Museum watch

Museum watch

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa

The past year has seen its fair share of new openings across the world. It is not just art that is finding space in museums, but there is equal focus on photography, history, religion and literature. From an island in Abu Dhabi to a former lynching site in Alabama, here’s a list of new museums to explore:

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa

Its opening in October 2017 made Zeitz MOCAA the largest museum opening in Africa in more than 100 years. Located at Capetown’s V&A Waterfront, it is the world’s largest museum for contemporary African art. London-based Heatherwick Studio converted the former grain silo into 6,000 sq metres of exhibition space. Inside, the museum opens up to an atrium with elongated holes (super-sized grains) and elevators leading to nine floors and 80 galleries. The focus is on 21st-century work from Africa and the diaspora – much of it is the private collection of German businessman Jochen Zeitz. There’s a rooftop sculpture garden, a bookshop, a restaurant, a bar and reading rooms.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, Paris, France

Last October saw the opening of Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, located in the former headquarters where the late fashion great, Yves Saint Laurent, worked for almost 30 years. Yves Saint Laurent created a systematic archive of his work since he created his couture house in 1961. On display are 5,000 garments, 15,000 accessories, sketches, collection boards, photographs, and objects – a treasure trove of international haute couture. Visitors can get a peek into his original studio, and a biographical introduction to the man and his work, and the process of designing an haute couture collection.

Museum MACAN, Jakarta, Indonesia

Indonesia’s first modern and contemporary art museum, Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art in Nusantara or MACAN (the local word for tiger) is the private gallery of collector and property developer Haryanto Adikoesoemo. Expect to find multi-disciplinary works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Yayoi Kusama as well as Indonesian artists like Raden Salèh Sarief Bustaman and Hendra Gunawan spread across a 4,000-square-metre facility. The focus is on modern and contemporary art from Indonesia and around the world.

Museum of the Bible, Washington, D.C., USA

This free, state-of-the-art museum focuses on the history, narrative and impact of the Bible. The museum showcases rare artefacts spanning 3,500 years of history and offers visitors an immersive experience with the Bible. There’s an exploration of the history and impact of the Bible in different communities; an exhibit from the Israel Antiquities Authority showcasing life in ancient Israel, an immersive look at first-century Nazareth and the context of Jesus’s teachings, artefacts such as the pages from the first-ever printed Bible (Gutenberg Bible), a reading room, and a ‘world stage’ theatre for musical performances.

Yayoi Kusama Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama, known for her signature polka dot motifs and her pumpkin sculptures, now has a museum dedicated to her art. The Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in Tokyo last October and offers fans two exhibitions, lectures, publications and displays of ephemera and documentation. Her signature polka dots can be found in the museum’s new pumpkin works, an infinity room, stenciled glass facade, the restrooms and elevators. The five-storey white building displays her artworks, environmental installations, a reading room and an archive of Kusama-related documents, as well as a gift shop.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

The sister venue of Paris’s Louvre can be found on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. Designed by French Pritzker Prize-winner Jean Nouvel, the museum, which opened last November, has a star-latticed geometric dome of eight different layers. Inside, the ‘museum city’ has 55 white buildings and 23 galleries showcasing 600 artworks, manuscripts, and objects of historical and cultural significance. Over 300 masterpieces are on loan from the Paris museum and 15 other French cultural institutions. Visitors can find Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ (‘Saviour of the World’); a Mondrian painting bought from the collection of Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé, ‘Madonna and Child’ by Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini, impressionist works by Monet, Manet and Van Gogh, and modern masterpieces by Pollock.

American Writers Museum, Chicago, USA

The museum opened in downtown Chicago last May with the idea of highlighting the accomplishments of the nation’s writers through themed and permanent exhibits, author talks and events. The high-tech space has a ‘word waterfall’ with literary quotations, touch screens and interactive displays. The ‘Writers Hall’ has a display of 100 American authors on one wall, and 100 American works on another. A ‘Surprise Bookshelf’ has panels that flip open to reveal the aroma of fresh-baked cookies from a Julia Child recipe, a Charles Schulz’s comic strip or stories behind the lyrics of popular songs.

There is also a permanent exhibit featuring hometown writers. Though not a library, there is a ‘Readers Hall’. Visitors can also sit at a table with a vintage typewriter and paper, and pencils, and create flash fiction.

Dr. Seuss Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA

The beloved author of children’s books, Dr Seuss or Theodor Geisel, now has a museum dedicated to him and his life. The first floor features Seuss’s characters and the worlds he invented for them, brought to life with digital exhibits, 3-D sculptures, and murals. There’s a replica of Geisel’s childhood bedroom and his grandfather’s bakery. The second floor offers a glimpse into the man with personal items like hats and his bowtie collection, drawing boards, oil paintings, and never-before-seen drawings. There are furnishings from his actual studio including his desk, donated by Geisel’s family.

Atelier des Lumières, Paris, France

This digital art centre is set in a former smelting plant. It holds monumental immersive exhibitions like the 30-minute immersion into Gustav Klimt’s work done for its opening in April. The multimedia equipment extends from the floors to the ceilings and over walls, and uses 140 video projectors and a spatialised sound system. There are two areas of display. In La Halle is a cycle of digital exhibitions devoted to the great figures in the history of art, and in Le Studio, visitors can discover the work of experienced or emerging artists.

The Legacy Museum, Alabama, USA

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, opened in April this year on the site of a former slave pen in Montgomery, Alabama. The 11,000-square-foot facility is a reminder of America’s racist legacy and contains details about the history of the slave trade. The museum uses audio-visual tools to talk about the history of slavery, including black-and-white holograms of slaves.

There’s also a wall of signs from times of segregation; a wall of dirt collected at the sites of lynchings in Alabama, and images of freedom-fighting heroes. Outside, the haunting National Memorial for Peace and Justice features more than 800 steel monuments engraved with the dates and names of lynching victims throughout the country.

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