Art Museum, Exhibition Reviews

Museo Jumex Review

No Comments 24 January 2014

Where is the Art ?

Where is the Art ?

“Definition: Curate, noun, 1: one who has the care of souls, 2: as assistant or a deputy of a rector or vicar in the churches of the Anglican communion and in the Roman Catholic Church”
— Webster’s Third Edition

“What is the Basic Responsibility of a Museum ?”

My wife and I have been living in Mexico City for more than two years. I travel for work in California, New York and Asia. Since moving to Mexico we have seen an explosion of new and renovated museums, including the excellent Museo Tamayo and Museo Soumaya (in the interest of full disclosure I worked on the opening of MIDE). In Mexico there is a quickly expanding middle class with a hunger to understand the world.

On a Sunday morning, my wife and I decided to visit the Museo Jumex. This museum is located in “Nuevo Polanco”, a shopping district.

Our visit to the museum begins at 11 a.m. The lobby is a big, beautiful space with five Mexican hipsters seated behind a large wood table with electrical and communication cables spilling out the back. We make our way to the top floor — the third floor. Here we find “A Place in Two Dimensions, A Selection from the Coleccion Jumex + Fred Sandback, Curated by Patrick Charpenel” printed on a large text panel that also discusses the duality of space and time:

“Thus, parallel realities or dimensions are possible for all those not subject to the limitation imposed by a single system. The principal of dimensional simultaneity establishes that two or more physical objects, realities or perceptions can coexist at the same time and in the same space. [ …]

A Place in Two Dimensions […] reformulates these concepts through two independent and autonomous exhibitions installed in a single space. This project features, on the one hand, representative works from the collection of Eugenio López Alonso (including sculptures, paintings, installations and videos created by over fifty different artists), and on the other, a solo show by American artist Fred Sandback (1943–2003). Thus, different works made with diverse languages and media are superimposed and connected to seven minimalist installations that are characteristic of Sandback’s practice. The simplicity and agility of Sandback’s projects contrast with the strong visual and physical presence of the pieces selected from Colección Jumex.”

My reaction to the text panel is passive and we enter the gallery to the sound of five woman in their thirties taking photos of each other very loudly in front of the Art. The women are literally shrieking with excitement as they take their photos. My first reaction is to go over and discuss with them a “museum-level of speaking”, but it seems pointless. They were probably in the area to do some shopping and therefore had a completely different mindset upon entering the museum.

The third-floor gallery displays work by Carl Andre, Ellsworth Kelley and Jeff Koons loosely associated through “space”.

We round the corner to find a piece by Artschwager (a favorite artist of mine). I suddenly feel lost. I try to think back to the text panel, but I’m unable to draw a connection between one gallery and the next, nor can I figure how they are tied to ”space”.

I love the work of Artschwager, but to include him in a group of artists related to space is a stretch. I stand back and try to make sense of what I am looking at: there are many different artists from different periods hung next to each other. I have a strange sense of confirmation when I see the work of Yoshiro Suda installed on the floor, in line with the fire pull-box, the thermostat and the gallery video camera which hang on the wall. This is the same piece that has been used in promotional materials: it is featured on posters above the lobby entry desk, in the museum’s shop window, and on the gallery level.

If the piece is of so much importance, why is it hung in view with the thermostat, fire pull-box and video camera?

If it is of such great importance, why aren’t they offering interpretation of the Artwork?

I watch as couple after couple approach the piece, unclear where to look, until they finally point to the floor. The piece “Spring of Wood” 2001 by Yoshiro Suda is a small, delicate sculpture that requires the attention of the viewer. It is unfair to both the viewer and the artist to place the piece in a corner, let alone such a cluttered one.

On the second floor there is a wonderful exhibition, “James Lee Byars: 1/2 an Autobiography”, organized and curated by Fundacion Jumex and MoMA PS1. The curation assistance of PS1 is evident and a welcome change of pace.

On the sublevel is a mishmash of Art pieces without interpretation. We go back upstairs and ask for a list of the pieces on display. We are told they only have one copy and that we can look at the list but not take it to the lower level.

I leave the museum scratching my head. It’s now 1:30 p.m.

The Artwork displayed in the museum (or in any museum) requires context, as each artist builds upon their predecessors. If the public is not made aware of this history, the museum experience turns into something akin to a shopping experience. Visitors will loudly take photos of themselves in front of the collected artists’ names and take only the superficial experience back home. The humbling lesson in history and progress is lost.

I take the museum experience very seriously, it is my religion. I relish the hushed atmosphere of MoMA and DIA.

