New museums are opening around the world and setting their sights on a post-pandemic future.
By Jason Edward Kaufman
Many art museums were in the middle of construction projects when the global pandemic crushed the economy, choked supply chains, and sent employees and audiences into lockdown. But despite these unprecedented challenges, some institutions have managed to complete capital projects. Across Europe, the US, Asia, and Africa museums are unveiling major new and expanded facilities that reflect civic pride and confidence in the post-pandemic future. Travel restrictions and visitor hesitancy may dampen attendance in the short-term, but these projects promise to become must-see destinations for cultural travelers in years to come.
Grand Egyptian Museum
Architect: Heneghan Peng
Opens: by end of 2021
A billion-dollar state-of-the-art mega-museum will open on the edge of Cairo, about a mile from the Giza pyramids and a short drive from the new Sphinx International Airport. Billed as the largest archaeological museum in the world, the trapezoidal slab’s alabaster façade extends more than a third of a mile long – clearly intended to evoke the monumentality of the Pyramids themselves. A 36-foot granite sculpture of Ramses II presides over the atrium where a grand staircase, lined with pharaonic statues, ascends to a dramatic vista of the Pyramids and entry to the galleries. On exhibit are more than 50,000 statues, mummies, papyri, regal paraphernalia, and other objects gathered from museums across Egypt. The greatest treasure is the tomb of King Tut, a cache of thousands of personal items that includes his gilded chariot and iconic golden funerary mask. (The hoard was transferred from the old Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Tahrir Square where the attraction had been overrun by crowds.) Another highlight is the world’s oldest surviving boat, a 4,600-year-old cedar ship unearthed near the Pyramid of Khufu. The campus’s gardens, restaurants, retail space, a children’s museum, theater, and conference center offer visitors a range of experiences.
Architect: Estudio Herreros
Opens: Oct. 22, 2021
Norway’s greatest painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) bequeathed to Oslo his entire estate, including 1,200 paintings and tens of thousands of drawings, prints and photographs. In 1963 the city built the Edvard Munch Museum, a modest building on the outskirts of town, but the artist’s growing fame demanded a more prominent facility. In response, the institution — renamed the MUNCH — has built a 13-story tower that overlooks the fjord in the city center, near the National Opera and new Oslo Public Library. The new building quadruples the museum’s previous space and offers rooftop dining with panoramic views of the city and harbor. The expanded survey of Munch’s career features multiple versions of The Scream (1893) and two colossal studies for his mural cycle at the University of Oslo. The museum intends to show how Munch relates to and influences contemporary artists, beginning with a show of British artist Tracy Emin (until Jan. 2, 2022) and followed by a Munch-inspired musical work by Norwegian black-metal band Satyricon (March 26-June 19, 2022). And even more Munch masterpieces will soon be displayed in Norway’s National Museum when it opens its new waterfront building next year.
Architect: Franco Stella
Opened: Summer 2021
Architect: David Chipperfield
Reopened: Summer 2021
Conceived as a center for world culture, the Humboldt Forum joins under one roof the city’s collections of ethnological material and artworks from Africa, the Americas, Islam, Asia, and the South Pacific. The center — named for 19th-century naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and his philosopher brother Wilhelm — also subsumes the Berlin history museum and an interdisciplinary institute on the intersection of science and society, with cafes and various spaces for film and performance. The $1 billion structure housing these disparate entities is a reconstruction of the Prussian royal palace that East Germany demolished in the 1970s. Critics would have preferred a more forward-looking piece of architecture rather than a neo-imperial showcase for objects whose colonial-era provenance is drawing scrutiny. (In response to calls for repatriation the city has pledged to return Benin bronzes to Nigeria beginning next year.) The institution’s leaders promise to bring an enlightened perspective to their offerings. Ongoing installations examine climate change, Berlin’s cosmopolitan character, and humanity’s use of ivory that endangers elephants (until Nov. 28). But controversy about colonial acquisitions is likely to heat up when the Ethnological Museum and Asian Art Museum open extensive displays of their world-class holdings (Sept. 22).
Across town, the Neue Nationalgalerie has undergone a six-year renovation of its 1968 building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The landmark glass-and-steel jewelbox, located among the cluster of galleries and theaters in the Kulturforum district, displays the city’s renowned collection of European and North American modern art from 1900 to 1945, including masterworks of German Expressionism and other modern movements, and works by Paul Klee, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, and other artists from abroad. Inaugural temporary shows present Calder (to Feb. 13, 2022) and local cinematic artist Rosa Barba (to Jan. 16, 2022). The Neue Nationalgalerie’s post-1945 art will be housed nearby in a Museum of the 20th Century, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and slated for completion in 2026.
