The quick road trip to Columbus just became even more worthwhile. The new addition to the Columbus Museum of Art is beautifully done with light filled spaces, clean lines, high white walls, wood floors and floor to ceiling windows at either end of the cantilevered gallery spaces.

Melvin Edwards show.

The New York firm of TodWilliamsBillieTsien were the original architects whose design was then augmented and completed by Michael Bongiorno of Columbus based Design Group. 22,000 feet of gallery space were added to the existing 35,000.  But, it may be the newly added square footage that kicks the whole package up the ladder a couple of rungs.

New gallery with Lichtenstein and Wiley paintings.

A well laid-out grassy courtyard of significant sculpture- Lichtenstein, Aristide Maillol and others- leads you into an airy, light-filled two story atrium. A new café opens to the right, bright and busy, one wall a glass vitrine filled with small pottery, glass and sculpture. The other side of the atrium lobby houses the new shop. One wall of the atrium is the former outside wall of the museum. The budget total of $37.6 million has been well spent.

Mel Chin’s “Spirit”

On the ground floor, a show of sculpture by the African-American artist Melvin Edwards looks great, heavy metal against white walls. Edwards employs various metal parts, chain link, barbed wire, giant bolts and the indecipherable all welded together to make pieces that evoke the oppression and violence of the experience of the African-American. The walls of the gallery are filled with the smaller wall sculptures and several larger pieces anchor the floor space. It’s a nicely organized and beautiful exhibition.

Allison Saar’s “Nocturne Navigator”

Wide, white stone stairs lead you up to the second floor. The new galleries are stocked with classic contemporary and modern art. Lichtenstein’s “Oval Office” dominates one wall. Kehinde Wiley, Ken Noland, Frankenthaler, Baziotes and a mammoth Stella are all nicely spread among the main galleries. Natural light filters from the wall of glass at one end of the gallery and from the open atrium at the other end. You never completely lose connection with the outside. The exception is a handful of small galleries that house a single, monumental work, such as Allison Saar’s beautiful sculpture, “Nocturne Navigator”. It fills its custom space, where the pin-dots of light emanate from the giant dress, suggesting the star-led journey of slaves along the underground railway. Mel Chin’s “Spirit”, an enormous barrel, seemingly held aloft by a single rope,  fills another space. At the south end of the wing, a gallery faces Broad Street with a wall of glass. One of Deborah Burchfield’s near life-size horses and the large Stella can be seen by passers-by from the outside.

A Deborah Burchfield horse and Columbus street beyond.

The new galleries connect easily and seamlessly to the older, original building. The galleries here still display Columbus’  significant collection of twentieth century American art. Several iconic Bellows paintings are accompanied by some other greats—Reginald Marsh, Hopper and many others. Several galleries display a very nice European collection, older paintings up through 20th century modern. It’s a pretty concise collection, but there are still many highlights.

But, the real story here is the new wing and how it expands the museum, integrates the old and new, both in art and architecture. It just seems to work very well, making Columbus a worthy trip for art lovers.

–Kevin Ott


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *