Louis Vuitton Arts Center
We arrived at the Fondation Louis Vuitton Arts Center on May 24th to view Frank Gehry’s extravagant building ode to Monsieur Bernard Arnault, in the beautiful Bois de Bologne and his burgeoning contemporary art collection.
The overall nautical theme is inspired by soaring glass and steel structures of the 19th century and exotic trees, plants and birds from the Jardin’s Palmarium built on the site in 1893 and demolished in 1934. Characteristic of Gehry’s vocabulary, the design features voluptuous curves, asymmetries and for this project glass, instead of metal, which adds a playful park quality to the building. In addition, a reflecting pool and terraced waterfall may be viewed from the restaurant “Le Frank”, with Gehry’s fish hanging from the ceiling.
“Keys to a passion”, the title of the current exhibition, the first of four scheduled exhibitions, includes many masterpieces that Arnault was able to borrow from major institutions including the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Tate Modern in London and Oslo’s Munch gallery. This is the first time, the works by Kandinsky, Matisse’s “La Danse” , Giacometti’s “Walking Man”, Monet’s “Water Lilies” and Rothko’s “No. 46” among others were exhibited together. Indeed a fine collection!
The Musee Picasso
The next day, we visited the Musee Picasso in the Hotel Sale in the Marais district of Paris which reopened last fall after doubling its size. The mansion that houses the museum holds the largest Picasso collection, sourced from the artist’s own collection and donated by his heirs to the Museum in lieu of the family’s tax obligations. There are 5,000 drawings, engravings, paintings, ceramic works and sculptures in this extraordinary collection. It is a museum like no other and offers a glimpse into the genius and complex life of Picasso.
The National Museum of the XXI Century Arts
On May 31st on a Sunday afternoon with only a few hours in Rome, I decided to check out the MAXXI, the National Museum of the XXI Century Arts designed by Zaha Hadid, which took ten years to complete and opened about five years ago in the Flaminio neighborhood. It is the first national museum of contemporary art in Italy. It is a striking building in an urban block which invites the visitor to enter the atrium on the side. The goal of Hadid was to have flexibility of space. This was indeed accomplished by the use of concrete curved walls and suspended black staircases. Natural light emanates from the open ceiling.
Enjoying the architecture of the museum in all its originality and glory was one thing, but viewing the excellent exhibitions of Lara Favaretto’s “Good Luck” of 18 cenotaphs and Olivo Barbieri’s aerial photographs of major world cities was another. It was very disturbing to wander from floor to floor without any clue of where an exhibition begins or ends. A truly uncomfortable feeling which I have never experienced before. Zaha Hadid intended “a new fluid kind of spatiality of multiple points and fragmented geometry, designed to embody the chaotic fluidity of modern life”. She succeeded!
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem
On June 8th, my travels took me to the Israel Museum’s 50th Anniversary in Jerusalem, founded in 1965 as Israel’s national museum, on a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood, near the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court and the Hebrew University. It is the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel and is ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeological museums.
Amongst its treasures on view were 9,000-year-old “Spirit Masks” from last year’s exhibition, “Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World”, found in the Judean Desert and Hills which totally overwhelmed me. It was incredibly moving to see the oldest works in the world from the Neolithic Age that had never been displayed together until this time. It was as if the viewer is being confronted by the beginning of humanity in all its eeriness. They stare at the viewer like the skulls of the dead. Ten of the twelve masks are in the private collection of Judy and Michael Steinhart of New York. “They are the first glimmerings of existential reflection” said James Snyder, the museum’s director. He noted that the masks possessed a “striking connection” to 20th century artwork, saying that they looked like something Picasso might have created. When I returned home, the resemblance of Chris Johanson’s drawing in my dining room, entitled “Products”, 2002 suddenly struck me that the “spirit masks” were on my wall.
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