Browse Category: Art Museums

Labor of Love

One of my favorite places in Detroit is the Detroit Institute of Art. I went there as a kid and fell in love with every bit of it, and I’ve been back again and agin.

The special exhibit they have right now is Ruben & Isabel Toledo: Labor of Love, and I was lucky enough to see it today. Before I even entered the exhibit, I saw these new pieces in several galleries. Isabel Toledo created them in response to the art in each of those galleries. It reminded me of Steal Like an Artist, in that she’s taking these influences from other works of art and riffing on them.

The works below were large scale, taking up the entire walls as visitors entered the gallery. They are a response to the Diego Rivera frescos that are in Rivera Court, in the DIA. I love the Diego Rivera frescos, and it was exciting to see another artist’s interpretation of the subjects.

I was so excited to see this – it’s a drawing that Diego Rivera used to plan out the frescos in the DIA. In all the years I’ve seen the frescos, I’d never seen any of the planning put into them. It was exciting to see that connection between the finished piece I know, and the process that came before that.

The dresses, to me, were the heart of this exhibit – they were based on current political themes, and demonstrated how fashion relates to the political climate.

To finish out the exhibit, there was a collection of comics drawn by Ruben Toledo, parallel to comics drawn by Diego Rivera, both of which were critiquing society in different ways. This felt disjointed from the rest of the exhibit – we had all the dresses throughout the museum, and it was based on the Rivera works already in the museum, and then these comics were thrown in, feeling like an afterthought.

New Orleans

At the end of 2016/the dawn of 2017, I spent a few days in New Orleans with my family. It was wonderful to spend some time with my family and explore a new city!

Will Ryman, America, 2013

I went to the NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and saw this piece of amazingness. Ya’ll. I was so deeply obsessed with this piece, America. It was made of railroad spikes, iPods and iPhones, spark plugs, insulation, and chains and shackles on the floor. It was ridiculous and gold and very timely.

Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge

We also found the time to go to this wildlife refuge, which was really lovely – there was a spring there, and it was nice to have the chance to hike for a bit.

James Turrell

When this room turned bright pink, I asked myself “Is this what drugs feel like?” Throughout the day, Aten Reign changes colors, casting the room and everyone in it into strange electric glows. It envelopes the viewer in light, and it’s a little overwhelming.

This is one of a series of aquatint prints, mimicking the kind of work that Turrell has done.  The lighting on these prints was intriguing, they looked like they were lit from behind – which was strange, because intaglio prints have to be done on fairly thick papers, too thick to shine a light through.  However, after looking a little more at my surroundings, I realized that they were actually lit from above.  It was done very carefully, obviously, so as to make the lights line up exactly with the edges of the prints, but it was very effective.

With this piece, I thought it was interesting how it didn’t feel like it had barriers – the part that is lit is lit from behind, and it’s in a corner.  With some of Turrell’s other pieces, it seems like the projection creates a barrier, like people know not to walk or stand in the way of the light.  With this piece, nothing in the environment is communicating to the viewer about where they belong.  People seemed to be staying at least ten feet away from the light, from what I could tell.

This piece was confusing for me. This picture doesn’t show it, but the room is almost entirely dark, with low lights on the grey square on the wall. It seemed like the grey square was moving, or that there was some pattern in the grey. I think that might have just been my eyes and brain trying to make sense of it, but it was a strange experience. Someone told me that there was actually a curve in the wall, an indentation in the rectangle.  I have no way of knowing if that’s true or not, but I think it’s possible.  It’s confusing, in a good way.
If you can make it, the James Turrell show is well worth a visit – more info can be found here.
If you’d like to see what I’ve been writing on the Metropolis POV blog, here’s a post about The Greenest Home and one about Houses of Maine.
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All images in this post are property of the Guggenheim.

