in several months to years.

We began at the Markets of Trajan and the Museum di Imperiali.  This location was basically the very first indoor shopping mall.  A large portion of the structure has been turned into a museum.  The really interesting thing is how well they have modified the space to be a working museum without imposing too far on the original material of the structure.  The once open doorways and windows are covered in clear plexi-glass and ramps are built in but not permanent.  By ethical standards of adaptive reuse in historic structures, no alterations should be made that are not reversible without harm to the building.  From the top level of the market we got another excellent view of Rome and the Forum below.

Plexi Entrance Wall

You could really see the effects of time on all the structures, including a part of the market structure where medieval dwellings had been built to create another floor of the already existing building.  Next to the market is the Column of Trajan, spiraled with a beautifully detailed relief telling of the military history of Trajan.  Makes you think, whatever happened to craftsmanship?  So much effort used to go into everything and now we are blessed with things like tin-sided churches.

Column of Trajan

Greeted by two large horse statues, the protectors of the city, we visited Capitoline Hill which is known as the “city center”.  Here you see a lot of Rome’s most renowned sculpture including the classic Julius Caeser on his horse, the over-sized head, hand and foot of Constantine, the she wolf suckling Romulus and Remus and many, many, many more.  Much of this sculpture wasn’t moved to the Capitoline until the 1470’s when the Pope returned them to the city and its people from the papal collections.  At this point the sculpture became one of the first really “public” collections in history. I’m not sure why it struck me so, but one piece I found oddly beautiful in the Musei Capitolini was of the satyr (you all know I LOVE satyrs!) Marsyas.  He made the awful mistake of challenging Apollo to a music competition and for that lost his hide and his life.  This statue is carved from a deep purple veined marble which was to represent the many lashings he received for his folly.  Though sad, the statue is very beautiful and moving in a way.

Protectors of the City

Marsyas

Something I found throughout my entire time in Rome was the fact that in Rome it is IMPOSSIBLE to separate the old and the new, everything is all tossed together and built up next to each other.  I. LOVE. IT.  Rome touches on so many museum issues for me that I could write a million blog posts.  Hopefully posts will come someday about reconstruction versus preservation and also more on the integration of the old and new in Roman museums and galleries.

We did a ton of interesting stuff on day 2 but I can’t elaborate on everything or this would be as long as a guide book.   Enjoy the photos of things we saw/did and I’ve added some external links in if you’d like to read more about something.

Mattei Family Sculpture Garden, an extremely expensive display of self-wealth.

Palazzo Mattei di Giove

Palazzo Mattei di Giove

Piazza Navona includes some AMAZING Bernini fountains/sculptures, that guy was just fantastic at what he did.  Here, this fountain represents the four rivers.

Piazza Navona

The Four Rivers by Bernini

We saw a LOT of churches whilst in Rome and not being my favorite bit I’m not going to elaborate on all of them though I might pop a few pictures in.  We ended up at the Pantheon (Temple of the Gods).  There is still much that is left unknown about this structure and its purposes which made it a little hard for me to get into, but it’s still one of those “must see” sites.

After class hours we wandered off to the Forum, dinner and the Trevi Fountain. You could spend an entire day wandering around the Forum reading about all of the different structures that are there.

After, we ate at a L’Archetto, a macaroni joint that boasts more than 100 different sauces/gravies.  It was delicious.  As for the Trevi Fountain it is enormous and beautiful and I loved it.

The Forum

L'Archetto, YUM!

Trevi Fountain


Keep Your Hands on Your Business

It is now my fifth day in Rome and I’m just getting a chance to write about my first day.  I’m visiting for May term for school and doing an insanely intense 10 day cram of Rome.  It’s been fascinating so far, you know me, I love old stuff!  Arriving in Rome was a typical foreign travel fiasco as expected; screaming babies and coughing ladies on the plane, creepy people on the train and bad directions to the hostel so I ended up walking with my  luggage way more than was necessary.  The hostel is fairly nice and clean and located closely to the train station.  The community bathrooms are fortunately at least combated by a pretty sweet rooftop terrace.

Day one was exhausting.  I left Newark, NJ at 4:50 p.m. and arrived in Rome at 1:15 a.m., 7:15 a.m. Roman time without a wink of sleep.  We started at 3:30 in the afternoon at the Colosseum.  The thing I’m enjoying the most is the fact there can be  bsolutely NO separation of the old and the new in Rome.  There are literally buildings ranging from the year 72 to 2011 standing side beside all throughout the city.

