November 18, 2008

The Decordova Museum

I've long wanted to visit the Decordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts (just outside Boston) and never quite got around to it. I'll be back. It was delightful.

Set on the former Decordova estate, the museum is both a sculpture park and a regional contemporary art venue. A wide variety of modern sculpture is everywhere throughout the grounds and invites visitors to explore. The gallery spaces are housed in the mansion house, which sits atop a steep hill at the center of the site, and a modern addition with additional gallery spaces.
Most interesting from an architectural perspective is the way the architects of the 20,000 SF addition, Kallmann McKinnell & Wood of Boston, connected the mansion house to the parking below. The expansion succeeds because it is sensitive to the site. The entrance is understated but easy to find, the circulation is obvious–a brightly-lit stair open to the landscape, and the galleries provide a variety of larger and small spaces, well suited to the contemporary art on display. The building is nicely detailed, but restrained. It compliments the art, the sculpture, and the landscape, rather than competing for your attention in a place that already has plenty of other attractions.

November 2, 2008

WSJ on Museums and the "new" economy

The Wall Street Journal has a very good analysis of the effect of our current economic problems on art museums, particularly on building projects.  A few quotes:
  • Pressure to expand museums comes from shortsighted donors with an "edifice complex," says Scott Black, a trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and chairman of Delphi Capital Management. 
  • . . . museum directors say they are actually potentially much more nimble than the cash-strapped orchestra or local theater might be because they have such diverse sources of revenue -- membership income, facilities rental, donations, endowment, admissions and gift-shop sales.
  • The Parrish . . . museum will not break ground until 80% of the target amount is reached through donations. "A decision was made not to take a mortgage" to raise the financing, she says, and now she's glad there isn't one.
  • Meanwhile, the High Museum's Michael Shapiro is thinking far in the future. "We're putting a lot of energy into planned giving, into bequests," he says. In the meantime, the High's annual wine auction is coming in March, and the museum is beefing it up and hoping for record results. People may want to drink more wine in a recession, the director says.

Good stuff all around.