I just got back from the Aspen Art Museum‘s new building. They’ve been having a members-only series of nights before the big opening to the public in a few days, and an invitation was sent along to Aspen Center for Physics people to come along, and so (of course) I did. It was a nice thing to do at the end of a day of working on revising drafts of two papers, before settling down to a nice dinner of squash, green beans, tomatoes, and lemon-pepper pasta that I made, all from the Saturday Farmers’ Market. But I digress.
Let me say right at the outset that the building is fantastic. There will no doubt be arguments back and forth about the suitability of the building for the town, and so forth (and there have been), but as a space for both art and community (and to my mind, those should go together in a city’s main art space) it is simply excellent. The building is by the architect Shigeru Ban, who actually won the Pritzker prize this year. He is a graduate of (among other places) LA’s SCI-Arc, and given what I know of the place (I’ve friends who teach there and I love to visit studios there) it completely makes sense if you study the building (I really ought to have guessed while I was looking around). It’s full of playful uses of interesting materials in the service of a striking dialogue between internal and external forms – just the sort of thing I see a lot of at SCI-Arc. There’s all sorts of fantastic uses of cardboard that I really love, and the woven lattice is just as exciting from the inside as from the outside. I’d noticed the building the first day I came into town this year, as it stood out as a distant form wrapped in a wooden lattice, and so I was intrigued right from that first glance. I was excited to learn that it was going to be the new Aspen Art Museum, and so being able to see inside and explore it this evening was extremely welcome.
I arrived in good time, it turns out. Not long after going to the top of the building to enjoy the roof garden (and café) space, help myself to a drink, and see the view of Aspen mountain, the museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson appeared and started giving a little talk to the assembled members of the museum. I listened for a while, got a sense of what they’ll be going for with this space, in service of art and the community, and then slipped away to enjoy the museum (the building and the art on exhibit) on my own, which I love doing.
I’m not going to give you a blow by blow review of everything I saw, but in addition to the photos embedded here, I will include a picture gallery of aspects of the spaces and other details that I photographed (with permission) for you to look at. (Look near the end of this post.) In terms of the works on display, my favourite things were the “Humanitarian Architecture” works by Shigeru Ban on the second floor (I really recommend looking up pictures of his works, from cathedrals to fast-assembling school rooms, to relief housing after disasters (like NOLA after Katrina)), and (most favourite) the drawings by Tomma Abts. (She won the Turner prize in 2006 and it looks as though it was certainly well-deserved. Look up her work online.)
Some more of my favourite details from the building? The wall of cylindrical cardboard…the benches made of cylindrical cardboard tubes… and glass floor/ceilings. The glass is glazed in just the right way so that if you are standing looking up at someone standing on it on the floor above, you’ll see their figure tastefully dissolve into diffuseness as it recedes from you.
My only gripe here is that they did not make the whole of the ceiling of that smaller basement space out of this glass. That would have been fantastic, but perhaps there are safely issues in case there is ever seismic activity?
I settled back into the café space at the end to do a quick sketch of part of the space, while drinking a glass of a nice red wine. However, since I did not complete it and it was rather rushed (they were politely closing the place shortly after I started sketching), I think I ought not to share it with you! (Perhaps this was the first piece of “art” to be created in this space? Who knows…
Well, anyway, if you are in Aspen, stop by. Or if passing near Aspen and wanted a reason (seasonal festivals and so forth aside) to stop by, now you have one. The museum is worth the detour alone. Previously that honour went to the awesome Matsuhisha. Maybe go there for dinner after your museum visit.
Slide show below*. (If it does not show up, go to the album at picasa here.)
*…yes, I am aware that I have said little about the tortoises with iPads on their backs. Google Cai Guo-Qiang and see what you can find.