July 14, 2014
By Ingrid Skjong | Museums

Atlanta Unveils the National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Photo courtesy of Albert Vecerka & Rockwell Group

Sometimes there is no denying a good idea. In 2005, now late civil rights icon Evelyn Lowery told then mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin that the city needed a civil rights museum. Politician and activist Andrew Young came next with the same suggestion. Nine years later, after generous gifts from local entities (a substantial land donation from Coca-Cola) and mounting excitement, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights opened its doors on June 23.

Using the American civil rights movement as a framework, the 42,000-square-foot museum weaves a compelling, immersive experience aimed at bringing an integral point in history to life. “This is really created for generations that didn’t live through the civil rights movement,” says Judith Service Montier, the center’s vice president of marketing. “To help those individuals understand history in a way that inspires them and empowers them to create a more just and human future.”

Thanks to an unorthodox design team—including Tony award–winning theater director George C. Wolfe, curator of the center’s “Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement” gallery; architect Philip Freelon (in partnership with architecture/interior-design firm HOK), who co-created the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C.; and exhibition designer David Rockwell—storytelling and a sense of place play key roles. In one exhibit, visitors can sit at an authentic lunch counter and hear equally genuine audio of racially fueled taunts and jeers. In another, a mock-up of a Freedom Riders bus is covered with photographs of the diverse people who went on the road throughout the South for equality. A rotating selection of pieces from the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection brings a familiar face into clearer focus.

The Human Rights Gallery takes things a step further, illustrating the global struggle for parity and acceptance. And while the hope is to pull in as many as 400,000 visitors a year, the ultimate mission goes beyond tourism statistics, putting an American movement at the heart of a decidedly global goal. “You see that it created a vocabulary that is used around the world in other human-rights struggles,” says Service Montier. “You’ll see this throughout the exhibits, [like] the women in Saudi Arabia that are fighting for the right to drive calling themselves freedom drivers.” 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd.; 678-999-8990;

June 23, 2014
By Scott Rothkopf | Art, Arts + Culture, Museums

Jeff Koons
Collection of the artist. ©Jeff Koons.

Scott Rothkopf, curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art's survey of the artist, opening June 27.

Jeff Koons and I began talking about putting on a show in 2010. The Whitney knew it was going to be moving downtown, and we were thinking about ways to celebrate its departure from the Breuer building. An unprecedented Jeff Koons retrospective felt like an exciting grand finale. It allowed for something we’ve never done before: give a single artist the building. People are often shocked that Jeff has never had a major museum show in New York. But once we started working on the exhibit, it was clear why that might be. The works are very fragile—and very expensive. We’re talking about large porcelain objects that could break, shiny metal surfaces that attract fingerprints. To do the show required a tremendous amount of logistical collaboration. People are aware of Jeff as the center of hype about the marketplace, about artists as celebrities, about industrial fabrication. But that has obscured the fact that he’s made some of the great works of art in the last half century. The scandal of his reception is central to the way that he’s pushed the limits for so many artists today. I hope the exhibition will allow people to marvel at the variety of subjects, materials and scales that his art comprises. “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” is on view through October 19; 945 Madison Ave., New York;

July 17, 2013
By Erin Schumaker | Museums

A Grace Kelly Costume Exhibit in Montreal
Courtesy of Montreal’s McCord Museum

With the exception of Audrey Hepburn and perhaps Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, few style icons were as effortlessly glamorous as Grace Kelly. “She seemed to lead a charmed life,” says Cynthia Cooper, curator of “From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly—Beyond the Icon,” on view at the McCord Museum in Montreal through October 6. “She grew up in a wealthy family, she was an Oscar-winning actress, she married a prince. But there is another side to her. She was down-to-earth, and she worked hard as an actress.”

That other side is what Cooper hopes shines through in the exhibit, which features roughly 100 objects, archives, love letters, notes, photos and film clips. The museum also highlights approximately 40 of Kelly’s garments on loan from the Palace of Monaco. Cooper, a costume historian, is particularly enthused to bring Kelly’s legacy to life through clothing. Notable articles include the peach-colored dress she donned during the famous convertible scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955) (Kelly made 11 films in her five-year career), and the modest taffeta-and-Alençon-lace frock she wore during her civil wedding ceremony in 1956 to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. (They are pictured here at their religious ceremony.) 

