The architect's dream

. October 1, 2013.

It’s not often that an art museum is known more for the museum building itself than for its collection. One thinks, perhaps, of New York’s Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, or Bilbao, Spain’s Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. Added to that list—less than an hour away—the Broad Art Museum in East Lansing, Michigan, designed by Zaha Hadid. The stories of both Broad (rhymes with rode) and Hadid are remarkable.

Hadid is the first woman and only Muslim to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award for architecture in the world. She was born in 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq, and grew up in one of Baghdad’s first Bauhaus-inspired buildings. She earned a degree in mathematics before she moved to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, studying under Rem Koolhaas with whom she became a business partner in 1977. In 1980 she opened her own London-based practice, Zaha (now Dame Zaha) Hadid Architects. She has garnered international awards too numerous to list, and in 2006 was honored with a huge retrospective spanning her entire work at the Guggenheim in New York. I stumbled on it by chance; I was there for a Kandinsky exhibition. I’d never heard of her and was blown away by the photos, models, videos and artifacts that took up most of the museum—some of it was so wild that it didn’t look like it could be real.

Eli Broad is a Spartan done good. After he graduated cum laude from Michigan State University in 1954 he built two Fortune 500 companies from the ground up: Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation, as well as SunAmerica. Billionaire Broad has made his home in Los Angeles and his calling in the arts. He’s founding chairman of the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art (gave 30 million), a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art and the L.A. County Museum (gave 60 million). He spearheaded the campaign to build the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and is a major giver to the L.A. Opera. But he never forgot the little people: he endowed the MSU College of Business and the MSU Graduate School of Management (beaucoup million). And, of course, the Broad Art Museum (gave 28 million).

And what a well-spent 28 million. Hadid’s Broad Museum (one of only two of her works in the United States) has been called a spaceship that landed and immediately attracted throngs of museum goers and gawkers alike. It embodies her distinctively futuristic esthetic characterized by powerful, curving forms and elongated structures with multiple perspective points and a fragmented, some say chaotic, geometry. The Broad is something of a 3-D parallelogram from the outside with a complimentary, startling interior that eschews right angles. It is three levels and 46,000-square-feet of angled, irregularly shaped galleries and sloping vantage points. Even the coat room has an angular design. The whole thing reminds me of an Escher drawing come to life. But the Broad is more than a building. It inherited MSU’s excellent 7,500 piece Kresge Art Museum that spans the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, medieval and Renaissance works, Old Master paintings, 19th century American paintings, 20th century sculpture (including a gorgeous Calder), and works by contemporary artists, like one of my favorites, Chuck Close. Collection growth and new acquisitions are slated to focus on modern and post-1945 works. Don’t miss this modern masterpiece.

Welcome to town

There are never too many good art galleries, and now we have another: the Dancing Dog Gallery at 302 East Liberty. It’s the work of eight ambitious local member artists. The galleries are sleek and bright, with a second floor of art studios for rent. There are ten visiting artists who chip in to have their work displayed. Stop by whenever you’re downtown, and tell ‘em Current sent you.

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