Immersed in Happy Art by
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Prompted By Art’s Impact

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I wasn’t that keen on going to see the Bilbao museum—a lot of crazy ballooning silver swaths of Frank Gehry fantasy that didn’t seem to have any conversation with the landscape or history of the place.  What sort of megalomaniac would design that–or his other signature architectural pieces?

Exploring the unexpected.

And yet, once inside, it was impossible not to be entranced by the space and the light.  And perfectly situated in a large open area was the Torqued Spiral installation by Richard Serra, a deceptive maze of huge curved and rusted metal.  Wandering into and through those towering walls revealed mysteries of new angles and shadows.  Overall a feast for the eyes but only fully experienced by physically moving through it–how could you not smile?

Immersive art attracts and enchants.  Cloud Gate (“The Bean”) by Anish Kapoor in downtown Chicago always has a crowd around and under it, its silver curves reflecting the sky, the clouds, the buildings and people in constantly changing distortions.  Everyone snapping compulsively with their mobile phones.  Nearby, Crown fountain by Jaume Plensa–water flows down a tower of electronic faces to a shallow depression in a stone plaza full of happy children running through it.

We visited the Orangerie in Paris in 2022—a special oval gallery built to display the massive Monet water lily exhibit.  I had no idea it was so huge. You could sit on the benches and be surrounded by the colors of the pond in sun or shadow, imagining yourself at Giverny.  They required gated tickets to keep the crowds down.

We also made it out to the Bois de Boulogne to the Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton modern art gallery where just wandering through the space was enough.  But there was an exhibit– “Splinter” by Katharina Grosse–with brilliant colors splashed across the floor, the ceiling and the walls with light from a window playing across it.  It took our breath away; we felt like excited kids.  And then a little girl ran enthusiastically across the floor.  Yes!

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry


Characterizations: been there, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Thanx Khati for your artfully written story and for immersing me in those exhibits – none of which I’ve seen.

    And thanx for reminding me of other impactful exhibits I have seen – Chihuly at the Bronx Botanical Garden, and a Leonard Cohen exhibit in Montreal, and Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum I’ve written about. https://www.myretrospect.com/stories/the-dinner-party/

    And nice to see you and Sally to boot!

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Worth a trip to Chicago some day. The other example you cite sound great as well. Montreal has some excellent museum options and lots of art in the public spaces too. I could have included the tromp l’oeil on the sidewalk with giant silver balls “indenting” the pavement…

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Fantastic examples, Khati! Isn’t it wonderful what art can do for you? I’ve seem many of the works that you describe here, in fact we got to the Fondation Loius Vuitton last December (a Monet/Joan Mitchell show that was FABULOUS), but also, what a gorgeous building (have not yet been to Bilbao – on our bucket list), and just yesterday saw that a Mark Rothko show is coming there in the autumn, so we’re thinking of going back to Paris before Rosa’s 2nd birthday and our trip to London in December. Thanks for all these great examples.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Hope your travel and art plans come through—so much to enjoy! The Fondation Louis Vuitton was a surprise—not on the usual downtown Paris list—but they had some fabulous exhibits that used the space perfectly, and it sounds as if what you saw was also awesome.

  3. Fred Suffet says:

    Thank you, Khati, for putting in a good word for immersive art. People who’ve never experienced it have a rare treat in store. Some eight or ten years ago, I wandered through a Serra exhibit that was both fascinating and delightful. It is a way to experience art that is unlike anything else. I visited l’Orangerie over a half century ago on my first visit to Paris. The Monet exhibit was (and undoubtedly still is) sublime beyond words.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Thanks Fred. It is indeed thrilling to be able to experience such art on so many sensory levels, and it opens one up to appreciating the environment more fully. Of course, when I take my dog for a walk in the park by the beach and am entranced by the clouds and shadows, he is experiencing worlds I can’t fathom with his nose to the ground.

  4. Jim Willis says:

    Well done, Khati! I loved reading about your trip to the Bilbao and other great museums, and I agree wholeheartedly that fine art can attract, immerse, and entrance us, if we but let it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. pattyv says:

    K, so enjoyed this. What a beautiful journey of the art I may never get to see in person. I loved all the exhibits, especially Splinter, I felt as if I were there in the slpashes of color. The pictures were amazing. And the little girl was perfect.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I know you would have loved all of it, but Splinter was truly amazing, serendipitous little girl and all. The woman in the dotted dress looking at the dots (a different artist)in the featured image was taken at the same gallery. Keep your eyes open—there may be some amazing works coming your way, especially to a museum of modern art, and you won’t have to travel so far.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Such great art experiences. Lucky you! Although I have been to the Bean and fountain many times. A delightful experience.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Great cities have great art. Chicago is one of them, and accessible to all who visit. Beautiful public spaces can create more happiness than possessions. If you visit on vacation, often even better, since you may be more relaxed and open to surprise and wonder. Lucky you to have Millenium park near.

  7. I loved the way you began this recollection, Khati: with a weary skepticism of the massive expressions that power and approval can bring to architecture. But to then allow yourselves, and hence us, into the gaping maws of a series of impactful spaces where art surrounds us, allows us to inhale it, to feel its full effect. I think “happiness” suits your reflections beautifully!!!

  8. Dear Khati: Two cheers for happiness. I enjoyed your descriptions of deli
    It is a relief not to hear the usual complaints of exhaustion, crowded hallways, noisy kids, and limited hours.
    I have not been to any of your exhibitions. I am glad to learn of them from you.
    Richard

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Yes, museums can be a mixed bag. But art is is often closer and more accessible than you think, especially in large cities. I know you have experienced it in your travels by way of the architecture or murals or in public parks/spaces if nothing else. Two cheers is a good start.

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    I too am left cold by Gehry’s designs, although I have never been inside one, and have experienced personally how utterly different the inside of a major architect;s work can be from the exterior.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Giverny a couple of years back. It is like walking through a Monet.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I was surprised to find the inside so much more pleasant than the outside of the Gehry buildings, just as the Sagrada Familia (too, shall we say, gaudy?) was surprisingly delightful inside. I have never been to Giverny itself, but maybe someday. I did not know the exhibit would be so large and encompassing but if the garden is like the paintings, they should be enchanting.

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