“Our exhibit tries to show what is behind her life as an icon and let the public know who she was,” Cooper says. “We know her as someone who loved her clothes, shopped for things she liked and that suited her and wore them again and again. The ideal femininity of the 1950s suited her to a T.” Through October 6; 690 Sherbrooke St. W.; 514-398-7100;

May 15, 2013
By Erin Schumaker | Museums

An Ellsworth Kelly Exhibit at the Barnes Foundation
© Ellsworth Kelly. Photo courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

The Barnes Foundation—a collection of works by Post-Impressionist masters such as Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse that Albert C. Barnes amassed between 1912 and 1952—is celebrating the first anniversary of its move to a new space on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Marking the occasion is a new contemporary exhibition called “Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall” (through September 2) that includes Kelly’s landmark work, Sculpture for a Large Wall (pictured here). The massive painting, which measures 65 feet wide by more than 11 feet tall, was originally commissioned for the Philadelphia Transportation Building in the 1950s and is returning to the city for the first time since 1988.

“It has been a tremendous honor to work with an artist of his caliber,” says Judith F. Dolkart, the foundation’s chief curator. “Ellsworth’s interest in line, form and color echo elements that were critical to Albert C. Barnes’s aesthetic theories and display practice.” In addition to Sculpture for a Large Wall, seven of Kelly’s other works will also be displayed.

Reflecting on the museum’s first year in its new location, Dolkart seems pleased. The foundation brought in more than 300,000 visitors, many of whom were experiencing the collection for the first time. And those who were already well acquainted with the Barnes Foundation got to see the works in a new light, literally, thanks to a state-of-the-art system that illuminates the pieces in all their detailed glory. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.; 215-278-7200;

April 10, 2013
By Erin Schumaker | Museums

Rijksmuseum Reopens
John Lewis Marshall / Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands, reopens on April 13 after a ten-year, $500 million renovation.

Originally opened in 1885, the four-floor, 128-year-old museum is an ode to masters of the Dutch Golden Age, including Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. Now, after its revamp headed by Spanish design firm Cruz y Ortiz, it is also an exercise in chronology, telling the history of the Netherlands—from the Middle Ages to the 21st century—via 8,000 paintings, prints, silver pieces, tapestries, jewelry, arms and fashion objects spread throughout 80 galleries. Highlights of the upgrade include a glass-covered entrance hall, a stone-and-glass Asian pavilion, a renovated library and a new outdoor museum based on a 1901 design by Pierre Cuypers, the museum’s original architect.

Despite the chronological reorganization of the museum’s collection, one artwork will not be moving. The Night Watch (1642), Rembrandt’s larger-than-life masterpiece, was deemed famous enough to return to its dedicated space at the end of the Gallery of Honor. 1 Museumstraat; 31-20/662-1440;

March 20, 2013
By Ingrid Skjong | Museums

The Edythe Broad Art Museum Pores Over Pattern
Teresita Fernandez, Night Writing

Opening on March 22 at the four-month-old Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, the exhibit “Pattern: Follow the Rules” riffs on a theme that is close to home—its host building’s exterior. The museum, designed by architect Zaha Hadid and located on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, features steel pleats that envelop it in a light-reflecting skin. Essentially, pattern at its best.

“The architectural element referred to… as a ‘feat of digital engineering’ echoes elements of the paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations that make up ‘Pattern: Follow the Rules,’” says Alison Gass, curator of contemporary art.

One of those pieces, a string drawing called White Wave (2013) by Alyson Shotz, is comprised of thread strung in a pattern around nail heads pounded into the wall, the string and its shadows forming a surprisingly complex viewing experience. Developing her vision via computer, Shotz and her work illustrate another aspect of the exhibit: how the digital world—in particular the repetition and proliferation of pictures, according to Gass—is changing how we interact with and experience art and life in general.

“The rules and systems the artists have engaged embrace the conditions of contemporary visual culture,” says Gass. “Images are everywhere, and they can go on and on and on and on…” March 22 through June 23; E. Circle Dr., East Lansing, MI; 517-353-9836;

March 13, 2013
By Chadner Navarro | Arts + Culture, Travel, Museums

The Return of Vienna’s Kunstkammer
© Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

After remaining closed for nearly a decade, the Kunstkammer at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum—a wing of the building that holds the oldest selection of treasures and artworks collected and commissioned by the royal Habsburg family—re-opened on March 1. Spread across 20 new galleries, the 2,200 pieces include everything from bronze statuettes to spellbinding automatons to intricately designed game boards to scientific tools.