In the USA we have the luxury of a long history of Modern Art experiences. Mexico City has several wonderful museums such as Museo de Arte Moderno, MUAC, Museum Tamayo, and each have significant interpretation and offer a critical approach to curation. This approach is lacking in Museo Jumex.

A museum experience must be different than shopping. It shouldn’t reflect the eclectic whims of those who purchased the art but should be evocative of the careful thought and planning that goes into creating an exhibition and the inevitable history that exists within each piece of Art. All artworks belongs to a continuum of Art history, therefore the Art requires available educators, it needs on-floor interpretation.

I believe Museo Jumex crossed a boundary. The best Art collections will communicate a greater sum than their parts; a message will emerge from the overall collection that is not apparent in the individual Art pieces. I was not made to connect with this greater sum as I walked through the Jumex collection. Just as some would be offended by mixing shopping and religion, I am offended by mixing a shopping experience with a museum experience.

Museums in developing countries carry a greater responsibility to educate the expanding middle-class public on the importance of museums as a touchstone to civil society and culture. Mexico has a rich and diverse history of Contemporary Art, none of which was made clear at the museum.

My photos of Museo Jumex on Pinterest

Museo Jumex Architect: David Chipperfield

Exhibition Design, Exhibition Reviews

Best Museum Exhibitions of 2012

3 Comments 19 February 2013

In 2012 I visited a total of sixty-three museums, often visiting a city for work, then taking a day to visit the local museums.  My favorite exhibitions were in New York City, Mexico City, Minneapolis, Hong Kong and Washington, D.C..  When I am visiting a museum exhibition, I am looking for layers of information, starting from an exhibition statement.   I am a strong believer in Pre-Visit, Visit and Post-Visit, does the exhibition support an online pre-visit orientation ?, does the exhibition have an exhibition statement with supporting layers? Is there information for resources post-visit?  Does the entire exhibition hold together with one voice? Does it present the information in a constant manner?  Is the exhibition attractive, inclusive and welcoming?

The best exhibitions are the result of a curatorial vision. Kudos to the curators, exhibition developers and exhibition designers and fabricators of these exhibitions. Below are my selections for the “Best Exhibitions of 2012″

Best Exhibition of the 2012

Sexualidad

Science Center: Universum, “Sexualidad” (Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)
I believe exhibitions have the ability to change people’s lives and Sexualidad is structured to communicate and encourage  conversation, with the goal of giving visitors the tools to make personal decisions.   Most of all, I was impressed by the courage of Universum to present such a difficult topic as sexuality in as “flat” and helpful a manner.     The exhibition includes difficult topics such as incest, abuse by clergy, sexual attraction, contraception and reproduction.  The information was factual, flat and helpful.  I visited the exhibition twice and each time I was impressed by teenagers and couples paying attention and learning. The exhibition includes varying levels of privacy, from the personal viewers for topics such as incest to small theater areas for biology topics.  The exhibition had a clean and minimal aesthetic, incorporating glass, white frosted acrylic and many back light panels with interaction when appropriate.  Kudos to Universum!

History Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

shoes

(Click on photo for link to “Museum Exhibitions Change Lives”)

Towards the end of my tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I stood at the back of the exhibition theater and cried, I know of no better response to an exhibition.  I was touched on an emotional, intellectual and spiritual level.  See my blog post, “Exhibition Change Lives”

Children’s Museum – Minnesota Children’s Museum

Minnesota Children's Museum

(Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)

I have not been to the Children’s Museum of Minnesota since it opened in 1995 and wasn’t sure what to expect.  After touring the galleries, I asked to speak with the Director of Exhibition, only to congratulate them on the continued excellence.  The galleries are fun, lively, but never childlike.  Children’s museums have an opportunity to address children as developing people, with interests and desires of their own.  When given the opportunity they can make their own decisions and explorations with the guidance of adults.  The Children’s Museum of Minnesota is such a place, being welcoming, fun, exciting while never talking down to children. Instead it gives children an opportunity to explore and reach.  The building architecture is incorporated into the experience, offering graphics for both adults and children.  My only criticism is the lack of a museum collection as an introduction to a museum experience.

Art Museum - Museo Rufino Tamayo
Tamayo

(Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)

The exhibitions coincided with the building renovation and the museum re-opening.  I loved the entry Art piece of the exhibition “Primer Acto” by Douglas Gordon “Off Screen” 1998, placing the visitor at center stage.  “Primer Acto” played with the boundaries between artist, museum and visitor.   “Tomorrow was already here” is an artist’s look at previous visions of the future. The museum reopening included  excellent programming to accompany each exhibition.  There are programming areas in each exhibition areas which include selections of books and videos to support the exhibitions.

