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Thursday 10.06.16

« Organic Encounters | Main | Weekend Picks »

Rothko pavillon for PAM's expansion

Mark Rothko retrospective at the Portland Art Museum 2012 (photo Jeff Jahn)

Major news PAM has announced its long anticipated expansion, featuring an idea that was first suggested by Tyler Green (it was in private but repeated publicly and constantly by PORT since)... a Rothko pavilion with works on loan from the Rothko Family. PORT has been the biggest champion of this idea and Rothko's legacy for a very long time, even in the face of some uninformed resistance from Rothko deniers... one simply cannot deny history, which Arcy notably first brought to greater light on PORT.

the glass Rothko Pavilion (center)

Here is the Press Release:

"The Portland Art Museum today announced both an expansion that will unify its campus by connecting the Museum's freestanding buildings, and a 20-year partnership with the children of Mark Rothko, Christopher Rothko, and Kate Rothko Prizel. The partnership includes the loan to the Museum of major paintings by Mark Rothko from their private collection; paintings will be loaned individually in rotation over the course of the next two decades.

The expansion will feature a new glass-walled building, to be named the Rothko Pavilion, in recognition of the artist's legacy in Portland-his home as a youth after immigrating from Latvia-and the Museum, where he took art classes as a teenager and where he received his first solo exhibition. The naming was made possible thanks to the $8 million lead gift from a donor who wished to remain anonymous so the pavilion could be named in Mark Rothko's honor.


The expansion project will seamlessly link the Museum to the surrounding Cultural District with a new central entrance flanked by greenery and sculpture that opens onto the South Park Blocks. The project will make the Museum more publicly accessible, while knitting the campus together with the surrounding neighborhood and reducing the Museum's carbon footprint. Groundbreaking is scheduled to take place in 2018, with an expected completion date for the project in late 2020 or early 2021. The Museum is launching the public phase of a $75 million capital and endowment campaign to fund the project. To date, $21.75 million (43 percent) of the $50 million capital goal has been raised, and $5.4 million has been raised towards the $25 million endowment goal.

'The partnership with the Rothko family is a homecoming of sorts, enabling us to share with the public major works from the family's private collection, offer new insight into Rothko's practice, and honor his legacy in the Pacific Northwest and the international arts community,' said Brian Ferriso, The Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Director and Chief Curator. 'We are deeply appreciative of Christopher and Kate's extraordinary generosity in sharing these works with the people of Portland, the state of Oregon, and visitors to our city. Our plans for the Rothko Pavilion bring together the elements of the Portland Art Museum's mission: to present exceptional works of art, develop exhibitions that take new perspectives on human creativity, and increase public accessibility and inclusion.'

'Our family is thrilled to enter into this partnership with the Museum,' said Christopher Rothko. 'Portland played a formative role in my father's youth, and we are eager to share these works with the public and give Rothko a more active role in the vibrant cultural life of this city. Our hope is that visitors will take the time to pause and engage with each of these paintings, and to participate in the process of 'slow looking' that the Museum has championed.'

Designed by Chicago-based Vinci Hamp Architects, the three-story Rothko Pavilion will add roughly 30,000 square feet of space to the Museum and will be anchored by a glass-walled stair tower that will connect the Pavilion to the Museum's Main Building. In addition to the Community Commons, the Pavilion will feature 9,840 square feet of new gallery space, including space for contemporary and media art, as well as a new Education and Design Lab, and new space for the Museum's library. The project will also create a third-floor sculpture garden that will provide visitors the chance to step outside and enjoy the Museum's natural surroundings; the rooftop deck will also serve as a space for public programming and events. The paintings loaned by Christopher and Kate Rothko Prizel will be installed in light-controlled galleries adjacent to the new Rothko Pavilion.

'As we look forward to the next 125 years, we look to strengthen our connection between the Museum and the public it serves,' said Janet Geary, Chairman of the Portland Art Museum Board of Trustees. 'Our campaign will connect building to building, the Museum to the community, people to art and to each other.'

Architect Vinci Hamp's previous work includes projects for the Art Institute of Chicago, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Neue Galerie in New York, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Oriental Institute, Smart Museum of Art, and The Arts Club in Chicago, among others. Also known for their historic preservation work, Vinci Hamp has completed award-winning projects that include the Illinois State Capitol, Chicago Tribune Tower, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio.

The Portland Art Museum has mounted exhibitions by a diverse roster of artists since the time of its founding. In 1913, the Museum brought works from the famous New York Armory Show to Portland, helping to introduce West Coast audiences to Modernism. In 1933 the Museum organized the first solo exhibition of works by the 29-year-old artist Marcus Rothkowitz, later to be known as Mark Rothko. "

Overall, I'm still processing the design but it is understated rather than so called starchitecture. If the galleries are good that is a good thing.... in fact the Rothko ones will be crucial as he had very specific ideas on how his work should be displayed with low light and ceilings. The images above are not of that space. Overall, a great day for Portland and a big fat Told You So for those who wonder of art criticism websites can have an effect.

*Update I was able to talk with PAM's Director Brian Ferriso briefly about the Rothko pavilion. First of all he proceeded to blow my mind by explaining that my drive to name Portland's newest bridge after its most famous son "planted the seed" for the new expansion being named after Rothko. Those naming rights came about because of an anonymous 8 million dollar capital gift (the largest in Oregon history). Fundraising in Oregon is notoriously difficult and Brian described the gift as a game changer for the project. It also means visitors can go see Rothkos just a few blocks from where he went to high school and lived. That's a tremendous thing.

I also asked Brian about the galleries as Rothko was highly specific about how his works should be viewed. He indicated that there wont be a specific Rothko gallery in the new pavilion but that part of the existing Mark building will be renovated to create a space where the Rothko works will be on display. So this is a very practical expansion that fixes some of the multilevel issues of the current campus while creating a Rothko space where there should have been one originally. Noteably, the library will be moved... which is both sad and good as I love the newish-old space from the 2005 expansion but it is hidden and shouldn't be. The expansion will also address the Park Blocks instead of being just a bunker, something he and I had discussed privately.

Overall, the Vinci Hamp decision as an architect is an extra sober one so the move is both bold in content with Rothko and somewhat restrained architecturally. That isnt a bad thing for a museum but I'll need to see more details to really evaluate the design, it would be a new and welcome trend to have the art featured more than the architecture. If its elegant with nice spaces for art that allow the museum get out its fusty traditionalism it will be good and the museum can expand 1 block over yet again in the future. So far it just looks like a museum... that's both an asset and a problem and the way it is executed will matter. Museums should play a long game and I think PAM's board is pretty conservative, especially after the last expansion left the institution exposed to the recession 3 years later. Still, it lacks the guts of the much smaller Japanese Garden expansion, there's no way to deny that. The Rothko aspect is major though as his works are simply out of reach for all but multi billionaires willing to sacrifice all at the auction houses. By working with the Rothko Family PAM found a better, more Portland way and hopefully these spaces will be excellent. Rothkos do demand to be well installed in good spaces.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 06, 2016 at 13:08 | Comments (0)


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