Overall, the wing boasts an impressive range that exposes the remarkable reach and resources of the storied imperial clan. Lesser-known, never-before-seen items reside in the Exotica gallery, which displays ceramics, ivory and mother-of-pearl creations. But the star object of the Kunstkammer (or “art room” in English) is Benvenuto Cellini’s Saliera—a 10-foot-by-13-foot sculpture from the 16th century. It is the only surviving work by the Italian goldsmith and had been stolen from the museum in 2003, when the wing was undergoing construction. It was eventually found in 2006, buried in a forest about 60 miles north of Vienna. Burgring 5; 43-1/525-240;

March 12, 2013
By Ingrid Skjong | Museums

A New Addition to the National WWII Museum
Courtesy of National WWII Museum

Constructed of glass and steel and rising 96 feet out of the Louisiana earth, the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, is a study in evolution. The building, which took 21 months to complete and opened officially in January, embodies a significant milestone in the growth of a museum that takes its educational and historical responsibilities to heart.

“The pavilion…[enables] us to present stories in ways far different from what you find in our other galleries,” says Gordon H. Mueller, president and CEO of the museum. “It provides dramatic spaces and the latest audio-visual technology to support education programs and conferences. Also, the pavilion is especially well suited for military ceremonies and other community events.”

Exhibits and special presentations—author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Arthur Herman leads the lecture “Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II” on March 14—abound. “Vehicles of War” explores tanks, ambulances and other equipment. Service members receive due respects in “Service and Sacrifice,” and an exhibit of restored iconic airplanes, such as the North American P-51 Mustang and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, tells the stories behind “warbirds.” And “Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experience” recounts the adventures of the most successful submarine in the war (it sank 33 Japanese ships) and its demise in 1944.

It is an impressive display made all the more notable by its continuing growth, thanks to a $300 million capital expansion plan. Approved nine years ago and set for completion in 2015, it will ultimately increase the size of the museum fourfold, adding additional exhibit spaces, libraries and archives. At 945 Magazine St., New Orleans; 504-528-1944;

February 20, 2013
By Chadner Navarro | Museums

Paying Homage to Pastoe
Courtesy of Kunsthal Rotterdam

From February 23 through June 2, Kunsthal Rotterdam will host a retrospective to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Utrecht-based Dutch furniture brand Pastoe. “Like Pastoe” —curated by Anne van der Zwaag, who has worked with many of the country’s premier art institutions, including the Nederlands Fotomuseum and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen—showcases the company’s long-standing tradition of starkly simple yet high-quality design and craftsmanship.

Visitors will be treated to some of the brand’s most iconic achievements—birch-wood furniture from the ’50s by Cees Braakman, Aldo van den Nieuwelaar’s Amsterdammer cabinets, the architectural leather lounge chair by Belgian designer Maarten Van Severen—and explore some of the brand’s numerous partnerships with creatives such as Shigeru Uchida and Scholten & Baijings. “Pastoe fits perfectly into the Dutch tradition of minimalism and reflects a sobriety that is characteristic for the Dutch’s Calvinistic mentality,” explains van der Zwaag. “This makes it a landmark in the Dutch design field.”

Photographs and advertisements (posters by illustrator Dick Bruna, photography by Cas Oorthuys) give context to Pastoe’s legacy. A jubilee publication, written by van der Zwaag and Gert Staal and designed by Dirk Laucke, provides more information with interviews and analysis. But the ultimate goal is to ensure that the project underlines the brand’s true legacy—an indelible mark on Dutch design. February 23 through June 2; Westzeedijk 341;

December 04, 2012
By Erin Schumaker | Museums


© Luke Abiol, 2012 Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

After successful runs in New York and Berlin, the BMW Guggenheim Lab moves to India on December 9 for a six-week stay in Mumbai. A combination of an urban think tank, a community center and a public gathering space, the program brings together international experts and innovators with the Mumbai community to address issues of urban living. “Mumbai is one of the biggest and most rapidly changing cities in the world,” says curator David van der Leer. “It made sense to go there.”

Unlike the New York and Berlin labs, Mumbai’s operates on a pop-up model, with satellite locations throughout the city in addition to a central site at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum. Van der Leer sees this multisite model as an important way to engage the public in a city of more than 20 million. “We can go into different neighborhoods where normally we might not be able to reach people too easily,” he explains.

The primary topics of discussion will be related to transportation, housing, water, governance and public space, including an open competition to redesign the traffic junction of Kala Nagar, a five-lane nightmare that sees nearly 50,000 people and 20,000 vehicles per peak hour.

In addition to policy and urban-planning talks, film screenings, storytellers and chefs round out the family-friendly roster, creating a model of public participation at its very best. Through January 20;