The Colosseum (built AD 72-80) is huge and includes an extremely interesting history.  This structure was originally a huge amphitheater and entertainment arena.  Unlike nowadays where we play football and hockey, they fought bulls and lions and raced ostriches.  So, looking at the photographs imagine a solid floor over the labyrinth of brick walls in the base of the arena.  This is obviously where all the fighting would have gone down and the tunnels below are where the warriors or prisoners and animals were kept between fights.

 

 

Next, we enjoyed a scenic and information perusal up Palatine Hill: which is one of the seven famous hills of Rome.  We saw the Arch of Constantine, the remains of some old aqueducts (always strangely cool), and we went into the Palatine Antiquarium Museum  at the top of the hill and enjoyed some beautiful views of Rome from this very “parkesque” site.

From here my professor and her husband were able to orient us to the city of Rome, utilizing many of the most famous buildings (and places we would be going) as markers.  We received excellent advice from Charlotte (our prof) about riding on public transportation, “Keep your hands on your business!” meaning our purses. Oh, Charlotte.  Last but not least, always the best part of the day was dinner at Maranega’s at the Campo de’Fiori.  I had a spicy salame pizza that was unfortunately nowhere near as tasty as Manny’s.  I have discovered, however, that Manny’s is most definitely a “Roman style” pizza. Long day and a big meal meant right back to the hostel to reenergize for a super-charged Tuesday!


Again with the catch-up

More than two months since my last post, tsk tsk.  This semester has really gotten away from me.  I promise my lack of blogging isn’t because there aren’t many fascinating things happening in the museum field, because there are.  It’s simply because at I spend 40 hours a week playing manager at a local gourmet foods market, 20 hours a week as a graduate assistant and go to class three night a week.  I daresay I’m just a bit busy.

Excuses aside, the semester and finals are winding down but things in general won’t be slowing down at all. I do hope to have more time for blogging though.  I have several posts written, I just need to type them up and post them.

Tasty Eggplant Parm!

Posts coming soon from this last semester:

  1. The Barnes Foundation
  2. The Hunterdon Art Museum
  3. Classes and projects
  4. Historic houses & a possible thesis topic
  5. Tasty posts about food because of an amazing boyfriend who loves to cook! (and go out)

Plans for this summer that I hope to be blogworthy:

  1. International Foundation for Art Research evening “What Frames Can Tell Us” at Christie’s
  2. May term week in ROME!!!!
  3. Lots of summer shenanigans
  4. Summer project/class: Producing an Exhibition for the Walsh Gallery
  5. Lots of amazing eats and recipes with the man!

There you have, 10 FASCINATING things to look forward to!


Modern/Contemporary Art and the Curiosity Cabinet

Hirst's "The Golden Calf", image from http://www.studio-international.co.uk

This post published at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Blog on February 13, 2011.

Would you pay 18 million dollars for a calf with gold-dipped hooves and horns submerged in a formaldehyde solution? What prices would you be willing to pay for various rarities and commodities just to say you own them? Damien Hirst’s “The Golden Calf” was just one of the oddities mentioned in by Matthew Palczynsk, Staff Lecturer for Western Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in his recent presentation on “Organizing the Curious Damien Hirst.”

Approximately one-hundred people attended the February 5 symposium organized by Seton Hall’s MA Program in Museum Professions which accompanied the exhibition “Working in Wonder” in the Walsh Gallery. The group exhibition, curated by Erin Gray, Danielle Schallom, and Edward Stapley-Brown included artwork by artists that have been inspired by the Curiosity Cabinet, a historical era of collecting occurring between 1500 and 1700.

After a brief welcome and introduction from Dr. Petra Chu, Director of Museum Studies at Seton Hall, the symposium featured eight speakers, a roundtable discussion with artists included in the show, and a wonderful reception in the Gallery. The Keynote Speaker, Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, began with “A Natural History of Wonder.”

Weschler describing the Cameroonian Stink Ant. Photograph by Danielle Schallom.

Weschler discussed a variety of bizarre artifacts that may be found at The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, California: fruit stone carvings, Cameroonian Stink Ants and vulgar medical treatments. Shown in a sarcastic way, but truthfully displayed, the rarity of these objects is similar to what might have been found in early cabinets. Museums are said to be the voice of authority, but why do we believe the sometimes absurd things we are shown?

Other speakers included:

Kirsten Hoving, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Art History at Middlebury College, who presented “Thinking Inside the Box: Joseph Cornell’s Cabinets of Cosmic Curiosity.”

