Minimalism and Slow Art at The Glenstone Museum
When you first lay eyes on Glenstone, the private art museum located in a vast green landscape outside of Washington, you’re likely to wonder how a place so magical could have remained so out of the radar. This museum is like its founders, it is outside of the media’s reach, it is humble, calm and mysterious. Away from all possible distractions, Glenstone embodies a new movement toward slow art, which aims at encouraging a contemplative viewing experience.
The story of Glenstone begins with its founders Mitchell and Emily Rales – Artnews TOP 200 collectors who have one of the most important Modern and Contemporary Art Collections in the USA. Yet, they prefer to stay completely out of the sight of the media, interviews and spotlights. They founded the Glenstone Museum in 2006 –a 3.000 square metre space with an aim to house and exhibit their collections. The only visitors of the museum were the people who knew the collectors. However, the picture we have in 2018 is entirely different. The ambitious building project gave Glenstone a new life and turned it into magnificent and full functioning museum. Just like its founders, it offers a unique, humble and peaceful art experience.
What makes Glenstone different than other museums is the quiet. While wondering around the wide and empty corridors filled with natural light, and viewing the green landscape from wide windows, you understand that this place is more than an art venue. Forget all possible distractions like lines, crowds, mobile phones, noise and movement.You leave all of these things outside. Your experience at Glenstone is calm and peaceful, surrounded with nature and art.
Glenstone’s architecture reflects the ‘’slow art’’ movement, it provides a minimal design to complement the collection and visitor experience. Opened in 2006, the building is designed by Charles Gwathmey from Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects. Zinc, granite, stainless steel, and teak were used in its construction. Wide corridors and galleries create a perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape and the art. With wide windows looking onto the green landscape and openair terrace opening to nature, the building provides an alternative experience that communicates with the sky, nature and surrounding environment.
Opened to the public on 4th of October 2018, the new museum building has brought an entirely new character to the museum. The 20.000 million dolar building gave the museum an extra 18.950 square-metre exhibition space. Designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, the new building consists of a set of 11 cuboid volumes with varying dimensions, which form the galleries. As a reflection of the minimalist architecture, these blocks have a plain and bald outlook, and they surround a magnificent water court. The rooms are connected by a glass-enclosed passage which connects different rooms hosting artwork installations.
The architect Phifer describes his building as a”meditative experience, where you always return to this space that is open to the sky and the light”. His design took inspiration from Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1933 book In Praise of Shadows. Glenstone loves breaking traditional boundaries between architecture, art and nature. It is a place where you meet with Ellsworth Kelly and Jeff Koons’ installations while casually walking around breezy grasses and punch-colored wildflowers.
The museum collection comes from Emily and Mitchell Rales’ private collection. It consists of Modern and Contemporary Artworks from the post-World War II period. They take the visitor on a 100-year journey throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Permanent collection exhibits are displayed in a series of refined indoor and outdoor spaces.
Permanent collection is arranged chronologically and geographically. It features 65 artworks by some of the best-known names in modern and contemporary art including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Yves Klein, Alexander Calder, Yayoi Kusama and Jean-Michel Basquiat. These artworks by 45 artists are exhibited without any textual materials. Instead, gallery assistants provide information about the art. At Glenstone, art is encouraging open dialogue and communication.
The new museum building is designed to host long-term temporary exhibitions. Each of the 11 blocks exhibits site-specific artworks and installations that were developed in consultation with the artists. These spaces create ideal environments for artworks.
The blocks not only create a perfect atmosphere but also become an essential part of the overall art experience. In these areas, we see important artworks such as On Kawara’s three painting from Today series, Robert Gober’s multi sensational installation, Pipilotti Rist’s film project titled Ever is Over All and Roni Horn’s Water Double.
Accepting only 400 visitors a day, Glenstone Museum invites you to slow down and see art from a different perspective. Here all complexities and frustrations of daily life are left behind. This magical place reflects the healing power of art and nature. Maybe, this is exactly what we need the most: to slow down, look at art and discover the essence of life.