Corporate Installation - Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis

Le Merridien
(Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)
You will notice that two of the exhibitions are from Mexico City and two from Minnesota, I do not find this a coincidence.  The best exhibitions are the result of a community and the art installations at the Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis Hotel are brilliant.  When I first checked into the hotel, I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, thinking I must be in the lobby of the restaurant and seeing the restaurant’s art collection.  I asked and was told “yes, the art is part of the hotel” and was given an art guide.  When I  arrived at my room, I found the same level of Art installed in my room.  Hotel guests can find more information about the art in their room (including prices) and a guide to the Art in the public areas.

Notable Exhibitions of 2012 (Links to each):
Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso - Ernesto Neto
OMR - Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
MUAC
Centro Cultual Espana- I loved the basement exhibition, seeing the layers of history of the development of DF
Science Museum of Minnesota

I do not believe in crowd sourcing of exhibitions and don’t see how any of the exhibition above could have been created through the methods of crowd sourcing.

In the interest of full disclosure, none of the museums above are clients.

Exhibition Design, Exhibition Reviews, Museum Planning

Museum Exhibitions Change Lives

3 Comments 13 January 2012

Museum Exhibitions change lives, maybe more than any other media. Sculpture, painting, film, dance, theater and music, all combined with the visitor into one experience.  I believe that museum exhibitions have the opportunity to change lives.

Friday, I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum .   The building is non nondescript, I was struck by the brutality of the steel and concrete, the architecture is very abrupt and bunker like.  Visitors enter through metal detectors.   At the entrance is a picture of Stephen Tyrone Johns, I noticed the picture, but didn’t think much about it until I was leaving the museum (Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, was killed at the Museum by an antisemite).

I started my visit on the lower level at “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda”.  I was struck by the similarities between exhibition design and propaganda, both using, simple messages, theatrical tools, strong visuals, communicating the same message in different methods, repetition of messages and using crowds to build energy.  I am not suggesting the exhibitions are propaganda, but exhibition design does incorporate some of the tools of propaganda.

Next I visited “Daniel’s Story”, to me the exhibition looked dated.

Then I went upstairs to the second floor and visited “From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide” a nice enough exhibition, although I was the most impressed by the call to action and the use of the Pen Scribe to record their pledges.

I was feeling as if I was missing part of the museum.  I had heard about the museum for years and I knew there was more to the museum.  I went to the information desk and “asked where is the main gallery?”  The docent gave me a map and directed me to the elevator to the left of the entrance.  The wall of the entrance to the elevator is clad is cor ten steel and very imposing. A floor staff memeber gave us an over view of what were we going to see on the three upper floors. The permananet exhibition “The Holocaust” is divided into three floors; “Nazi Assault,” “Final Solution,” and “Last Chapter.”

Starting on the forth floor,  the experience starts with, the “Nazi Assault”, then the third floor with “Final Solution,” then on the second floor with the “Last Chapter”. On the forth floor I was thinking, “okay this is a typical theatrical exhibition”. Then I smelled the odor of the interior of the rail car similar to those used to transport thousands of victims , smelled the leather of thousands of shoes of victims and I felt as if I was being manipulated, by the “Last Chapter”, I was changed.

Yes, I had been manipulated by the exhibition, but I learned to trust the authority of the museum and allowed myself to be changed.  I am a strong believer in the democratization of content, working in a transparent “open source” method and involving the visitor. But, there is no way this story can be told by anyone other than those that lived it. I do not want to hear the thoughts of others, I want exactly what the Museum provided, a clear, concise, well edited, factual, theatrical and life changing experience.  The museum and the Holocaust survivors are the authirity on the content, and we as visitors need to repect the history and the survivors.

I have never thought of walking as an interactive activity, but the museum uses the visitors journey through the museum  from the forth floor, third floor then to the second floor, as a tool to emotionally attach the visitor to the content.  When I was working at Liberty Science Center, we had a simple table top activity, visitors could move a tape head across recorded magnetic tape and hear the recorded sound.  By changing the perspective from moving the tape head, instead of  moving the tape, visitors understood the tape head “reads” information of the magnetic tape.  The Holocaust Museum uses a similar approach, instead of presenting us a theatrical show, we walk across the theater stage and become actors in the show. I loved the white spaces in between each floor, that allowed me to take a breath and go on to the next act in the “show”.  I enjoyed the use of art, included in the museum at each “pause” between the galleries.

“Gravity” by Richard Serra
“Consequence”  by Sol LeWitt
“Memorial” by Ellsworth Kelly

In “The Holocaust” galleries, there were children some as young as seven or eight.  Then I understood the need for “Daniel’s Story”, this content is not appropriate for children, but it is important to tell the Holocaust history and “Daniel’s Story” presents the content in a way kids can digest.

