by Nadezna SiganporiaMar 08, 2021
Art can move mountains; it has the ability to burrow deep into your soul and change the way you see the world. It is this infallible characteristic that is the reason for many of today’s incredible private art collections around the world. However, most of the private art collectors and museum founders I spoke with conveyed a similar thought – locking their collections away is the antithesis to the purpose of art. They wanted to let the world in and be part of this beautiful journey.
So, they set off to create privately-owned institutions where their collections could reach the world. Daring, unconventional and unrestrained – private museums are in a league of their own. The narratives they portray and conversations they encourage aren’t constrained by budgets or prevailing societal norms. However, turning this idea into a reality takes time, effort, and most importantly, finding people who understand your vision. If the art is the moving story, the physical structures and surrounding landscape is the beautiful leather-bound book it comes in.
In this series of design-led articles, we delve into the architecture and design of these spaces. From some of the most remote locations where journeying into art is part of the cultural pilgrimage experience to locations that are right in the middle of bustling cities, these museums are carefully designed to not only align with their surroundings but be contextual to the creations they house. The series focuses on aspects of both the form and function of the architectural features as well as interesting details about the design from all perspectives.
The first part of the series explores the journey Polish entrepreneur and art collector Grażyna Kulczyk took with Zurich-based architects, Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy, to transform a 12th century former monastery in the Swiss Alps into a remote private museum. “In these surroundings, away from the everyday order and activity, there is a chance to slow down, think differently, and space for new ideas to flourish. It is a counteraction to the experience of viewing art in big centres. From the onset of founding Muzeum Susch, I proposed ‘Slow Art’ - a way of engaging with art that is about the quality of the way we look at art, not the quantity,” explains Kulczyk.
Located in Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Silo District, Zeitz MOCAA is the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. In this article we understand the intricacies of transforming a 1920s granary into an exquisite museum. Designed by the internationally acclaimed London-based Heatherwick Studio, the museum has been carved out from the historic structure of the Grain Silo Complex. “The fact that it was going to be the backdrop for contemporary art from Africa played into the design of the venue; that was the defining essence of the project,” explains Stepan Martinovsky, project leader, Heatherwick Studio.
French entrepreneur and the founder of Fondation Carmignac, Édouard Carmignac, chose a Provencal villa on a remote Mediterranean island to showcase his vast collection of art. In this article we speak to his son and director of the foundation, Charles Carmignac, on how Atelier Barani, GMAA agency and landscape architect Louis Benech transformed this remote location into a wonderland of contemporary art. “Both a National Park and a touristic destination, the island puts into question mankind and its presence in the world…An island is always an elsewhere. By crossing over to the other side, we move away from the world, in order to better immerse ourselves in it. It makes us feel rooted and uprooted at once. Art does that too,” mentions Charles .
The Broad, a contemporary art museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, was designed by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler. Located on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, the private museum shares visual space with the iconic and highly sculptural Walt Disney Concert Hall. Yet the museum holds its own, with an architecturally ambitious ‘veil and vault’ design concept. “In designing The Broad, we decided that what is typically a detractor (the storage area) could actually be a really interesting figure in the architecture, so why not turn it into a protagonist? Why not make it formally visible, in contact with the public spaces and with the galleries? So, we came up with the notion of the veil and the vault,” explains Elizabeth Diller co-founder and partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
London-based architecture firm, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, transforms a classical Georgian heritage building into the venue for Saatchi Gallery where the architecture skilfully and subtly recedes to let the art take centre stage. Located within the listed Duke of York’s HQ building in Chelsea, the architects carved out 67,000 square-feet of gallery spaces within the heritage structure. They brought in a thread of restraint in the architecture in the large, double-height spaces, the intimate rooms and the new, simple circulation system. "We were very interested in the idea that the gallery itself was the public place and all the moving patterns are through the gallery. That made it quite distinct…it was both the challenge and the generator of the gallery’s unique arrangement,” says Simon Allford, architect, co-founder and director of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.
Private Museums of the World:
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji, STIR presents Private Museums of the World: an original series that takes you behind the scenes of privately-owned museums, sharing their origin with chats with art collectors, museum directors, curators and architects, who seamlessly come together to create the most unusual and amazing structures to host art collections.
Watch this space for more.