Melissa Ragain, a PhD candidate in Art history at the University of Virgina, presented “Wonder as a way of Seeing: Gyorgy Kepes and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.”

Patricia Allmer, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Jonathan Carson and Rosie Miller, artist collaborators, University of Salford, presented “Playing in the Wunderkammer.” The speakers discussed their 2009 exhibition, The Story of Things which was shown at The Manchester Metropolitan University. The artists used artifacts from the collections not as objects but as pieces of art within larger works. The narrative in which they were placed created a type of fiction, playing a game of making up relationships between objects without a linear relationship.

Photograph by Danielle Schallom.

Joanna Ebenstein, cabinetist at the Morbid Anatomy Library, presented “To Every Man his Cabinet or The Morbid Anatomy Library and Cabinet and the Revival of Cabinets of Curiosity.”

The Symposium concluded with a Roundtable led by Jeanne Brasile, Director of Seton Hall University’s Walsh Gallery. Brasile led a discussion with artists Paul Baumann, Tracy Heneberger and Susan Napack, three of the artists featured in the Gallery’s exhibition. Topics included the artists’ choices of materials and an inquiry as to whether each artist felt they were as eccentric and the curiosities they both create and mimic.

Is the curious form of collecting making a comeback?


A word on blogging

The only thing productive about Pub Trivia is delicious wings.

I’m doubling on this post, I originally wrote it for the Seton Hall MAMP Newsletter. Thought it might be of interest here!

There are an estimated 150 million blogs (Blogpulse) on the web and it is likely at least another ten will be created while you read this article.  So then, why should you write a blog?  It’s just another thing to do – sort of like having homework, right?  Instead, you could be watching Mad Men, reading Cosmo or attending pub trivia.  It is a difficult decision.

When I first started my blog, years ago, it was a way for my family and friends to keep tabs on me while studying abroad.  Now, much later, it has become one of the best learning tools in my career.

Five reasons why every museum student/professional should keep a blog:

1. It keeps you informed of issues and news.

You can write on any topic that interests you. Research the topic for 10-15 minutes, gather your thoughts and write about your perspective.  You might be surprised, both at how well you stay informed and at the conversation you start.

2. It hones your writing.

Who doesn’t need a little writing practice?  Beginning a blog is one of the best ways I’ve found to learn a happy median in writing for experts, enthusiasts and the general public all at the same time.  This is a skill many of us must use at work every day.

3. Provides excellent networking opportunities.

As you begin reading and commenting on other blogs, those writers will inevitably start to reciprocate.  Before you know it, you’ve connected with somebody you may not have met otherwise. Likewise, it is an excellent way to continue conversation with professionals you’ve met at conferences or seminars.

4. Makes you aware of events and exhibitions (and potentially gives you inside access to institutions and their “muselebrities”).

“I’d love to feature your institution or talk about this topic in my blog. Would it be possible to interview you about behind-the-scenes operations?”

5. It facilitates self-branding and boosts your résumé.

Maintaining a blog shows potential employers that you’re diligent, aware and tech savvy.  If you’re looking to add something to your résumé that will set you apart from the crowd, an interesting blog might be just the thing.

If you’re self-conscious about your writing or about beginning a blog, than start small.  You can keep a blog private, or only give the link to a handful of friends until you feel comfortable enough to let it go public.  Another excellent option is to test the waters by writing a guest post.  Contact the writer of a blog you enjoy and make a suggestion, or consider guest-writing for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums blog. They are always looking for students/professionals who would like to write about anything that might interest readers.

Five blogs I think every museum student/professional should read:

1.       Center for the Future of Museums

2.       Museum 2.0 – Nina Simon

3.       Know Your Own Bone – Colleen Dilenschneider

4.       Thinking About Exhibits

5.       Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums

Blogging is a worthwhile investment of your time and a great way to bounce around ideas.  You’ll find plenty of other great tips and tricks at (http://weblogs.about.com/od/bloggingtips/tp/TipsBeginnerBloggers.htm).


Castles full of treasures

Recipe for Disaster..I mean ADVENTURE!

A Baker’s Dozen of Donuts

Bagels & Cream Cheese

2 sets of Mapquest directions to the wrong address

4 Museum Professions Students

1 Phone GPS Lady who can’t even locate my car

Mix all of these ingredients together in a boat/car named Veronica and you end up with a beautiful scenic drive to the Mercer Museum and Fonthill in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  Caution: Finished product may arrive 15-20 minutes later than planned.

