Filmmaker George Lucas’ plan for a Beaux Arts-style art museum for the Bay Area is under the scrutiny of the public this week through the Presidio Trust, which will determine whether his dream of a museum where the digital arts meet the history of illustration will be there or if he’ll relocate it to Chicago. That last spiteful move is in response to the conflict he’s already had in trying to get through the Presidio Trust for his museum, for which he’s up for giving $700 million of his own funds. As he told the New York Times: “They made us jump through hoops to explain why a museum was worth having. […] I thought a museum was a concept that people already bought into about 200 years ago. They’re having us do as much work as we can hoping that we will give up.”
Whether or not the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum makes it through the drama, it’s one of several American art museums on the horizon. Here are five more that have made it through the obstacles of committees, construction, and community and are finally (more or less) set to open in the imminent future. And if one thing is certain in the face of these impending openings, it’s that veils and canopies and porous space are definitely in for art museums. Some of the tension against Lucas’ proposed museum has been its extremely classical design. Perhaps all he needs to do is embrace the futurism that defined his best cinema work for a more ready local reception. A shredded Death Star certainly wouldn’t look too out-of-place in the realm of current design.
* * *
Aspen Art Museum
Set to open in August of 2014, the new Aspen Art Museum designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban promises to be an airy counterpart to the repurposed power plant where the museum has operated since it opened in 1979. Ban just completed the much more visible, and less subdued, Centre Pompidou-Metz, and while his first American art museum has his usual embrace of lattices and light, it is aiming to have a unique relationship with the surrounding landscape of mountains throughout its four stories and 30,000 square feet. As he told the Architectural Record, he wants “the experience of visiting the museum to be like the experience of skiing. […] You take a lift and you go to the top of the mountain, and first you enjoy the view, and then you come down the slopes.” Appropriately, along with exhibitions from David Hammons and Yves Klein, the opening will include an exhibition on Ban himself and his history of ecologically-minded designs.
Pérez Art Museum Miami
It was more than a little controversial when the Miami Art Museum changed its name to the Pérez Art Museum Miami following the donation of $40 million by billionaire Jorge M. Pérez — some board members resigned. Now the new museum designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron (who have been having a run of American museums, also designing the Parrish Art Museum that opened last November) is planned to open this December during Art Basel Miami Beach with an exhibition by Ai Weiwei as its showcase. Director Thomas Collins told the Miami New Times: “We don’t have to drag a 120-year-old building into the 21st Century like museums in other cities,” so it will be interesting to see what they do with this entirely new space on the beach.
Harvard Art Museums
While the major Renzo Piano project is definitely the new Whitney, sooner still is the opening of his new Harvard Art Museums. Complications set the opening back from 2013, but it now seems sure for a an opening in fall of 2014, with a renovation and expansion that brings together the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum in a massive $350 million project that embraces the old brick façade of the Fogg with the Italian architect’s love of soaring glass and illumination. And unlike the previous museums, where conditions were not always optimal, the preservation and conservation of the 250,000 or so objects was an essential part of the design. As director Tom Lentz told the Boston Globe of the museum’s previous preservation capabilities: “The internal joke is that we would never lend [artworks] to ourselves.”
UC Davis Art Museum
Another campus art museum project with potential is the new Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis. Selected for the design is New York-based SO-IL, and the star feature of the building is definitely its 50,000-square-foot permeable canopy, a major portion of the museum compared to its 29,000 square feet of gallery space. Yet the ambitious project aims to create something of a museum of the future where what is outside is as important as what’s inside. As the architects stated of their design: “The future art museum is neither isolated nor exclusive, but open and permeable; not a static shrine, but a constantly evolving public event.”
Last year another campus showcase museum opened — the Broad Art Museum designed with a striking metal façade by Zaha Hadid at Michigan State University — and now entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad has moved from his alma mater to another museum slated for a 2014 opening, as the Wall Street Journal has reported. Called simply The Broad, this museum designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro will be located in downtown Los Angeles and house 2,000 pieces from Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection, including their favorites like Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Cindy Sherman, in its 120,000 square feet. When the plans were announced back in 2010 they naturally were contrasted to the other cultural institutions in LA, particularly with its heavy organic veil of a structure. As Elizabeth Diller stated of the project: “Our goal for the museum is to hold its ground next to Gehry’s much larger and very exuberant Walt Disney Concert Hall through contrast. As opposed to Disney Hall’s smooth and shiny exterior that reflects light, The Broad will be porous and absorptive, channeling light into its public spaces and galleries.”
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.