Muskegon Museum of Art

On Saturday, I had the chance to visit the Muskegon Museum of Art for the first time. I came because I heard about their fiber art exhibit – I was very interested in fiber art at one point in time, and I thought it would be worth a visit. The museum is small and has a very humble feeling about it, but their collection has some pretty great pieces.  From what I understand, the main exhibit from the permanent collection is rotating in and out of display. The information given about each piece included when it was obtained, who the director of the museum was when it was obtained, and a little bit about that director’s vision for the museum.  This was interesting, but it seemed like the curators used the exact same piece of information about each director for every piece acquired while the director was there.  It felt a little redundant, and that could have been managed better.

Here are a few pieces that I liked.  I found the above interesting because it was one of the few pieces that wasn’t a painting – the collection was dominated by paintings, with a few photographs and sculptures mixed in.  The one below reminded me of the Diego Rivera fresco that’s at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The museum’s permanent collection wasn’t actually what I came here to see.  They have an exhibit of art called “Innovators and Legends: Generations in Textiles and Fiber” here right now.  I used to be fairly into knitting and spinning, so it’s sort of carrying on from that.  Since many of the pieces in the exhibit were not owned by the museum, photographs weren’t allowed inside of it.  The exhibit made me think about the ways that work is displayed.  One of the pieces in the show was a film – of a performance/installation piece.  I appreciate that they documented the work, but it seems like the film isn’t the project here.  The film gave the viewer an idea of what was happening with the work, but that’s not the same.  So, the question remains – is there any way to include a performance/installation piece in an exhibit like this?

Since I couldn’t take pictures of the fiber art, here’s a picture of their Chihuly piece.

 In the department of “Things that I noticed and thought were curious” we have this, above.  You’ve probably seen these in art galleries before, they measure temperature and humidity to help keep the art in good shape, but have you ever seen one with a little tag, explaining what it was?  Me neither. Did people ask a lot of questions about it?  Did someone try to steal one? Did someone who worked at the museum feel that it was important for people to know?  Now I need to know the origin of this.
Also, I spotted the situation below in one of the galleries.  You’ve heard of the Nelson bench, right?  Black legs, wood top with slats?  They work well in art galleries because they’re not a piece of furniture that’s in your face, it’s much more of a foundation piece.  Anyway, have you ever seen them with cushions before?  I haven’t.  The cushions, in case you can’t tell from the photo, have the Eames dot pattern on them.  It’s this weird collision of designers, and I don’t know what’s happening.  It was confusing.

 I’m glad that I took the time to visit the Muskegon Museum of Art – it was a bit outside what I’m accustomed to, but that’s good.  I’ll keep them on my radar and look out for new exhibits!

Beautiful Objects: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

 I recently had the chance to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where I saw their exhibit, ‘Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: Bivouac’, which was amazing.  Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec are brothers who run a design studio together.  They’ve done work with companies like Vitra, Kartell, Ligne Roset, and Cappellini.

The first part of the exhibit features their sketches and a wide range of their products on display.  Throughout the exhibit, their designs are used to display their designs.  Instead of using white pedestals, or generic shelves that one might find in an art gallery, every shelf has been designed by Ronan and Erwan Bourollec.  The dividers used throughout the exhibit were designed by them as well, and they’re a modular system, attached with tabs and bands that hook together.
In the next portion of the exhibit, there was a table with several iPads, showing some of their work, and how some concepts were developed.  It was a nice looking app, but I think that wasn’t the most effective way to show their design process.

 This is their Ovale Collection.  I love the clean feeling, and I love these forms – not quite regular, but perfectly smooth and organic.

And this sofa?  I’ve mentioned before, these sofas are my favorite sofas that exist, but I had never seen them before this exhibit.  I saw them, and I sat on them.  It was magical and perfect.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is fantastic.  It’s on par with the DIA in terms of awesomeness and significance of collection.   The layout of the museum feels like it’s evolved through several additions, and it’s not particularly easy to navigate. They have a lot of well known works, like A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, American Gothic and Warhol’s Mao, which are impressive to see in person after having seen them so much in photos.  Their collection of Indian art was really interesting, as it’s not something that I’ve seen a lot of. The modern wing is a total departure from the rest of the museum, it’s clean and white, with tall ceilings.  It feels like it’s trying to be a separate place, and it’s working.  My favorite exhibit in the modern wing was about Studio Gang, a group of architects.  It’s not terribly common to see architecture presented in a museum setting, and this exhibit shows their design process really well.

