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MSU's Broad Art Museum on target for April opening
Posted: November 05, 2011 - 1:00 PM
Andrew Kuo, the artist whose intricate, diaristic charts documenting musical events have appeared regularly in the New York Times' arts section over the past several years, was part of a small group that toured the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on Friday morning.
He and Kelly Taxter, owner of the New York gallery Taxter and Spengemann, which shows Kuo's work, took iPhone photos of each other amid the building's odd angular spaces as drills clattered in the background.
"You guys came all this way for me?" one of the workmen shouted.
"You're doing a great job," Taxter replied.
Two of Kuo's paintings - "Self-Portrait (Rise and Shine)," and "The More You Know About Me, The More You'll Think Twice Before Calling/I'd Be More Tolerable If I Smoked Weed Because ... " - were the first works purchased for the museum.
"I'm such a big fan of this architect," said Kuo. He meant Zaha Hadid, the Iraq-born, London-based Pritzker Prize-winner who designed the museum.
"It's a thrill just to be inside one of her buildings, but to have work inside is super humbling. I'm excited."
Very little about the construction process has been simple. MSU went looking for an iconic design, and it got one.
What that's meant practically, according to Dan Bollman, the design administrator for MSU's physical plant, is that "There's not a single square corner. There's not a piece of glass that's the same size or shape. All the metal on the outside, everything is unique."
But the construction is nearly complete. February is the target, with an opening late in April. On Friday, workers were preparing to hang the first of the metal pleats that will cover its concrete and glass exterior.
Michael Rush, hired as the museum's director in December, has been able to watch the progress from the window of his temporary office across the street in the Student Services Building.
"It's awesome in that good, classic sense of the word, and it's a little scary," he said, "because I feel intensely responsible for creating a program that meets the excellence and ambition of this building."
It was clear from the beginning that the museum's focus would be contemporary art. The Broads have a world-renowned collection and have said MSU will have access to it.
But a sharper iteration of that vision has congealed over the past few months, Rush said.
In keeping with the international reach of the university, he plans to mount exhibitions with an international focus. The opening exhibitions will include artists from China, Korea, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, Vietnam and Slovenia.
"At least with the Western historical avant garde, there's a canon that exists there," he said. "I'm interested in expanding the canon."
Further, because the museum has inherited the collection of the now-shuttered Kresge Art Museum, which runs a gamut from pre-Columbian to pop, "we'll be creating dialogues around contemporary art with a very long gaze backward," Rush said.
But much of the work of the past months has been practical.
Min Jung Kim, who spent more than a decade doing international programming for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, began work as the museum's deputy director in August.
"I'll be very honest. I think initially I was attracted to the names," she said. "This was before really fully understanding the Michigan State University context, but you have two powerful names, Eli Broad and Zaha Hadid, and an extraordinary opportunity where this is a launch of a new museum with a very powerful mission and context."
Marcia Crawley, who had been the development director at The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., began work Thursday in a similar post at the Broad Museum.
A fundraising event dubbed the Countdown to the Broad Gala took place Friday night in the Spartan Club on the top floor of the Spartan Stadium tower.
Video art, some of it prerecorded, some generated live, played on screens on the edges of the long room. A slideshow of the building under construction played on television sets. Some 300 guests chatted across small plates of Tuscan-style gnocchi and lamb medallions.
"It was nice and cozy to be part of the small Kresge group that had grown together over 30 years," said Scott Sowulewski, a member of the organizing committee for the event.
This, he said, was a different crowd, many people he'd never seen at an art museum event, let alone a museum benefit.
The draw is "curiosity today," Sowulewski said, "and I hope tomorrow, and as the museum opens, an awareness and appreciation for modern art."