Aug 13 2014

ArtCrush 2014 And The Opening Of The Shigeru Ban-Designed Aspen Art Museum

by Paul Laster

Installation view of SHIGERU BAN’s Paper Log House (1995– ) in “Humanitarian Architecture,” Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, 2014. Photo by and courtesy Billy Farrell.

Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum (AAM) kicked off a four-day celebration last week for it’s new USD 45 million, 3,065-square-meter building, designed by 2014 Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban, which opened to the public on August 9, with its tenth annual ArtCrush Summer Benefit.

Museum directors, curators, collectors and artists got the party started on July 30 at WineCrush, the annual reception and dinner for art and wine lovers at the Aspen home of art patrons Amy and John Phelan.

The following day saw preview receptions for the benefit auction lots—including works by Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang and Mika Tajima—at Baldwin Gallery and Casterline|Goodman Gallery in Aspen, followed by a dinner for AAM board members and lenders to the inaugural exhibitions at the newly reopened museum.

The ArtCrush reception, dinner and auction—plus the presentation of the annual Aspen Art Award to Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto—took place on the evening of August 1, on the grounds of the old museum building and inside a massive, decorated tent in Rio Grande Park. Revelers headed to AfterpartyCrush at Belly Up Aspen, where female violin-DJ duo The Dolls performed.

A ribbon cutting for the new museum building took place on the afternoon of August 2, with Ban and Colorado governor John Hickenlooper joining AAM director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson and board members for the ceremony. During his dedication, the governor said that, although he has met many celebrities, he’s never met anyone as talented or important as Ban, who humbly accepted the compliment.

Installation view of Moving Ghost Town (2014) and explosion event Black Lightning (2014) by CAI GUO-QIANG during opening celebrations of the Aspen Art Museum on August 2, 2014. Photo by Tony Prikryl. Courtesy Cai Studio, New York, and Aspen Art Museum.

CAI GUO QIANG, Black Lightning, 2014, explosion event at Aspen Art Museum. Photo by Paul Laster. 

Designed by Ban in relation to the landscape of Aspen, the new museum building features galleries with 4-meter ceilings on three levels and a sculpture garden and restaurant on the roof. A grand staircase takes visitors to the top floor, from which they can descend to the galleries—a metaphor for skiing down the nearby slopes. There is also a large glass elevator that lets visitors enjoy the view while ascending the museum, and a woven, wooden exterior skin that keeps the interior space cool and the light from the outside diffused.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s firework performance Black Lightning, which lit the skies above Aspen Mountain with black smoke, commemorated the official opening of the museum. To insure its success, Cai programmed the firework-lightning bolt twice, which provided a double-whammy for crowds gathered at the base of the mountain and on the museum’s rooftop. 

On the museum’s roof deck is Cai’s controversial installation Moving Ghost Town, which features three real-life African Sulcata tortoises walking around in a rustic environment. The symbolic tortoises have iPads mounted onto their shells that play video footage of three ghost towns in Colorado, which were “shot” from the animals’ perspective—serving as a site of forgotten stories. 

SHIGERU BAN, Paper Partition System 4, Iwate, Japan 2011, photo documentation. Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects/NGO Voluntary Architects’ Network, Tokyo. 

YVES KLEIN, Anthropométrie sans titre (ANT 154) (Untitled Anthropometry [ANT 154]), 1961. Photo by Ben Blackwell. Copyright and courtesy Yves Klein and Artists Rights Society, New York, and ADAGP, Paris. 

Later in the day the galleries were opened to museum members and Ban gave a walk-through of a special exhibition of his, “Humanitarian Architecture,” with actual structures, models, rarely seen drawings and photographs from his many humanitarian projects. 

Standouts from this exhibit include Paper Emergency Shelter for UNHCR, a structure made from paper tubes, commissioned by the United Nations for refugees of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda; Paper Log House, which has been used to shelter earthquake and typhoon victims in Japan, Turkey, India and the Philippines since 1995; and Paper Partition System, a simple way of providing privacy in mass holding sites, utilizing paper tubes, canvas and safety pins, which has been used in earthquake disasters in four different locations in Japan between 2004 and 2011.   

Visitors viewed additional new exhibitions by Tomma Abts, Rosemarie Trockel, Jim Hodges, and a show that dynamically pairs works by David Hammons with Yves Klein, and then proceeded to the roof deck to enjoy refreshments while soaking up the amazing views of Aspen and its all-encompassing nature.