 They had a pretty decent furniture/decorative arts collection.  This piece?  It’s by David Wolcott Kendall.*
I liked the Art Institute of Chicago a lot, but I wish I’d had more time to spend there.  As it was, I got to spend about three hours there, but could have been there all day and still not have seen everything.  For next time, I think I’ll allow a day and a half, just for the AIC.

I’d like to give a huge shoutout to Dylan for making this whole trip possible.  Yay for Dylan!

*David Wolcott Kendall is known for A) Being the designer who Kendall College is named after and B) Having owned a ton of old books that I had to find records for last year and C) Being a really big deal in terms of…like…furniture design.


I saw Real/Surreal and they gave me a sticker.
The exhibit was curated and organized by The Whitney, and making it’s first stop on tour at the GRAM, where it will be from October 19 to January 13.
As you walk into the exhibit, you see the description of it on the wall, with coloured lights pointing to it, which looked kind of cool.  When I walked into the first room of the exhibit, I looked around at the works a little bit.  They had some pretty significant paintings, Hopper and Wyeth and such.  All of the work is from the 1920’s to 1950’s, and it’s all American.  That’s not an era and  The piece that caught my eye in this room was Anatomical Painting, by Pavel Tchelitchew.  It doesn’t quite fit wit the rest of the works, but it’s striking nonetheless.  
In the next room, there’s a similar layout, but hidden in the back corner is an interactive part of the exhibit.  It consists of a piece of glass standing in the middle of this smaller room they’ve made, and you’re supposed to create a piece of art relating to your dreams.  I hope that I’m not the target audience for this, because it didn’t work for me at all.  
One major thing I noticed about the exhibit is that it’s colored.  The walls, instead of your range of art gallery colors (white, off white, grey, slightly blue) are dark purple and green and yellow, which makes it feel like you’re not quite in a museum. There are also walls in the middle of the room, short walls, at odd angles that kind of throw me off.  I think I need walls to exist on a grid.  It’s an impressive collection of pieces, but there’s something about it that didn’t quite work for me.  It has the ingredients of something great, but the whole exhibit falls short of that.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Musée des Beaux Arts Montréal rocked my world. Like most places I go, I didn’t know much about it before going there, but when I arrived, I was amazed. The museum was founded in 1860, making it the oldest art institution in Canada. Admission to the permanent collection is free for everyone, which I think is fantastic. I love free things. The museum consists of three buildings, connected by a tunnel beneth the street. It’s funny though, because the tunnel is used as a gallery, and since it doesn’t seem dark or damp or confining, you can’t tell it’s a tunnel unless you know to look for it.  I remember just thinking that I was in a basement gallery, then ending up in another building, across the street.

In the main building, the person who gives you a list of what type of art is in which gallery tells you that the best way to go through the museum is to take the elevator to the forth floor, then go through the galleries there and work your way down.  If you do that, you see the art in a somewhat chronological order, starting with the Middle Ages and ending in the mid-twentieth century.  In the other buildings, they have collections of contemporary art and non-western art.  I wish I had more time to spend at this museum.  As it was, I had about two hours, and I feel like I saw a small fraction of the whole collection.  I will definitely stop here if I’m ever in Montreal again.

This piece was the most intriguing thing that I saw.  The full title is The Throne Room, Queluz National Palace, Sintra, Portugal, and it’s by Dorian FitzGerald.  The process by which it was created sounds interesting, involving printing the image on strips of acetate to transfer it to a canvas, which is coated in a thick acrylic, then traced with an acrylic caulk.  The result is striking, and it makes me want to attempt something similar.
So, here’s the deal.  Go to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and it will change your life and make you a better person and get rid of your acne and you will make friends with everyone.  Seriously.  It’s great.
Thanks for reading.  If you know about anything super cool that I should write about, email me.  Also, I’m super pumped for ArtPrize to start!