When leaving the museum, the brutal bunker architecture made sense , this is a Museum built to survive attacks.

When I reached the second floor of  “The Holocasut” I was changed, I had become emotionally attached to the content.  To be honest I was overwhelmed and wanted to leave the museum. Before I left, I paused at the theater and listened to a Holocaust survivor describing seeing soldiers and taking off his wooden shoe to hit the soldier in the head, the soldier an American said , “I am here to save you, not kill you”.  I stood at the back of the theater and cried.

At the exit to “The Holocaust” gallery:

“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Exhibition Reviews

Museum Review of Museo Pambata

No Comments 22 June 2011

A video review of Museo Pambata

Exhibition Reviews

A Quick Trip to the Nascar Hall of Fame

No Comments 03 July 2010


From the New York Times, July 3, 2010, By Robert Peele

A Quick Trip to the Nascar Hall of Fame

“In short, I was impressed. Glory Road, the sweeping exhibit that greets fans as they enter the museum’s Great Hall, features 18 classic Nascar vehicles parked on a track whose banking gradually increases as the cars progress into the modern era. It’s the museum’s green flag, in a sense, and it offers a neat snapshot of the history of stock car racing. Not surprisingly, cars from the sport’s earlier decades — back when they actually looked like stock cars, in other words — were the highlights. Favorites included Herb Thomas’s 1952 Hudson Hornet, Fireball Roberts’s 1963 Ford Galaxie and the Plymouth Belvedere in which Richard Petty won 27 races, including 10 in a row, in 1967.”

Exhibition Reviews

Exhition Review: Museum Pambata

No Comments 07 February 2010

starstarstarstar 4 of 5 Stars

Posted: February 7, 2010

Museo Pambata
Roxas Boulevard corner South Drive
Manila, Philippines 1000
Telephone: (632) 523.1797
Facsimile:(632) 522.1246
Email:info@museopambata.org

Website: http://www.museopambata.org

Admission Price: 100 Pesos ($2.17 USD)

Size: approximately 30,000  sq. ft. of exhibits

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

My Review:

The museum is just doing so many things right!

  • A mobile library
  • An in museum library
  • Fun entrances to spaces
  • Layers of information
  • Spending money on theming as appropriate
  • Including Children’s Art
  • Cultural Galleries

Summary:

  • A collecting Museum
  • A “true” Children’s Museum in the model of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (The first museum for children)
  • Excellent Exhibits
  • Lighting, painting, finishes could be improved
  • Issues of ergonomics, tables to tall, graphics hung too high
  • Exhibit cover a wide range of topics in a relatively small space

Ground Floor:

  • Old Manila
  • Environment
  • Children of the Global Village

Second Floor:

  • My Body Works
  • Science Through Discovery
  • Marketplace
  • Career Options
  • Money Matters

Art Museum, Exhibition Reviews, Project Management

2009 in Review: Museum Exhibitions – ARTINFO.com

No Comments 01 January 2010

Review of 2009 Art Exhibitions

2009 in Review: Museum Exhibitions – ARTINFO.com

Art Museum, Exhibition Reviews

Review: Turner Prize 2009

No Comments 28 December 2009

Cherwell – C2 – Review: Turner Prize 2009

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Exhibition Reviews, History Museum

Exhibition Review; Museum of Jurassic Technology

No Comments 12 December 2009

I visited the War museum in Singapore and its own way it reminded me of the Museum of Jurassic Technology.  I thought how could I have forgotten my favorite Museum!

Web Site Link

The Museum is located at:

9341 Venice Boulevard
Culver City, California 90232
Telephone: (310) 836-6131
email: info@mjt.org
http://www.mjt.org

One of my favorite museums anywhere!

Just what any museum should do, make you think!  Is this real?  Is this a joke?  Is this Art?  I believe the most important skills in life are:

1. Critical Thinking
2. Tolerance
3. Empathy

The museum calls on the visitor to use the their crtical thinking skills and examine the museum and their own acceptance of information as fact.  The museum is created by David Wilson a conceptual artist.

Wikipedia Link

Art Museum, Exhibition Reviews

“Tim Burton” at the Museum of Modern Art

No Comments 06 December 2009

From New York Times article

by Ken Johnson

“Tim Burton’s career is the ultimate revenge of the art nerd. Mr. Burton, the self-professed alienated child of a dysfunctional family in Burbank, Calif., who funneled his loneliness, pain and grief into drawing cartoons, has found fame, fortune and a beautiful companion (Helena Bonham Carter) by telling cinematic tales of sensitive misfits triumphing over, or succumbing to, a world of repressive mediocrity.”

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