Posts Tagged ‘gallery seating’

MOMA: Oh, not much, just visiting some Abstract Expressionists

November 22, 2010

The current Abstract Expressionist show at MOMA in New York has, I am pleased to report, a bench in just about every room of the exhibition.

What interested us, apart from an apparent change in attitude with regard to seating at MOMA (from almost none to more than adequate, at least for this show), was one particular pattern of use that we had not seen before.

Many visitors sat in order to gaze at the work more closely, and/or to rest. But some used the bench as an opportunity to interact with a handheld device.

From what we could see, these were not audio tour players, but smart phones or Blackberry-like devices. Users seemed to be checking messages or texts, or actually texting in at least one instance.

Are these simply visitors who are unable to be out of touch for more than a few minutes? Or is it another form of leaving the room and chilling out – changing gaze and focus not by looking out of a window, but into a window? Or both?

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Worst Seating Award: Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy

October 12, 2010

Palazzo Grassi is a museum of contemporay art in Venice, Italy. From the outside, it’s a classic Venetian palazzo fronting on the Grand Canal. The interior has been extensively remodeled into a series of classic White Cubes displaying a major collection of minimalist and conceptual art.

Here is a photo of the only seating in the whole place:

That’s it: two padded cubes in one room of a huge five floor museum. A grim denial of the frailty, or even existence, of the human body. Talk about suffering for Art.

On the other hand, there wasn’t a lot of competition for these cubes. We were two of only about a dozen visitors in this heavily promoted museum – in a city that gets tens of thousands of tourists a day.

Metropolitan Museum: Return of the American Wing

September 21, 2009

When we visited New York City in September 2009, we were delighted to discover that the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum was open to the public once again. 

Am Wing plaza view

In spite of some changes that in (Beth’s opinion particularly) make it a somewhat colder, less visually coherent space, it’s still one of the great interior spaces in American museums — an indoor piazza. 

The American Wing Cafe is open once again, and the prices are still reasonable. We were momentarily disturbed to realize that the windows have been frosted over.

Am Wing cafe

“The view is gone!” we said. But there’s a good reason, which becomes apparent as soon as you climb the stairs to the newly-added mezzanine right above the cafe.

Am wing outside view

It’s a construction site out there, and the Met is simply preserving the esthetics of the American Wing experience.

 

Am wing pardon appearance use this

The mezzanine itself, although it adds a ceiling to the Cafe that’s a little low for psychological comfort, is put to good use as an exhibit space.

Am Win mezzanine

 

Meanwhile, the piazza itself, while not as tranquil and intimate as it was before the remodeling, still has a variety of places for people to sit.

Am Wing seating

 

There is still a fountain. Like all fountains, or any element featuring water for that matter, it is extremely attractive to visitors.

Am Wing fountain

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

August 9, 2009

On a trip to Los Angeles earlier this year, we visited the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood. From the perspective of visitor comfort and ease of use, there were good points and bad points.

Good point: comfortable chairs in the bookstore.

Hammer Museum bookstore chairs

 

Bad (or at least puzzling) point: this alcove. Can you spot the “elevator” sign?

Hammer Museum alcove and elevator sign

 

Good point: You don’t have to look very hard to find the restroom:

Hammer Museum restroom popsicle stand

 

Bad point: Much of the wall signage is designed for 8-footers.

Hammer Museum not very readable orientation better

 

Bad point: The usual … acres of gallery, and no place to sit.

Hammer Museum more no seating

Berlin Kulturforum, part 2: A Design Museum

July 19, 2009

Also at the Berlin Kulturforum, we visited the Kunstgewerbemuseum, or Museum of Decorative Arts. This is the place to go to see fabulous examples of European furniture, clothing, jewelry, tableware, and  pretty much any other designed object of day-to-day utility from the Middle Ages to the present day.

On the negative side, this is a disorienting, Escheresque space with many levels in which it’s easy to get lost.

kunst-4 gallery view

On the positive side, you can pretty much alway catch a view of the interior courtyard around which the museum is wrapped.

kunst-2 outside view

There are doors to this space but they were all locked on the day we were there.

Among the many collections is a comprehensive exhibition of twentieth century chairs. Unlike the similar permanent exhibition of seating at MOMA in New York, the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s collection can be viewed sitting down.

kunst-3 chair xbit

Again, this museum features comfortable, resilient wood floors.

Berlin Kulturforum, part 1: A Great Art Gallery

July 19, 2009

In July 2009 we visited Berlin, Germany and dropped in at the Kulturforum, a complex of museums and other cultural institutions located near Potsdamer Platz.

The Gemäldegalerie is an art museum featuring some of the major masterpieces of European art from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. In terms of visitor comfort, it has some features we particularly enjoy.

At each corner of the museum, there is a space in which you can sit and look both out the windows to the outside world and in to the museum.

gemald-2 corner

It functions both as a reflective, restful space and a sort of semi-private vestibule. Extremely welcome break from the intense visual parade of masterworks. And the seat, fashioned sort of like a pew but at a more relaxed angle, is quite comfortable.

The museum’s sight lines are, in general, well thought-out. You never feel trapped in a tight space; there are many visual focal points at a variety of distances, often with a glimpse of the world outside.

gemald-1 thru to outside

Finally, the central atrium is simply brilliant. It’s a place to rest, both physically and psychically; a flexible exhibition space in itself (when we visited this time the only exhibit was the permanent fountain in the middle, but in the past we have seen other exhibits there); and a space that with its columns and shafts of natural light evokes a basilica – appropriate, I suppose, for a secular temple of art.

gemald-6 atrium

Oh, and the floors in this museum are wood: lovely to look at and easy on the feet. Altogether a very successful and comfortable space — major artworks of staggering beauty aside.

Visitor Comfort in Museums: Lobbies and Stairs

May 18, 2009

Crowding in lobbies, atria, and other transitional spaces is understandable in older, outdated buildings, but strangely, it’s being built into new museums. 

 

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This is the lobby of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.  The primary way to reach  the galleries, which are all on floors above the ground-floor lobby, is a pair of elevators. Slow elevators. Crowds like this gather in the lobby about every five minutes. The only other way to get upstairs is a small staircase set off to the back of the lobby like an afterthought. 

 

 

Here’s a stairway in the same museum, connecting the galleries on two floors. Since all galleries are two stories high, it’s very long and very narrow.slide-24It’s very artistic and all, but I would not want to be caught in this narrow space in an emergency. 

 

 

This is the new de Young Museum in San Francisco, which opened a couple of years ago. The rise and run of this staircaise are such that you overshoot the next step but don’t quite reach two steps below.It’s not exactly human scale, unless you’re 6’8″, or perhaps 3’4″. It’s an annoyance bordering on a hazard.

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Visitor comfort in museums: seating

March 29, 2009

Comfortable and plentiful seating is the single easiest way to make visitors feel comfortable and welcome.

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Seating can be a part of the exhibition. This is a space in an Asian museum.

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This historical exhibit from the Oakland Museum is a reproduction of a military transport plane taking troops from Oakland to Vietnam. 

Photo: Laura Lovett, Oakland Museum

Photo: Laura Lovett, Oakland Museum

 

Seating in non-exhibit areas is critical. The lobby of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City is a great place to rest, or just sit and watch the crowds. 

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Here is an example of cruel irony at MOMA. Chairs on display everywhere, and no place to sit in the entire exhibition. 

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Why not let visitors sit on reproductions of these award-winning chairs?