Exhibit of the week
The re-opening of Glenstone
Could Glenstone, an art oasis 18 miles northeast of Washington, D.C., be the ideal museum? asked Philip Kennicott in The Washington Post. Billionaire founders Mitchell and Emily Wei Rales had the ambition and the resources to aim that high, and any visitor who sets foot on the 230-acre campus they’ve created will concede that “everything is quietly spectacular.” The 204,000-square-foot main complex sits in a gorgeous meadow lined by trees, and the building itself wraps around a lily pond. Inside the museum, vast windows “present nature as visual haiku,” while works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt, and other giants of post–World War II art occupy the most uncluttered, contemplative settings imaginable. Not all the art benefits from such spare presentation: The 400 visitors allowed into Glenstone each day may well lower their estimation of some of the best-known conceptual work, such as On Kawara’s spare Moon Landing. But this is a museum dedicated to asking discomfiting questions about art: “What of all this matters? And what does it want from us?”
Think of Glenstone as a recluse who has finally been prodded out of hiding, said Kriston Capps in Washington City Paper. In the first decade following its 2006 founding, the institution “only opened its doors a crack to the public.” But in 2015, the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to the Raleses and other plutocratic collectors, warning them that their remote, little-visited repositories of multimillion-dollar stashes of art could be labeled a tax dodge. Now, having grown into a complex more welcoming to the public and nearly seven times its original size, “Glenstone is starting to look like a museum.” Fastidious collectors, the Raleses have created an ideal home for artists such as Robert Gober, who is one of nine whose work gets a dedicated gallery, and whose 1992 room-size installation featuring flowing industrial sinks is “a stunning mise-en-scène.” But it’s hard to imagine that less monumental forms of art would fit in as well.
The Raleses insist that the museum will keep evolving, said Julia Halperin in ArtNet.com. And though racial and gender imbalances remain to be fully corrected, the work currently at Glenstone is of “almost eye-wateringly high quality.” Cy Twombly’s minimalist sculptures “have never looked as sublime” as they do here. And even now, the two multiartist galleries have begun to integrate into the mid-20th-century canon superb work by women and non-Western artists. Many of these pieces are so valuable that even major museums can’t afford to purchase them. If you’ve ever wondered what a knockout collection would look like if money were no object, “Glenstone is about as close to this fantasy as we are likely to get—with all the benefits and blind spots that entails.” ■