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Towards a New Museum Paperback – March 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Should art museums be designed to surprise and delight or to instruct and uplift? Should the museum building be a temple of art or an entertainment complex? Architectural historian Victoria Newhouse considers these and other questions about museums in her book Towards a New Museum. Newhouse examines dozens of art museums built during the 1980s and 1990s and describes how the buildings fit into the history of ideas about the proper function of museums. Some museums are like cabinets of curiosities, a hodgepodge of items the collector assembles to delight viewers. Other designers of museums strive to provide a neutral environment that does not distract viewers from the art. However, some architects believe that hanging paintings on white walls in galleries separates the art from its context. Architects and artists have grappled with these ideas and created some stunning and outlandish museums in recent years. Newhouse describes the sinuous, titanium-coated new Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the fractured forms of the Fredrick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. She writes about the artist Donald Judd, who bought most of Marfa, Texas, and made it a museum. These are bold and sometimes beautiful museums. Newhouse wisely includes plenty of good pictures and diagrams of each building.

In different segments of the book, Newhouse discusses: private museums, museums that function as temples of art, museums devoted to one artist, and museums designed by artists. She also devotes a chapter to the unfortunate impact of museum politics on design. This chapter, "Wings That Don't Fly," illustrates some of the more vivid design disasters in recent history, including the "toilet tank" addition to the Guggenheim in New York. Art historians, architects, and people who are connected to museums will find this book an instructive, thoughtful overview of what's going on with museums today. --Jill Marquis


...Towards a New Museum [is] about as complete a tour of the horizon of important new buildings as you are likely to find.... Ms. Newhouse is not just an astute and tireless visitor to these and many other places, but a trenchant critic and observer. -- The Wall Street Journal, Raymond Sokolov

Reading through these pages is to be engaged in a provocative conversation with passionate, very intelligent people. -- The New York Times Book Review, D.J.R. Bruckner

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Monacelli Press (March 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885254601
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885254603
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.9 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,075,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Winters on May 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
Victoria Newhouse's book on recent museum design is fascinating--I have been to many of the projects she includes (there are lots and lots of them), and her descriptions and analyses of them never fail to strike me as remarkably insightful. I don't always agree with her comments or her selection of projects (Frank Stella should stick to painting), but as a whole the book is both a wide-ranging compendium of current designs for the visual arts, and an informed treatise with a strong point of view. Far from being an advocate of universal space, Newhouse keeps returning to her central theme: how well does a particular design serve its particular contents? In answering that question, she displays an unusual comprehension of sophisticated issues in both the architectural and artistic arenas. Newhouse has visited much and looked hard; she has also apparently done a lot of research, talked to many of the clients, architects, and curators, and gives one not only the obvious facts but often the inside story. Then she calls it as she sees it, cogently summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of each project's suitability as a container for art. This is required reading for anyone seriously interested in or involved with problems of museum and gallery design.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Textbook was larger that I thought it would be, but the seller shipped in a timely manner. Great book full of case studies of museum architecture from around the world. I used it all semester in a museum studies architecture class and really enjoyed the examples provided. Can be a light read, or can go into more depth for those seriously interested.
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By aacf on July 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Read about 90% of this book, which was a great resource for my master's thesis. One of my favorite topic, thanks Newhouse!
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is ok if you want a coffee-table type, once-over- lightly look at some new museums. If you want the kind of serious consideration or analysis that seems promised by the contents/chapter titles, look elsewhere. A waste of $ for my purposes.
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