22 August 2014

NC Museum of Art, Raleigh

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Classic pose: drawing a Rodin sculpture

On my third visit of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh last week, I had the chance to see both the new and old building as well as the sculpture garden.


The NCMA opened in 1956 as the first major museum collection in the country to be formed by State legislation and funding. In 1967, the current site was chosen for a new building, as the museum had outgrown its previous location.

Designed by Edward Durrell Stone of New York and Holloway-Reeves Architects of North Carolina, the building on Blue Ridge Road opened in 1983. Stone used spatial experimentation with pure geometric form for the museum, by using a square as a basic unit and designing the entire site by manipulating the square form.

After Stone's death in 1978, the exterior was changed from white marble to red brick.

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
In the East Building
NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Expansion (West Building), east elevation

2010 Expansion

In April 2010 the museum opened the $72m 127,000-square-foot (11,800 m2) West Building, designed by Phifer and Partners. The single-story structure, clad with anodized aluminum panels that are canted back two degrees, and surrounded by sculpture gardens and pools, was created to feature the museum’s permanent collection as well as more than 100 new works of art, acquired on the occasion of the expansion.


NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Erich Heckel, Tiergarten im Herbst
The NCMA offers a collection of art spanning more than 5,000 years from antiquity to the present, an amphitheater for outdoor performances, and a variety of celebrated exhibitions and public programs. It features more than 40 galleries as well as more than a dozen major works of art.

Highlights include a gift of 30 Rodin sculptures and work by artists Roxy Paine, Ursula von Rydingsvard, El Anatsui, Jaume Plensa, Jackie Ferrara, Ellsworth Kelly, and David Park. The project also transformed the older East Building into a center for temporary exhibitions, education and public programs, public events, and administrative functions.

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Museum park
The nation’s largest museum park with 164-acres (0.66 km2) includes walking paths, bike trails, ecological projects conceived with artists, and site-specific commissioned works of art in a rolling green landscape.


The contrast between old and new (east and west) building is startling. While the expansion shows  the architecture and (mostly) light qualities museum visitors today would expect from contemporary museum design, the old building in its current form (or what was accessible on a recent Sunday afternoon) looks dark, a bit cavernous and somehow forlorn. It reminded me of a favourite tool, forgotten in the shed.

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Main lobby; wall-mounted: "Doors of Jerusalem" by Jaume Plensa

What really caught my eye is the very broad palette of art styles and periods at the NCMA – everything from Egyptian art via Rodin sculptures (a lot!) and some lovely Germans (Schmitt-Rottluff, Heckel, Richter), to famous Americans such as Motherwell.

But amidst this plethora of styles and periods, I was not able to recognise a defined focus. Perhaps the focus is "A Bit of Everything" as a general overview; a subject my local friend and I discussed at length but came to no conclusion. An interesting museum nevertheless, and certainly worth visiting.

If you go

Admission to the permanent collections is free, to the special exhibits usually not.

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday. 9:00 - 17:00, Fridays - 21:00, Sundays 10:00 - 17:00. The museum's lovely Iris restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday, dinner on Friday, and brunch on Sunday.

2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27607, (919) 839-626, http://ncartmuseum.org

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
At the Iris restaurant; it could be art. Who knows?

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