Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing by Renzo Piano, visit with me

    We're in Millennium Park. There's Studio Gang's Aqua Tower, seen through the trellis in front of Frank Gehry's bandshell.

    And there's the Ben van Berkel temporary pavilion going up in Millennium Park, (with another one by Zaha Hadid) to mark the centennial of Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett's Plan of Chicago.

    The lip of Renzo Piano's pedestrian bridge to get us from the park to the third floor sculpture terrace of the new Modern Wing. And there's the museum wing, with the flat roof - "flying carpet" Piano calls it, to filter the daylight into the top floor galleries.

    The bridge just rises up through the trees in the park.

    Here it is from the other side, from Monroe Street. Straight as a Chicago street it flies across Monroe.

    Here's how you'll enter it, from the park.

    The museum, across the street.

    Who knew the bandshell would be reflected in Piano's glass?

    I toured a couple of days ago and so I entered from the older wings of the Art Institute. Work was still going on. When you enter the Modern Wing from the older galleries, you'll be coming from the 19th century works, to the twentieth, and twenty-first, and when you enter the Modern Wing, you'll see this.

    Detailing is superb throughout; with more nice reflections and transparencies.

    Starting with the first gallery, you're dazzled. A maquette for Chicago's Picasso statue - "Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Monument" (1965) reconnected with the city it was for, and related to Frank Gehry's curving sculpture in metal. And on the wall, a Picasso's great "Nude under a Pine Tree" (1959). Will we see such frolicking in Millennium Park? Don't know, it's terrific to see the flesh of the painting in natural daylight.

    Step up to the floor to ceiling glass for great views of the city - without the noise. You see Millennium Park, where we just were. Connections to the city, where art is made.

    The Brancusi's look alive as they reflect changing natural daylight. Interesting to connect it to Millennium Park, in which stands Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate," - the Bean. The Bean, of course, is a child of Brancusi's work.

    Here's how the light gets in, on the third and top floor.

    A portrait of Picasso by Juan Gris (1912), his "do" was way ahead of, but similar to that of former Illiniois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

    Outside, in a new garden by Kathryn Gustafson, who co-designed the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. Above it floats a white wall sculpture by a Chicago favorite - Ellsworth Kelly. His "White Curve," is made of painted aluminum, it's Ellsworth Kelly's largest wall sculpture to date.

    Another view of the new garden - open to the public, and under Piano's sun-shade.

    Looking to fix the hole in the sculpture? Nope, just admiring.

    Gerhard Richter, seen with some natural light.

    Bruce Nauman, creates his own light.

    Robert Ryman.

    Robert Gober.

    Richard Serra.

    "Hinoki," by Charles Ray. A new acquisition for the Art Institute. Would the money have been better spent on lowering admission fees? General admission is going up from $12 to $18! (Update: after some controversy, the fee will go up to $16, with many ways, new and old, to enter for free.)

    Kerry James Marshall - one of Chicago's best living artists - was finishing the installation of his works. Glad they're there.

    On the second floor of the galleria, or atrium (yes it's rentable, since you asked) named the "Griffin Court" - stop for an espresso, or buy a gift.

    You can sit and overlook the galleria; people watch.

    Now it's on to the Modern Wing new galleries for Architecture and Design. Those great Hilbersheimer drawings of blocks of buildings in a city, greet you at the door.

    Along with a model of Chicago's Inland Steel building.

    That's architecture, curated by Joseph Rosa, right behind it, as advertised, is design, curated by Zoe Ryan.

    Not as much stuff as at MoMA, but choice. I want the Yves Behar light piece, don't you?

    Oh, it changes color! D'uh. LED's of course.

    And then it's back out again.

    Terrific detailing. Nicely proportioned galleries. An elegance, a dignity to this new work. Neo-classical in ways, all of that recalls Mies van der Rohe, the local archi-hero and his New National Gallery in Berlin. Both are made to elevate us, as humans and as citizens of a democracy. Wonderfully modulated natural light. Nice connections with the city. A little too large for the lakeside park. Should have been able to preserve very dignified Howard Van Doren Shaw's Goodman Theater, which was underground here. And if you're going to build this large in the park, at least give back with windows facing east - remember, Chicago has a wonderful lake right there, and Grant Park. But for a work at this scale, one connects with it--perhaps not as intimately as with the great 1893 Michigan Avenue entrance, but we may learn to. The spaces here are more mall-like than anything in the old museum, but the great experiences you get here looking at art make it all worth it. The natural light is such a plus- ever changing, ever alive, adding life to the colors and the forms of the artworks. We must thank the donors and the trustees, James Wood who was Director when this was begun ten years ago, and James Cuno, the current Director, who saw it through and kept the quality at a very high level. I give it an A. A for the Architecture, and a place to view Art.

    More Hello Beautiful! on the Modern Wing here. (Then scroll)

    Read my review of the Modern Wing and my interview with Renzo Piano in the June 17 edition of The Architect's Newspaper .
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