Architecture Review | Yale University Art Gallery
Restoring Kahn's Gallery, and Reclaiming a Corner of Architectural History, at Yale
By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF
Published: December 11, 2006
NEW HAVEN — The restoration of the Yale University Art Gallery reawakens one of America's great architectural beauties from a slumber that has lasted too long. Like the return of a long-lost friend, however, it may resurrect a few old wounds.
Overseen by Polshek Partnership Architects, best known for producing sleek contemporary designs, the restoration puts Louis I. Kahn back on the pedestal he so richly deserves. All the elements of his genius are here: the bold geometric forms, the crisp lines, the sensitive use of light, the tactile love of materials. The first of his great masterpieces, the building foreshadows the atavistic landmarks of his late career.
Yet the project should also be understood as part of a larger effort to reclaim a corner of the Yale campus that includes Paul Rudolph's 1963 Art and Architecture building, now being renovated by Charles Gwathmey, and the construction of an addition for art history students across the street. As a whole, these works address one of the most volatile periods in American architecture and remind us of how history is constantly being challenged and revised.
Unlike Lever House, the structural masterpiece in glass and steel that Gordon Bunshaft was designing in New York at around the same time, the 1953 Art Gallery stresses materials and surfaces, projecting an air of mystery.
Years of callous alterations have now been reversed, restoring those elements in all their glory. The west facade has been rebuilt so that its glass and steel frame regains its original lightness; a sunken exterior court that was senselessly roofed over to make room for more gallery space has been restored, allowing light to spill down once more into the lower galleries.
The elegance of that west wall, gently set back from the street, contrasts with the forceful concrete-block facade of the main entrance, an opaque, expressionless screen. Inside the building this quality of restraint gives way to an intoxicating blend of muscularity and delicacy. The deep triangulated beams of the ceilings, with their deep shadows, lend the rooms a mystical air; the stark silolike concrete cylinder housing the staircase reaffirms the galleries' status as sacred space. [read on...]
via Yale University Art Gallery site:
Collections: African Art
The Yale collection of art from Africa south of the Sahara had its beginnings with gifts of several textiles in 1937, and it now numbers some 1,000 objects in wood, metal, ivory, ceramic, and other materials. Major milestones in forming the collection occurred in 1954, with the acquisition of the Linton Collection of African Art, purchased for the Gallery by Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn, and in 2004, with the gift of the entire Charles B. Benenson collection of six hundred African objects. Concurrent with the 2004 gift, Mr. Benenson endowed the new position of the Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation Curator of African Art, and the Department of African Art at the Yale University Art Gallery was born. [read on...]
Collections: Ancient American Art
This relatively recent collection was founded on the gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Olsen in the 1950s, which provided a representative base of Mesoamerican art. Further acquisitions from the Olsen collection in the 1970s added several exceptional highlights. Among these are outstanding Jaina terra-cotta figurines from the Maya period and striking figures and house models from western Mexico. Particularly important and rare is the clay model of a ball game, which is complemented by a yoke, hachas, and additional items related to this ancient sporting activity. South American cultures are represented by a small number of vessels, sculptures, and other objects, including textiles. Recent acquisitions have included a painted Maya vase and the largest carved Maya femur known, along with a notable selection of Olmec and Maya pieces, with important gifts from Peggy and Richard Danziger, LL.B. 1963, Sally and Allen Wardwell, B.A. 1957, and Thomas T. Solley, B.A. 1950.
The art of the ancient Americas collection is shared with Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History, known for its excavations at Machu Picchu; the two museums lend works back and forth for exhibition and study. [read on...]