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Museums in the 21st Century: Concepts, Projects, Buildings Explores Worldwide Boom in Museum Building

NASHVILLE, TN.- Museums in the 21st Century: Concepts, Projects, Buildings will open to the public in the Frist Center for the Visual Arts’ Upper-Level Galleries May 29, 2009 and will remain on view until August 23, 2009.

Organized by Art Centre Basel, the exhibition is a survey of the latest museum architecture in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. Eighteen unique designs are represented by models, sketches, computer renderings, photographs and animation—all of which provide fascinating insight into the creative processes of many of the world’s major architectural firms. The buildings themselves are at various stages of development. Some have been completed and are already open to the public, some are in the process of being constructed and some have not yet gotten off the ground—and may never come to fruition because of financial constraints.

While the Frist Center is not included in the exhibition, Frist Center Associate Curator Trinita Kennedy thinks that the adaptive use of Nashville’s historic post office complements the show well. “In this day and age, as the world becomes more complex and global, museums are no longer simply repositories of the world’s great art,” Kennedy commented. “As people seek connections … to the past … to ideas … to each other, museums are central to those explorations as they become places of conversation, study, discourse and celebration.”

“We have seen that here in Nashville,” she continued, “as we have watched the Frist Center become a place where art fosters education, creativity and the sharing of ideas.”

These new and expanded roles often call for the creation of buildings that address a new, broader functionality or additions to existing facilities in order to meet new needs.

“Tensions can, and often do, emerge between the specialized needs of museums and the desire for architects to make an aesthetic statement,” Kennedy said.

“Museum building projects in this exhibition include those that are beautifully integrated into their surroundings and several that are set in stark (and sometimes shocking) opposition to their surroundings,” Kennedy noted. “There are buildings by ‘starchitects,’ (such as Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind).”

Not only does this exhibition illuminate the relationship of architecture to the exhibition of art, it also explores the relationship between architecture and the environment. In the Stonehenge Visitor Centre and Interpretive Museum, architects Denton Corker Marshall drastically altered their original design to adapt to the landscape, and Tadao Ando buried his Chichu Art Museum in the earth of Naoshima, Japan, out of respect for the pristine panorama of the island on which it is located.

On the other hand, the biomorphic structure of Kunsthaus Graz in Graz, Austria, stands in sharp and deliberate contrast to neighboring historic buildings. It was conceived as a structural bridge where past and future meet and is called by locals “the friendly alien.”

Among the projects profiled in the exhibition:

The expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (Taniguchi and Associates); Kunsthaus Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria (Spacelab Cook-FournierGmbH); the Paul Klee Centre, Berne, Switzerland (Renzo Piano Building Workshop); the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (Frank Gehry Partners, LLP) and the expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO (Steven Holl Architects).

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