Exploring the Modern Wing: Part 1

Posted in art by Anna on May 21, 2009


Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting the much-anticipated and recently opened Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago and was pleasantly surprised.  Having recently visited the Walker, a contemporary art museum in Minneapolis rife with oppressively whimsical architectural nuances, such as eight stories of space-wasting split-level stairs and an entire floor wallpapered with Dr. Suessian eyeballs against a coral-pink background, I was relieved to see the Modern Wing veers away from such self-indulgent kookiness.

Rather, it opts for function over fashion, with a palette of bright white and sleek, minimalist lines.  There is a clean, clear, spacious quality to the wing’s smooth glass paneling, linear support poles, light-filtering screens, and high, wide entryways, that allows the space to serve as a canvas for the art, rather than demanding the viewer’s attention with endearing, but distracting, absurdities.  A large part of how the architect, Renzo Piano, is able to turn viewer’s attention to the objects inside his rooms occurs through the illusion of space.  Although the wing houses two shops, a coffee bar, a courtyard, and numerous galleries, his building never feels cluttered, commercialized, or overcrowded.  And although I visited the  day after the wing opened, and the halls were flooded with people, the wide hallways and bright, open lights dissipated the masses.  Crowds are lost in Piano’s sea of light, lines, and angles, as is anything hokey or gimmicky.

The Modern Wing exists not as an egotistical entity, but as a platform for the art it houses.


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