I love fieldtrips and our trip for History and Theory of Museums to the Mercer and Fonthill was no exception.  A VERY long story short, Bonnie was in charge of navigation. Bad idea.  We just happened to go several exits past the one we wanted and ended up taking a much more scenic drive through NJ/PA along the Delaware River.  It was a beautiful drive, freckled with quaint little towns, which I hope to go back and visit someday.

The Mercer Museum was created by Henry Mercer: tile-maker, antiquarian, artist, writer, world-traveler and archaeologist.  This place is incredible! Mercer completed his museum in 1916 to provide a home to his large collection of everyday American objects.  Mercer saw an importance in preserving the everyday objects at a time when industrialization was sweeping America.  Their brochure invites you to see “dramatic displays,” DRAMATIC is probably the most appropriate descriptor.  You’ll have to go see for yourself but it looks a little something like this…

Mercer Museum

There is literally stuff attached to ceilings and walls in random fashion.  My fellow students and I quite enjoyed checking out the actual gallows they have, along with other interesting ‘death and crime’ instruments.

Fonthill

Fonthill is Mercer’s home located just miles away from the Museum. Imagine a castle: towers, terraces and all, completely adorned inside with hand-crafted tiles.  My only regret is that I can’t stay there for a weekend simply looking at the walls. Personal favorite: in one of the home’s 44 rooms there is tile layout depicting Mercer’s travels to a cannibalistic colony.  We museum people are known to have a bizarre sense of humor.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to tour through the tile works building, but that’s definitely on my list of things to do next time.

Finney's Pub

 

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the history of the museum is as interesting as the artifacts in it.  The Mercer and Fonthill are definitely these types of museum and I recommend them to anybody traveling in or around Doylestown.  Finney’s Pub on Main Street is also worth a try, they serve up a pretty mean cheese steak!

 


Sneak Peek at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

First things first, this post would have been written hours ago if not for The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s new real estate website.  Someday, I will buy my home from this very site.  I would like the Italian Villa that is listed right now and if you would like to donate to the cause, please let me know.

We’re going to be getting out of order for a little bit.  As the semester winds down I’ve had a lot going on and so haven’t been getting to my blog as hoped. However, winter break is coming up and I have a month off from school and my graduate assistantship. This = catching up on the things I’ve been meaning to write about for months. That said…

An excellent thing I’m finding about grad school is the great privilege of having professors with no shame; professors who are willing to call up just about ANYBODY and ask them for a tour, or to come talk to one of our classes.  The students in the Seton Hall Museum Professions department (myself included) have had an amazing semester.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art brightens any dreary day!

Tuesday, for Exhibitions A to Z (Steve Miller is the possibly the King of shameless opportunity seeking) we had a 2 ½ hour tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in NYC.  Let me just say, celebrity to some people includes Brad Pitt or Whoopi Goldberg, to me big time museum people are my celebrities. Our tour was with Michael Batista, Exhibition Design Manager at the MET and Sophia Geronimus, Graphic Design Manager, who joined us for the first portion of our tour.  How amazing to meet these people who are the BEST of the BEST in our field! A big thank you to both of them.

Our visit began with a literal walk-through of the exhibition The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty on display September 28, 2010- January 2, 2011. I can’t wait to go back and actually SEE this exhibition; there are some 300 amazing artifacts! Michael and Sophia talked us through their process of everything they do in planning an exhibition. I think the biggest point that was stressed was how incredibly important communication is.  When you have many different people, from different fields/specialties and often IN different countries, it is imperative everybody be on the same page.  Michael showed us the exhibition floor plan and model of the exhibition, and what a treat it was. To actually see that whole process in front of you is much different than just talking about it in the classroom.

Second, we went into the The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs exhibition. You all, of course, know my love of the Arts and Crafts Movement. This furniture takes it to a whole new level, wow. Thought it in no way goes together I will be buying the Italian Villa from the Preservation Nation real estate site and filling it with FLlW, Stickley and Rohlfs furniture. How do you like that?

 

Last, but the MOST EXCITING! Michael took us into the new Islamic Wing of the Museum. It won’t actually be called that, it will be the Galleries for the Arts of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. What’s exciting about this you might ask? The fact that THEY AREN’T OPEN YET! They won’t actually be opening until fall of 2010, but we had a sneek peek!  I’m not going to tell you much, you’ll have to go see for yourself, but it’s going to be beautiful! Lots of art AND marble from all over the world.  Again, we got to see another part of the process. The building stage, something you definitely don’t get the full perspective on in the classroom.