Art Gallery of Ontario

I really like art museums, so when I heard about the Art Gallery of Ontario, I decided to go.  The outside of the building is dominated by this huge glass curved thing, which is interesting to see incorporated with the interior space.  The inside of that glass curve was made of fantastic wood supports, and the only way I can describe it is swoon-worthy.  Sigh.  The building is clearly new combined with old, and it’s done really well.  Once I entered the building, I was drawn into a high ceilinged room with this huge, fantastic, Frank Gehry staircase.  It’s super fantastic amazing, but I couldn’t walk on it because it led to a special exhibit that I didn’t pay for.
When I walked up the stairs at the other end of the room, I got to their collection of Canadian art, which was pretty extensive.  I don’t know much of anything about Canadian art, so it was interesting to see for the first time.  It featured a lot of scenes from nature and rural life.  The galleries where they showed Canadian art all looked roughly like this.
Notice what’s missing?  Information.  Most of the art museums that I’ve been to have something explaining the art, even if it just says the name of the piece, the name of the artist, and the media used.  These galleries didn’t have any of that.  After looking around a little, I found these.
Those brochures had a small picture of each piece, along with basic information about each piece.  However, there were some brochures in French and some in English.  If the little box didn’t have any more in your language, or didn’t have any at all, you were out of luck.  This isn’t the best way to manage things.
On the highest floor, the museum had their contemporary art, which was fascinating, and conveniently, the least crowded part of the museum.  The contemporary art exhibit felt a little bit like I remember Centre Pompidou feeling, but that might just be me.  I felt like the contemporary gallery was really well done.  There was also a spot near the top of the Gehry staircase from which you had a fantastic view of Toronto.  The second highest floor also was supposed to have contemporary art, but it was closed to set up another exhibit.
Overall, I liked the museum, but I found that I was more impressed by the building itself than the museum’s collection.  It’s worth a visit, for sure, but don’t expect to spend all day there unless you’re going to a special exhibit and more of the museum is open.
If you’re interested in visiting, information about tickets and hours can be found here.

As always, if there’s something cool that I should blog about, email me!  Especially with Artprize coming up, I’m always looking for things to write about.


I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and I’ve decided that it’s going to happen.  I am going on tour.
Doesn’t it sound exciting?  I’m excited.
Some time in the next year, probably from May to the beginning of June, I’ll have a big hunk of free time and nothing to do.  This trip will probably take up this time.
For the trip, I’m planning on taking some form of transportation other than a car.  I like driving a whole lot, but it sometimes feels like it’s taking the easy way out.  You don’t have to talk to people, you don’t have to stop in new places.  Also, you can’t really write and drive at the same time, and I’d like to get some writing done in transit.  I’ll probably write to Amtrak and Greyhound, on the off chance that they’d be willing to sponsor my trip.  If neither of them can help me out, I’ll probably take the Megabus.
I’ll start the trip out at home, in Grand Rapids.  From there, I’m planning to go to Chicago, where I’ll spend a couple days.  In Chicago, I know that I want to go to the Art Institute of Chicago.   After that, the plans get fuzzier.  I know I want to go to Milwaukee, to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum.
What else is there to do in the world?  Is there anything in St. Louis that’s fantastic?  What about everything in Minnesota?  I want to find amazing things that are related to art and design and located in the upper half of the United States.  Do you know of anything?  Let’s see great stuff together, then blog about it.
One more thing: I have a huge deep love for this podcast called 99% Invisible, and they’re doing a campaign on kickstarter to fund a third season of their show.  The guy who does it is Roman Mars, and he creates fantastic radio and distributes it for free.  If you’d like to support it, you can go here.