Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tired Tibetan Shih Tzu meets Thai Buddha at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum of Art in Kansas City.

I'm always in two minds when I visit exhibitions of Asian temple or funerary art. The pieces themselves are invariably beeautiful and I feel privileged just being able to look at them. Yet I also know they don't belong in museums. They belong in the temples and tombs from which they were taken, usually illegally. I imagine booted, bearded men hacking away at them, lopping off an arm here and a head there, and I feel uneasily complicit.

"A stone and a feather" is the way architect Steven Holl describes the juxtapositon of the newly opened Bloch building (which he designed) and the original, neo-classical Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art building constructed in 1933. I have to say, these two utterly dissimilar buildings sit strangely together. Not so much a stone and a feather as chalk and cheese.

Yet both are wonderful buildings. The Bloch is long and feathery, all Channel glass (a special, very strong type of glass capable of withstanding a tornado) terrazzo floors and polished plaster walls, a symphony of greys and whites that enhance the African and Contemporary collections housed within. This building -- unlike the disappointing MOMA reconstruction -- really does work.

The older building works, too, but in a totally different way. It awes you. It is monumental, overpowering. The soaring pillars, the expanses of marble, the loggia and atria simply blow you away. Here you'll find the European collections, the Impressionists, and the wonderful Asian galleries, including a Chinese Temple and a special exhibit on the care, training and feeding of singing and fighting crickets.
So both buildings are great. It's the combination that's peculiar, sort of like blue mashed potatoes.

We spent the whole day. But it was so hot and humid we didn't manage to get through much of the outdoor Sculpture Garden, which has the nation's largest collection of monumental Henry Moore bronzes. It's cooler this morning. Maybe we'll go back for a second look.


Post a Comment

<< Home