Architect: Herzog & de Meuron
Opens: by the end of the year
The centerpiece of the West Kowloon Cultural District, a development on a landfill peninsula in Victoria Harbor, M+ aspires to present a new conception of 20th and 21st century visual culture, focusing on Hong Kong, mainland China and the rest of Asia. The $759 million waterfront building consists of a tower atop a podium. The base contains 33 galleries, three cinemas, and a subterranean gallery that surrounds the pre-existing airport rail tunnel around which the foundations were built. The tower houses offices, a members’ lounge and a restaurant, and its LED-covered façade serves as a giant screen for digital artworks, commissions, moving images and messages that beam across the harbor.
In less than a decade the institution has amassed 8,000 works, including visual art, design and architecture (furniture, electronics, textiles, building models), and moving images (animations, films and videos, digital installations, video games, software, and web-based art). There are pieces by Huang Yong Ping, Araki, Soopheap Pich, Isamu Noguchi, Yang Fudong, and a range of talent less familiar to Westerners. The anchor is 1,500 works of Chinese contemporary art partly donated by Swiss businessman and diplomat Uli Sigg. The survey represents 325 artists who worked from around 1970 to 2012, a crucial period when Chinese contemporary art flowered. It remains to be seen if censorious “national security” laws imposed by Beijing will allow the museum to operate with intellectual and aesthetic freedom.
Museum of Art Pudong
Architect: Jean Nouvel
Opened: Summer 2021
Located near the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower in a development zone run by State-owned Lujiazui Group, the latest opus of French starchitect Jean Nouvel (Louvre Abu Dhabi, National Museum of Qatar) is a gleaming six-story white-granite-and-glass structure that looks like a sleek modernist coffee table. Its multi-level window facing the Huangpu River and a rooftop restaurant afford views of the Bund. The kunsthalle will host international and Chinese exhibitions, beginning with Joan Miró, gunpowder drawings by Cai Guo-Qiang, and 100 loans from the Tate in London, which is advising the fledgling museum and promises to mount additional shows for three years.
Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection
Architect: Tadao Ando
Opened: May 2021
Luxury brand billionaire François Pinault leased the city’s 19th-century stock exchange — situated equidistant from the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou — and hired Ando to convert it into a showcase for contemporary art. The architect – who worked on two Pinault museums in Venice – inserted a tall concrete cylinder beneath the building’s frescoed dome and fitted out surrounding spaces for display of the collector’s post-1960 works — including media stars Damien Hirst, Tadashi Murakami and Jeff Koons — and for temporary shows of “the art of today.” Inaugural displays (through Dec. 31) include Urs Fischer’s slowly melting wax-candle replica of an Italian Renaissance sculpture, a group show of photographs by Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman and others, and a solo show of American artist David Hammons that offers a wry critique of racism in the United States.
Kunsthaus Zurich expansion
Architect: David Chipperfield
Opens: Oct. 9
A freestanding addition to the main building on Heimplatz doubles the museum’s gallery space and enables Switzerland’s largest art museum to present more of its collection of Western art since the Middle Ages. The three-story wing showcases art since 1960, temporary exhibitions, and the long-term loan of around 200 impressionist and post-impressionist works from the collection of E.G. Bührle that includes masterpieces by Daumier, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, van Gogh and others. Bührle was a German-born arms dealer to both the Nazis and Allies who acquired art looted from Jewish owners, making the ethics of presenting his collection controversial. The new building’s public spaces feature a Calder mobile, a large abstract canvas by Robert Delaunay, and a giant painting by Max Ernst in the bar. Planned for 2022 are exhibits of Yoko Ono, Federico Fellini and the sculptor Aristide Maillol.
Architect: Frank Gehry
Opened: Summer 2021
Swiss pharmaceutical heiress and contemporary art collector Maja Hoffman’s Luma Foundation bought a 27-acre former railyard and converted warehouses into spaces for exhibitions and artist residencies. The capstone of the project is the 180-foot tower by Gehry. One façade is a twisting stack of disjointed stainless-steel blocks that Gehry says alludes to the region’s rocky landscape and to one-time Arles resident Vincent van Gogh’s interest in light. The building, whose glazed cylindrical base echoes the city’s Roman amphitheater, contains administrative and event spaces, a café and galleries, and serves as the entryway to the campus’s landscaped parkland and exhibition venues where current offerings include work by international stars Urs Fischer, Rikrit Tiravanija, Pierre Huyghe, Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Höller, John Akomfrah, Anri Sala, and Christian Marclay’s celebrated 24-hour film montage The Clock (2010).
