Open-Air Museums Become Widespread in the US

Open-Air Museums Become Widespread in the US

Monday, 16 July, 2018 - 05:30
People walking outside the main entrance of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan / Heather Shimmin / Shutterstock, Inc.
New York - Asharq Al-Awsat
If anyone wanted to see Vincent Van Gogh's famous "The Starry Night" painting, he will see a lot more other things at the Museum of Modern Art in New York known as MoMA, such as visitor heads, phone screens, and shoulders from behind.

Tourists may see this painting, yet, it would be no more than putting a "done" mark next to another plan on their trip’s to-do list.

Because the MoMA has become so crowded with tourists, it now invites its visitors to spend a "quiet morning" at the museum starting 7:30 am to avoid crowds.

The museum says: "For these early special-price hours, we encourage visitors to take time to watch leisurely, clear their minds, turn off their phones, and inspire to the rest of the day, or even for the days of next week.”

Commenting on the crowded art museums in Paris, New York and Amsterdam, the Financial Times newspaper reported in January "It would be better for everyone if the number of visitors was reduced or organized, with an expected decent silence from all of us."

Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, located at about an hour from Washington DC, took these feelings into consideration when designing its ideal building.

On the hill behind the entrance stands a statue of a dinosaur sculpted by Jeff Koons, followed by another statue by Richard Serra.

The museum curators feel that art, as well as those who enjoy watching it, should have the opportunity to smell fresh air.

Although the access to the Glenston Museum is free, reservations must be made in advance and early on its website. The aim is to provide a "quiet, non-crowded" atmosphere to enjoy the art, architecture and landscape surrounding the place.

According to the German News Agency, the "art close to the garden" concept is not an American invention. In Germany, for example, there are the Waldfrieden sculptures garden in Wuppertal and the Buchheim Museum on the Starnberger Lake which are a combination of outdoor art, architecture and nature.

However, in the United States, this vast country, art takes on a new dimension in open air.

For instance, there is the Storm King Art Center, which extends on an area that equals about 280 football fields. Over the past 50 years, works by more than 80 artists such as Alexander Calder, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein and Nam June Paik have been exhibited, among others, in the middle of landscapes like of flowered hills and meadows.

The Storm King Center is about an hour drive north of New York City and has marked a place among the world's largest sculpture gardens.

If you keep driving north along the Hudson River, you will reach the town of Beacon, to a brick factory, where the Nabisco maker once made boxes for his products. The building now houses the Dia Art Museum.

In the spacious, light-flooded rooms, you can enjoy the grandeur of modern and contemporary art, watching the works of Walter de Maria, Dan Flavin, Gerhard Richter and Bruce Nauman.

Going deeper into the Northeast, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) attracts visitors who come to see works of artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Beuys.

Mass MoCA and some 100 other museums participated in April's in an event dubbed "Slow Art Day" to promote quieter and slower meditation at exhibitions.

The goal was to give visitors 10 minutes to see only five works of art, compared to the average of the standard time of 15 to 30 seconds, then, visitors discuss what they saw in the works of art.

Many tourists who are restricted by a tight schedule may find that a full-day trip takes a very long time.

They might come out with a lasting impression of 30 works of art that they had to make an effort to watch, better than walking fast among 300 great paintings.

At the Glenstone Museum, special emphasis is given to the outdoor experience, with tours organized in the surrounding forest.

Spokesperson Emily Grebenstein says: “We do not think there is anything similar in the United States.”

In an outdoor tour, Elijah Mejeski explains that clay houses were made by the landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy, but also tells that this land was once a farm of sheep.

In October, the Glenstone Museum will be expanded to include an artificial lake, with further plans to set up lounges and a picnic area. The most radical example of outdoor art in the United States is Crystal Bridges.

Alice Walton, the heir to Walmart, one of the richest women in the country, with a fortune of $40 billion, has built a complex of art museum, forests, sculpture gardens and fountains in an unknown location in southern Arkansas. To find it, look for the city of Bentonville, with a population of 47,000.

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