The Modern Wing!

Art, Chicago Add comments

modern-wing.jpgThe much-awaited, ten years in the making Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago finally opened its doors to the public last Saturday, May 16! And it is glorious, breathtaking, epic, dramatic, super-sexy, exhilarating in I’m-glad-to-be-alive-kind of way - it deserves all the superlatives it can get, plus it’s green-friendly too (with an automated dimming system that changes the amount of artificial lighting in use based on the the level of natural light entering the galleries).  Famed architect Renzo Piano designed the Modern Wing (which adds 264,000 square feet to the Art Institute and makes it the second largest museum in the US, next to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art), and he has further enriched Chicago’s already world-class, much-acclaimed urban architecture.  But I am personally grateful to him for designing the galleries in a very visitor-friendly way, as if you’re leisurely rowing along a gently flowing river.  There’s none of the sometimes overwhelming maze-like complexity of the Art Institute main building.  Plus there are these magnificent picture windows at the north side of the building that open into jaw-dropping views of the Chicago skyline and Millennium Park – enough for anyone to say, why live anywhere else?  The Modern Wing curators confidently and smartly use the space to showcase the art in the most impactful manner possible.  None of the galleries I visited during the opening night preview party on Friday felt crammed, and the design allowed you to really soak in Cy Twombly’s Peony series, or Robert Gober’s harrowing room installation which includes his infamous Hanging Man/Sleeping Man wallpaper (the ones hanging being black men and the ones sleeping being white men), a headless mannequin wearing a wedding dress, and bags of cat litter.  I love the fact that you could actually focus on a piece, versus getting distracted by the other trainstopping art surrounding you.  Although there has been some reservations from the usual know-it-alls about the comprehensiveness and diversity of the collection, the unveiling of the Modern Wing is a watershed in the evolution of Chicago as a global culture capital.  By the way, Young Modern, the late night preview party for young professionals (as compared to what, Old Modern, the much-earlier preview party?  The, ahem, traditional Art Institute crowd was out and about all around the museum pre-sunset on Friday night) was a blast.  Boatloads of Chicago’s young (and not so young), attractively-dressed culturati (and not so culturati too) enjoyed a relaxed art viewing, mingling with other arts-oriented folks, numerous open bars, top-notch musical acts such as the Goran Ivanovic Group, and eccentric, artsy, trying-to-be-painfully-hip event touches that make art opening nights memorable such as performance artist Igor Josifov lying inside the glass walkway you cross to enter the party rooms, and serving pizza from the box with champagne at midnight.  Lovely!

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