Everyday Art Museum Expands Welcome Mat


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The word “mingei”, meaning “folk art”, was coined in 1925 by Japanese philosopher and art historian Soetsu Yanagi to celebrate the beauty of everyday objects made by anonymous artisans. Yanagi was the founder and first director of the Museum of Japanese Folk Crafts, which opened in Tokyo in 1936. Forty-two years later his philosophy, Mingei International Museum In San Diego, where objects from 140 countries and many epochs (as well as works by well-known artists and designers) are featured, describing mingei as “folk art”. It reopened on September 3 after a three-year renovation.

Housed in a Spanish Colonial building built for the 1915-17 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park since 1996, the revitalized museum rededicates itself to the idea of ​​community – communal space, culture and creativity. “We strive to deliver radical hospitality – every visitor is equally important so they discover that the art is for or about themselves,” said executive director Rob Sidner. As redesigned by architect Jennifer Luce Luce et Studio Interiors in La Jolla are now more open and inviting. Materials and craft are celebrated in every component of the renovation, including commissions. famous women designers and artists.

Noting the lack of natural flow between the museum and the park, Ms. Luce presented new trails and attractions. “We wanted to show that Mingei connects with everyone’s cultural background by bringing them to explore and be curious,” he said.

The first floor or communal floor, where entry is free, has a public gallery, stepped “amphitheatre” seating, a café, a café bar, a shop, and an education centre; Miss Luce calls it the “living room of the park”.

On the east side of this communal level, the architect opened the passage surrounding the ornate main entrance and added glass doors that offer seven entry points. He transformed the ground floor loading dock below this level into a 125-seat theater with a patio he designed with the landscape architect and a glass front wall overlooking the amphitheater. David Reed. The roof of the theater has been converted into a dining courtyard for the cafe; A large enameled copper mural, created in 1965 by San Diego artists Ellamarie and Jackson Woolley, adorns the west wall. And the steeple now has a grand staircase with a large glass statue of Dale Chihuly.

Also at the commons level, Miss Luce has a 125-foot-tall, canopy-like perforated stainless steel ceiling. Inspired by the piano in Mr. Sidner’s office, the project explores “music as a craft,” he said. For the dining courtyard, he designed a “more inviting and less intimidating” fence made of hand-spun bronze alloy stakes (required by the parks department).

The gallery floor on the second floor contains a large exhibition space and a library; Founders Gallery (open to the public when not hosting board meetings); and formerly unused open terraces.

While reshaping the museum’s interiors, Ms. Luce invited key women of art and design to humanize them. Above the bar of the cafe hangs a 36-metre mural made of felted wool from the Drenthe Heath sheep by Dutch designer and environmental activist Claudy Jongstra. (This ancient breed, native to the Netherlands, is declining with loss of grazing land.) The piece, painted with pigments made from organic plants grown by Ms. Jongstra, is a discovery. indigo and Burgundy black is a color used to depict clothing in Renaissance paintings. Wool also has acoustic properties, which is an advantage in its live environment.

Metal artist Sharon Stampfer designed a bronze doorknob that marks the distance between San Diego and Nakashima’s studio in New Hope for the second-floor Entrance to the Founders Gallery, furnished with works by renowned woodworker George Nakashima. , p. Inside the room are two cut pieces of paper based on tree drawings by Christina Kim by Nakashima. Ms. Kim, founder of clothing and homeware brand Dosa, used the Mexican papel cortado technique to create the works and placed them between the glass panes in the small windows for a play of light and shadow.

For the main gallery, Ms. Kim designed a curtain to display the ongoing installations using Dyneema, a technical fabric she embellished with holographic thread that refracts light so that it “shines like cobwebs in the sun.” Billie Tsien, co-founder of New York firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, designed three long, low wooden benches fabricated by Tule Peak Timber in California. (The company also crafted the cafe’s bar counter out of a sawn walnut.) Complementing the two existing Nakashima benches, the new seats will feature organic extensions made from root ball pieces by Stephen Iino, a New Jersey woodworker. Can be used as a handle to help occupants stand up. Ms. Tsien said she and Mr. Williams were interested in Mingei’s ethos of “finding the beautiful in the common”.

And for the theater curtain, Dutch designer Petra Blaisse layered layers of laser-cut gray and blue felt with a pattern of abstracted jacaranda leaves, in homage to Kate Sessions, a gardener who introduced jacaranda to San Diego. The curtain can move to cover the large window or the concrete east wall of the theatre.

When it comes to materials and fixtures, Ms. Luce opted for proven quality and sustainability: white oak and heart oak flooring by the 120-year-old Danish company Dinesen; architectural metalwork from A. Zahner, a company based in Kansas City, Mo., founded in 1897; and Vitsoe’s 606 metal shelf, a classic design by Dieter Rams who said “Good design is as little design as possible”. Mr Sidner said one of the museum’s goals was to “let the renovation express the museum’s mission” and to showcase “people’s art for the public”. In this case, the task is completed.


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