Saturday, August 28, 2010

East Wing National Gallery of Art

Latitude:: 38°53'27.69"N
Longitude: 77° 1'2.14"W

Designed by I.M. Pei, the East Wing of the National Gallery houses the modern collections. Pei's task was to develop a convergence of the Neoclassical style of the main gallery with a modern aesthetic on a difficult trapezoidal site. Having spent some time in the original building as a contractor, I developed an appreciation for the massive proportions of the original gallery building. The East Wing is in fact built from the same stone as the original, a pink granite from a Tennessee quarry. I do not know who approved the horrible extended tunnel entrance additions, (Homeland Security?), but they definitely distract from the simple monumentality of the original facade. The open interior space is defined by a complex array of stairs and walkways at various elevations.

This is a great building, but I was disappointed with the exhibitions and overall collection. Compared to MoMA, the way that the art is displayed is amateur and probably the result of government committees, with questionable taste. I left feeling that I.M. Pei's masterpiece had been tainted by the influence of dilletantes.