Thursday, February 18, 2010

Museum of Art in Portland, Maine

I've visited Portland now a few times, and I wanted to make it a point to see the museum on my most recent visit.  Since I've been on my museum kick, I've discovered how fabulous it is to spend an hour or two wandering around them.  The Portland Art Museum has a wonderful collection that Annie and I enjoyed seeing very much.

For starters, the building that houses the collection is a work of art itself.  It's an IM Pei building.  He is the architect also responsible for the famous glass pyramid in front of the Louvre and the Kennedy Library here in Boston.  His works are visually stunning and take advantage of the natural elements that surround the structure offering amazing views.  What I liked best about the layout of the museum was that the galleries flowed easily from one to the other.  Even when you are in one gallery, there are overlooks and windows that connect you to the previous gallery.  It gave a cohesive feel to the museum's entire collection that I feel is often lacking when I've visited other museums.

We blew through the entire museum wanting to get a feel for it as a whole in about an hour and half, but I'm looking forward to going back and spending more time in each of the galleries.  There are some really nice pieces to see.  I'll include some photos here of a few of the highlights:

This work by Dale Chihuly is made entirely of glass and evokes a giant pink sea creature.  He is responsible for the glass installment at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  The glass collection on the basement floor has some wonderful pieces and you can also have a cup of coffee or a bite to eat while you browse through it from the museum's cafe.
Winslow Homer was active in New England for a good portion of his career.  His stunning seascapes are some of my favorite examples of "local" art.  They are moody and usually depict storms either coming or going depending on your perspective.  Portland Museum of Art has this breathtaking Homer on display year round.  Their 18th and 19th century American collection also includes John Singer Sargent, some great furniture and silver work, and a complete restored 19th century home that you can walk around in.

 The works of NC Wyeth are on temporary display at the museum.  He was active as an illustrator in the 20th century.  There is a gallery with about 8 or 10 of his original works that showcase his amazing sensitive use of light and color.  Also on temporary exhibit is a great still life show with Picasso, Chagall, and Matisse.

This is a detail from an Alexander Calder mobile.  The museum has a really nice gallery of contemporary art on the top floor that I'm glad we didn't miss.  In some ways it was the best part of the trip for me.  I felt like some of the most dramatic works were to be seen here.  There was also a really great show of black and white photography from the early 20th century up to present in the balcony that overlooked this wing.

Obviously it was a great afternoon spent wandering around and working off our food induced lethargy from the delicious meals we had already eaten.  The Portland Art Museum offers a great collection that is accessible and easy to see in one day with plenty of helpful interactive stations and friendly guides.  I'll be headed back to see it in more detail sometime soon, but I'm glad to know of the depth and breadth of what they have to offer.  It is a fantastic collection that you should make an effort to see if you find yourself in Portland.

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