chapter  7
39 Pages

Dialectics of museums/public art articulation at the turn of the millennium

ByJ. Pedro Lorente

The ideals of modernity were never totally extinguished. They were instead gradually eclipsed in the 1970s by other urban and art archetypes not always easily conjoined. Predilection for monumental taste set henceforward a trend in sculpture and architecture which, according to Javier Maderuelo, could have met a new paragon of museography in the extension of the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College in Ohio. It was conceived by Claes Oldenburg for the garden where his sculpture Giant Three-Way Plug had stood since 1970. The famous Pop artist suggested replacing that sculpture with an electric plug-shaped building. Instead, his monumental plug was moved a few metres to make room for the new structure designed by architect Robert Venturi, completed in 1977. That was a frustrated opportunity, after which bigger cities would become the main testing ground for postmodern interrelation tendencies between museums and the surrounding architectural/sculptural heritage (Maderuelo, 2008: 318–325). The Pompidou Centre in Paris constituted a turning point in this matter – as in so many others. Transgressor architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers broke away from modern paradigms: instead of creating a museum isolated from the urban bustle, bucolically wrapped in an entourage of gardens and sculptures, they chose to place their building to one side of the available site to make more room for a vast pedestrian square. They originally planned to leave as much space as possible for city life and people: in their initial design, the building was to stand on sturdy pilotis just like the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, though this idea was rejected because of safety concerns. Nor were they allowed to create a ‘talking facade’ – inspired by the Spanish pavilion at the International Exhibition of 1937 – to attract people’s attention with large bills and changing photographs and illuminated signs with mottos and information.