November 17, 2011

Clyfford Still Museum

The Denver Art Museum has some new competition, the about-to-open Clyfford Still Museum right next door.  The two museum buildings could not be more different.  The Liebskind addition to the DAM is wildly exuberant. The restrained Still Museum is mature and settled. 

Designed by Brad Cloepfil, principal of Allied Works Architecture of Portland, Oregon, the new museum underwhelms where the Libeskind addition dominates. The Still building itself is beautiful in the way that Lauren Bacall is beautiful--simple, elegant, and gracious. And she needs to be gracious with Lady Gaga sitting next to her. I love both women and both museums, for very different reasons, and it is remarkable to see them next to each other. Where Liebskind's building focuses on the architecture, Cloepfil's defers to the art. It is a simple box (modernist revival?), but that is what the program calls for for most art museums. In the Libeskind building, you can't escape from the architecture--it looms and threatens to capsize. In Coepfil's building, it is the art that is outrageous. Lady Gaga might be a lot of fun, but Lauren Bacall is the better bet for the long haul, as Humphrey Bogart certainly understood. 

The Denver Post has a few articles. (Photo credit to them, too). There will be many more once the museum opens tomorrow.

Sacred standards under attack!

For decades, it has been sacrosanct that the ideal conditions for museum collections are 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity. Conservators have had a more nuanced understanding, based on the actual materials in a particular artifact, but even for them stability at the desired settings is considered vital to long-term survival of museum artifacts.

Not so much anymore.

While it is still a touchy subject (see the footnote to the attached article), museum directors and conservators are beginning to let things fluctuate a little in the name of saving the environment. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to maintain precise humidity levels and studies have consistently shown that gradual changes in humidity do not damage artifacts.

No less a director than Sir Nicholas Serota, director of London's Tate galleries is chiming in:
Standards under attack!"We need to devise imaginative new solutions to resolve the dichotomy between long-term collections care and expensive environmental conditions,"
Read more in the Guardian.