Best of 2012: VISUAL ARTS; Expansion Raises Profile of St. Louis Art Museum; Other Milestones in Visual Arts Here Include a New Director at Contemporary Art Museum, Installations at Lambert

By Diane Toroian Keaggy; Sarah Bryan Miller | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Best of 2012: VISUAL ARTS; Expansion Raises Profile of St. Louis Art Museum; Other Milestones in Visual Arts Here Include a New Director at Contemporary Art Museum, Installations at Lambert


Diane Toroian Keaggy; Sarah Bryan Miller, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


St. Louis museums and galleries continued to welcome big-name artists and major exhibits. But the biggest art news in 2012 was the completion of the construction of the St. Louis Art Museums expansion. Museum officials say the $160 million project will raise the museums national profile and allow it to stage larger exhibits.

Major growth The St. Louis Art Museum completed construction of its new wing, which will feature 300-space parking garage, a 100- seat restaurant and enormous galleries to showcase the museums vast holdings of contemporary and modern art. The public will get its first look during the opening weekend festival June 29-30. Designed by renowned British architect David Chipperfield, the building features a one-of-a-kind grid of skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows, which illuminate the artworks naturally.

Its a building that is about mass, about weight, said museum director Brent Benjamin. So much of contemporary museum architecture is about lightness and transparency, but this is a building about mass because the Cass Gilbert building is a great big pile of stone. Whatever was going to be here needed to stand up to it in terms of massiveness and weight. That is quite an accomplishment.

The expansion also features a major outdoor sculpture, Stone Sea, a series of 25 stone arches.

Moving in Lisa Melandri stepped in as the new director of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, replacing longtime director Paul Ha. Melandri served 11 years as deputy director at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Melandri has continued to welcome a range of events to the museum and plans to book exhibits that showcase major midcareer artists.

Im interested in thinking about how midcareer artists are influencing the young artists of the day, Melandri said. I think a healthy exhibition program can pingpong between emerging talents and those who have paved the way. I like taking a long view, a historical view. I think it can be really informative for understanding where we sit with art that we make today.

Flying high Lambert-St. Louis International Airport has joined the growing number of airports displaying original contemporary art. It erected nine glass screens by local artists, installed a colorful terrazzo medallion by artist Alicia LaChance and has created a gallery space for rotating exhibits near the baggage claim. Some airports spend millions of dollars on their art programs; Lambert only has spent $45,000 on its glass screens. But the programs supporters hope to raise more money in 2013 for a major suspended work.

These days, people have a lot of dwell time, said Meredith McKinley, the public art consultant who helped coordinate Lamberts initiative. You get to the airport and you have to linger in those gate areas. Public art programs in airports offer travelers waiting to board something to appreciate and explore. …

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