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For Your Consideration 11.2

New Designs on Audiences

Across the United States, and in other countries as well, museums have gone on a building spree. In the U.S., more than 25 major art institutions, and many smaller ones, are constructing new facilities. When most of the current projects are completed, more than $3 billion in capital funds will have been raised, mostly from private donors.

Avant-garde architecture and an international cast of architects are playing a prominent role in marketing these projects, both to potential donors and to the public. Among the many projects underway or recently completed are:

  • Guggenheim Museum, New York City ,architect, Frank Gehry
  • Museum of American Folk Art, New York City, architects, Williams and Tsien
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, architect. Rem Koolhaas
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York City, architect, Yoshio Taniguchi
  • Museum of Modem Art annex. Queens, NY, architect, Michael Maltzan
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, architect, James Polshek
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, architect, not selected
  • Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, architect. Van Berkel & Bos Bass
  • Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL, architect, Arata Isozaki
  • Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH, architect, not selected
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, architect, Frank Gehry
  • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, architect, Herzog & deMeuron
  • Art Institute ofChicago, Chicago, IL, architect, Penzo Piano
  • Amon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth, TX, architect, Phillip Johnson
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, TX, architect, Rafael Moneo
  • Austin Art Museum, Austin, TX, architect, Richard Gluckman
  • Pulitzer Art Collection, St. Louis, MO, architect, Tadao Ando
  • Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO, architect, Daniel Libeskind
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum ofArt, Kansas City, MO, architect, Steven Holl
  • Jewish Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, architect, Daniel Libeskind
  • Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, WA, architect, Steven Holl

A Newsweek article published on March 26, 2001, reads, “Many American cities have been making a comeback, as the 2000 Census figures confirm, and museums are now seen as urban jump-starters, capable of attracting hordes of visitors, good press and even new business.” Newsweek continues, “Art museums began to change in the 60’s. The power of the curators waned as museum education departments grew— and government money began to flow in. Today public money is drying up and marketing is more important than ever. Museums are pushing to appeal to broader audiences, not just with blockbuster shows of impressionist paintings but with a whole new category of populist fare: The Art of the Motorcycle (Guggenheim Museum, New York), Wallace and Gromit (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), The Art of Star Wars (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston).”

[For a few more thoughts on this topic, permit us to refer you to a previous issue of The Docent Educator— Summer 2001 (Vol. 10, No.4), focusing on the topic of Entertainment and Education.]

In a revealing comment that took us aback, Newsweek continues by declaring to its readers that, “The new architecture is designed to “de-odorize the whiff of elitism that emanates from all those grandiose beaux-arts museums built at the turn of the century.”

Visiting Museums in the Big Apple

If you are heading to New York City for a visit to its museums, you are probably going to go to the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, the list of intriguing museums in New York does not end there. Why not consider going to one of these other, very intriguing museums, in addition?

  • Cooper-Hewitt Museum – the national museum of design, which explores how design affects our daily lives.
  • El Museo Del Barrio – presents and preserves the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans in the United States.
  • The Merchant’s House Museum – the only NYC home preserved intact, both inside and out, from the 19th century.
  • The Museum for African Art – dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of African art and culture.
  • Museum of the Chinese in the Americas – preserves over 150 years of Chinese-American history in the heart of Chinatown.
  • American Museum of the Moving Image – takes visitors through the process of producing, marketing, and showing movies and television programs.
  • Scandinavia House – offers a wide range of exhibitions and programs that reflect the Nordic culture in the United States.
  • Corning Museum – displays the world’s premier glass collection and presents live, hot glassblowing all day, every day.
  • The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology – textiles, clothing, shoes, and other apparel dating from the mid-18th century.
  • Museum of the City of New York – a presentation of the social, economic, intellectual, and political history of this great city.

Some Favorite Genes

The Museum of Natural History, in New York City, has opened a new, hands-on area devoted to gene research and the mapping of the human genome. This burgeoning area of scientific investigation has a myriad of profound impacts and consequences to life in the future — from curing cancer and other diseases to cloning. It is sure to be a big draw for school groups and the general public.

In the hands-on laboratory, visitors can retrieve a sample of their own DNA and have it analyzed and, within 90 minutes or so, mapped. They can compare their DNA’s similarities and differences to other humans, and to other animals. Visitors can see, for instance, that human DNA is 98 % similar to that of chimpanzees and 90% to that of mice.

When featured on NBC’s Today Show, the museum’s provost stressed that this hands-on facility would have school children as its primary audience and that education was the laboratory’s primary purpose and intention.

“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 11.2 (Winter 2001-02): 8-9.


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