Interesting fact:  The MET ACTUALLY cut a hole in the façade of the museum to bring in materials for the new Islamic exhibition space.  There is NO LIMIT to what we museum people will do to make the absolute BEST exhibitions we can for the public. Seriously, they just cut a hole in the side of the museum, I love it!


Museum Expansion in the Global 21st Century: The Case of Abu Dhabi

Students and faculty conversing with Andrew McClellan before the program.

This post published on the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Blog on November 23, 2010.

November 18, Seton Hall University welcomed Andrew McClellan, Dean of Academic Affairs for Arts & Sciences and Professor of Art History at Tufts University, for his program Museum Expansion in the Global 21st Century: The Case of Abu Dhabi.

This incredible program included information about the unfolding developments in the cultural and tourism sectors in the United Arab Emirates. Recent revenues from the oil and gas industry have spurred economic booms in places like Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These areas are utilizing this opportunity to build their cultural sector in order to create sustainable tourism and financial stability for the future.

McClellan briefly described the current impacts of growing tourism and cultural enhancement in Qatar and Dubai but the majority of the program was spent explaining the Saadiyat Island Cultural District that is being built in Abu Dhabi. The island will be home to four large museums and a performing arts center whose architecture, designed by five different Pritzker Prize winners, will be as stunning as the institutions themselves. The District aims to, “fuel the imagination, foster interaction, and encourage people of all backgrounds to embrace a common bond of creativity.” (Saadiyat Cultural District Website)

 

Projected view of the Saadiyat Culture District (photo from Saadiyat Culture District website).

Though some of the institutions aim to open their doors by 2013, the overall one hundred billion dollar cultural complex will not be completed until 2018. The following are the cultural institutions planned for the Island:

Sheikh Zayed National Museum, designed by Lord Norman Foster + Partners, will provide a testament to the life and times of Sheikh Zayed and his inspired vision. This museum with house both permanent and temporary exhibitions based in five categories: Environment, History, Education, Unity and Humanitarianism. A temporary exhibition at the Emirates Palace will open as an extension of the existing exhibition and will explore the concept and vision for the new museum.

Maritime Museum, designed by Tadao Ando, will shed light on the U.A.E’s relationship with the sea and their maritime activities. This stunning bit of architecture will actually allow for boats to pass through under the museum.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, will be a 24,000 square meter museum which will include 6,000 square meters devoted to permanent collections and 2,000 square meters for temporary exhibitions. This partnership with The Musee du Louvre and Agence France-Museums will seek to present paintings, drawings, sculptures, manuscripts, archaeological findings, and decorative arts collected from all over the world.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, “…will be committed to representing the international nature of Modern and contemporary art, presenting key aspects of the Western historical canon while simultaneously highlighting the richness and diversity of Asian, African, South American, and Middle Eastern art during this period.” (Saadiyat Cultural District Website)

Performing Arts Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid, will host cutting-edge theatre, music and dance from around the world. The Centre will also house an Academy of Fine Arts.

Aerial Shot of the Culture District (photo from Saadiyat Cultural District website).

McClellan raised a number of interesting points/issues/thoughts about this large cultural complex and the potential impact it may have on the future of museums.

Many museums are merging with their cities’ identity. As the Louvre is synonymous with Paris, so will these museums be with Abu Dhabi. Can and/or will other museums start to strive for this recognition in their own cities?

The museums are located directly on a large body of salt water which will be in actually be in contact with some of the institutions. What effect will this have on the architecture and what conservation issues will it raise?

Who will visit Saadiyat? With such a large cultural complex going up at once how expensive will visiting be, and will it be a location people wish to go more than once? Will they be able to persuade 150,000 people to move to the island where condos and housing are being built?

New York University will have a campus of Arts and Science on the island. Will they be able to attract enough students, or will the program fail as did the program Michigan State attempted to start in Dubai?

Is there a plan for the museums to stand on their own? Most of the museums are currently partnering with other institutions for both curatorial assistance as well as collection loans. Will the museums have compiled enough collections to stand on their own when the current agreements run out?

A large issue discussed was the criticism of western museums “selling their names”. Will this hurt the respected image of The Louvre and The Guggenheim? 4,000 professionals in France petitioned against the Louvre partnering in Abu Dhabi, stating that France was selling its culture and heritage. McClellan stated the bottom line is that money is scarce and many institutions are struggling to survive. Also, we should guard against condescension of what’s happening in Abu Dhabi. There is an entertainment/tourism factor being tacked to Saadiyat, but that does not mean the institutions will have any less integrity

Visit the Saadiyat Island Cultural District website for more information and photographs.