I love the new High Museum. I LOVE THE NEW HIGH MUSEUM!
I'm sorry for everything nasty I have said about the museum (well maybe not for this). Renzo Piano has created a museum and a public space that is perfect for Atlanta. My sense of belonging to a community of art lovers has never been stronger than today while standing in the piazza that the addition surrounds. Piano's village for the arts will allow the museum to grow as its holdings improve and at the same time provide Atlantans with a cultural heart so inviting that I believe it will create the one space in Atlanta to bring together our very separate communities. This was evident today.
The museum is full of contemporary photography. Struth! Wall! Muniz! Dicorcia!Misrach! Mann! Another Wall! And none of these are even in the photography galleries whose space sadly feels like a footnote to the rest of the addition. None the less, our whining paid off: the High listened. With Julian Cox at the helm of the photography department, I believe that his influence will also rectify the short-changed photo galleries.
The museum is full of local artists as well: Angela West, Orien Catelidge, Lucinda Bunnen, Annette Cone Skelton (who must have slept with someone to get placed between Agnes Martin and Donald Judd), Radcliffe Bailey...the list goes on. I'd like the High to identify these artists as being Georgia based with a special symbol like they do at the NOMA (Send them some money by the way. I am.)
The best surprise (to me...its been installed for quite a while now) is in the original museum. The High has devoted a significant amount of space to southern vernacular (i.e. folk) art which the museum has deep and excellent holdings. If anyone questions the validity of folk art as a complex and compelling genre, go look at the little Howard Finster glass house sculpture. It's an absolute treasure.
I'm not an architecture critic, but the new spaces are perfect for art. The lighting on the fourth floor (northern natural light) is a revelation. As an aside, I want to defend Richard Meier's small spaces in the original building in that when that building was designed, the High's collection was largely decorative arts and pre-contemporary art. And none of it was all that big. Why design massive spaces for a piece of Newcomb pottery? Meier must have considered the then very thin holdings of the museum and designed appropriately.
One oddity of the addition are the many trapezoid shaped spaces that seem to be designed to display video art (one does screen a William Kentridge video). The others though have photos and paintings on display. I'll take more art on display any day, but these spaces are a little quirky to hang pictures in. They are sort of like entering a "mystery vortex" room.
One last suggestion: move the Alfredo Jaar installation out of the gallery its in where is takes up way too much space and move it to the lobby. It's a powerful piece visually and will not be lost in any room regardless how big.
I'm splitting hairs here though. I'm in love with the space and with the potential that the addition brings. I think it marks an important change in the High's collective mentality: it can no longer simply defer to the special interests of its wealthy patrons. This is a museum for Atlanta, all of Atlanta, and the High has proved that it's vision recognizes this.