The renovations to the BMA’s contemporary wing were completed a little while ago, but I still hadn’t had a chance to visit it. So when friends came up from Virginia for brunch, it was the perfect opportunity.
As part of its renovation, the museum commissioned Sarah Oppenheimer to create an Architectural Intervention. Oppenheimer’s design opens up unexpected spaces between the rooms and floors in the gallery. So that you catch yourself looking through one room and — through an angled opening — suddenly into another, or up two floors and into a mirror, through which you can see other people looking down and glimpsing you.
The response this elicits is fascinating. You experience a painting differently when catching it in this momentary, fragmented way. And there is also a surprised warmth in finding yourself looking at one another as fellow museum goers. Passing one Oppenheimer cutout, a little girl saw me, took a minute, and then waved. Later, when we looked down through a system of mirrors at another trio of adults, both our groups exchanged extemporaneous beams.
The BMA talks about its Oppenheimer work in art historical and communal terms:
“Applied to museums, Oppenheimer’s work reflects a rethinking of conventions for organizing art room-by-room according to time period and geographic location. New opportunities to see through architectural boundaries yield juxtapositions of objects that suggest the fluidity of art history. These unexpected gallery encounters also draw attention to the importance of a community of viewers in bringing the institution and its collections to life.”