Entering the courtyards of the Cloisters Museum magically transported me to the era of medieval Europe. It’s not hard to imagine why they served as peaceful sanctuaries for monks in monasteries. I had such a pleasurable experience admiring the plants and architectural details, wondering if centuries ago people were doing the same. The setting of the museum is gorgeous as well- perched atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Places like these are so captivating because they are alive with nature and history.
Realizing that it was one of Bank of America’s Museums on Us weekends, I decided to head for the Guggenheim Museum last Sunday to check out the new James Turrell exhibit and installation.
Turrell plays with the elemental qualities of light in his installations, which are stunning in their stark simplicity. Purely using light projected onto the corner of a room, he creates the visual illusion of a solid object floating in space. For his centerpiece in the rotunda, he transforms the architectural ceiling and interior of the Guggenheim into a contemplative, atmospheric environment. Visitors are welcome to lie on a mat in the center of the room and observe the gradual changes in the light. I love how museums are increasingly engaging with the audience in interactive ways, and expanding the possibilities of the museum experience.
I’m particularly drawn to museums not only for their collection of art and historical pieces but also their stunning interior spaces. Museums are purposefully divided into individual rooms yet possess an overall sense of flow. The clean white walls and high ceilings create a lofty, sanctified space that elevates the art objects displayed.
Museum of Modern Art (New York)
The architecture of MOMA is suitably modern with its minimal, angular lines (reminiscent of the Bauhaus movement) and punctuations of greys and blacks. In fact, it looks like an Ad Reinhardt or Barnett Newman painting in three-dimensional form. I particularly like how the MOMA integrates indoor and outdoor space and incorporates a strong sense of natural light through the towering glass windows.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
The Met is a must-see for its breathtaking architectural details, which include vaulted ceilings, soaring arches, Greco-Roman columns and marble floors. The museum is segmented into various wings with individual architectural identities that somehow blend together into a seamless whole. Modern touches are cleverly incorporated to preserve the historical value but keep it from appearing dated.
Islamic architecture is stunningly intricate, and the White Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a prime example. The walls boast elegant arches and abstract organic and geometric patterns in relief. The exterior architecture boasts elegant curvilinear elements echoed by the designs on the floor. Figurative depiction is frowned upon thus one hardly sees the human figure in Islamic art. The serpentine line is another defining characteristic, and it influenced the highly decorative Art Nouveau style.
Again, the UAE reveals itself to be a land of seemingly contradictory juxtapositions. Ancient mosques can be found not too far from futuristic, gleaming skyscrapers. Houses in sandy pink hues rise from the ground, becoming a natural part of the desert landscape. Dusty, pastel hues like baby blue and pale rose contrast with hot, saturated colours like vermillion. Strangely, the whole mishmash of aesthetics somehow works.