Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Artful city

You didn’t vote for it, but I still stopped by the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum for a preview of its newly refurbished sculpture garden opening Sept. 30.

I’d been to the museum the day before for lunch, and it proved on the tastiest meals of my trip. Clean fresh salads, lusty soups, sandwiches on homemade bread with crunchy ingredients. It’s an example Miami’s museums need to copy.

The Nelson-Atkins boasts an extraordinary wide-ranging collection from American masters to African, Egyptian and Asian Art, and it’s contemporary collection is growing. To house all this, the museum is adding a new wing that has been controversial, to say the least. It opens in June.

The old building is a spectacular example of neoclassical architecture, built in the 1930s when such craftsmanship was available. The new building is a sculptural glass-on-glass play on prairie architecture by Stephen Holl. Much of the new building lies underground. The idea, said Jan Schall, one of the curators, is to keep the new building from overshadowing the temple-like grandeur of the old.

The sculpture garden was originally opened in 1989; in 2002, the entrance side of it was reconfigured. With the addition of the new building, the Nelson-Atkins needed to reshape the grounds. It took the opportunity to change plantings and reposition some sculptures.

The sculpture group includes a Rodin Thinker, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Shuttlecocks (you might remember Miami has their work, Dropped Bowl, downtown, though I hear it’s fallen into disrepair), a Calder, a George Segal and the largest collection of monumental Henry Moores outside London.

All this in Kansas City.

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