Courtauld Institute renovation
Architect: Witherford Watson Mann
Opens: November 21, 2021
The great private collection of textile tycoon Samuel Courtauld spans the Middle Ages to the early 20th century and has long been housed at Somerset House, an 18th-century government building facing the Thames. A three-year renovation — funded by French brand LVMH and Ukrainian businessman Leonard Blavatnik— has refreshed the ornate interiors and created modern spaces that improve displays and circulation. The Great Room where the Royal Academy once held exhibitions has been restored and hung with French impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces including Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882), Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889), a trove of Cézannes, and canvases by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Gauguin and Seurat. Old Masters have their own suite of galleries, with works by Botticelli, Cranach, Pieter Breughel the Elder, and Rubens of special note. Inaugural temporary shows include British works on paper, a gift of modern drawings (both until Jan. 2022), and photographs of Kurdistan in the 1940s from the Courtauld’s huge image library (until May 2022).
Royal Treasury Museum
Architect: João Carlos Santos
Opens November 2021
Portugal’s last royal residence, the never-completed neoclassical Ajuda National Palace, has added a modern wing to house the crown jewels of the former monarchy. More than 1,000 items represent gold and diamonds from Portugal’s erstwhile monopolies in Brazil, the Braganza crown jewels, honorary orders and ritual objects of the monarchy, diplomatic gifts, liturgical objects, and royal coins and medals. The treasure will be displayed within a 130-foot-long vault on the upper floors. The project is partly funded with an insurance payout for jewels stolen while on display in the Netherlands in 2002, and considering the recent heist from Dresden’s Green Vault, where diamonds are concerned there is no such thing as too much security.
GES-2 Art Center
Architect: Renzo Piano
Opens: Fall 2021
Gas billionaire Leonid Mikhelson has established a new contemporary art center in a decommissioned 1907 power plant on the banks of the Moskva River. Piano converted the main building into a cavernous skylit open-plan venue for performances and installations. Adjoining structures, including a former vodka warehouse, house artist residencies, galleries, an auditorium, and eateries. The pristine white-brick complex is the latest addition to Moscow’s planned Museum Mile, an urban pathway linking Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the State Tretyakov Gallery, and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Architect: Frank Gehry
Opened: Summer 2021
Gehry’s signature metal-clad sculptural forms are nowhere to be seen in his expansion of the museum’s iconic 1928 neo-Greek temple on a hill. All the work took place inside where he opened up spaces to improve circulation and reclaim space for visitor services and galleries. The key moves were to replace the auditorium with a central atrium connecting the upper and lower floors, and to reopen a magnificent 600-foot-long vaulted corridor on the first floor that had been closed for half a century. The project adds large swaths of public space and galleries for expanded presentations of American, Modern and contemporary art — all without increasing the building’s footprint. The next phase of the expansion will construct a suite of galleries for contemporary art under the plaza atop the “Rocky” steps. This season the museum hosts half of a Jasper Johns retrospective, the other half of which is on view concurrently at the Whitney Museum in New York (Sept. 29, 2021 – Feb. 13, 2022).
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Los Angeles, USA
Architect: Renzo Piano
Opened: Sept. 30, 2021
It’s hard to believe that Los Angeles has never had a museum about film. The Academy – the organization that hands out Oscars – has corrected the omission, opening an institution about the history and technology of filmmaking, film culture around the world, and of course, Hollywood. The core exhibition, “Stories of Cinema,” includes vignettes on Citizen Kane (replete with his sled Rosebud), The Wizard of Oz (featuring Dorothy’s ruby slippers), and sections about Bruce Lee and Spike Lee, among others. Housed in a converted department store next to the Los Angeles County Museum, the museum added a spherical film theater in the back with a roof-top terrace for events. The inaugural temporary show looks at the career of Japanese animated-film director Hayao Miyazaki.
Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Architect: Alberto Alfonso
Opened Sept. 7, 2021
The first museum dedicated to the handmade art and design movement that arose in reaction to the Industrial Revolution houses the 2,000-item collection amassed by the institution’s founder, local pharmaceutical distributor Rudy Ciccarello. The five-story building showcases some 800 examples of furniture, jewelry, ceramics, leaded glass, paintings, woodblock prints, and photographs, most created between 1890 and 1930. Artists and companies represented include Gustav Stickley, the Byrdcliffe Colony, Charles Rohlfs, Rookwood Pottery, Tiffany, and Greene and Greene. The inaugural temporary exhibition look at the Roycroft craftsmen of upstate New York and Pictorialist photography (both until Jan. 9, 2022).
Jason Edward Kaufman ©
This article appeared in Luxury Magazine, Fall/Winter 2021, pp. 180-189.
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