24-Hour Party People: The New Aspen Art Museum

This past Saturday, VIPs got a first glimpse of the new home of Aspen Art Museum (AAM), a building designed by Pritzker Prize winning starchitect, Shigeru Ban. The new museum meshes architecture with the magnificent art inside, bringing the beauty of the Aspen landscape side-by-side with the innovative exhibitions on display.
To kick off the new digs, the museum will present six new exhibitions, with the headliner
David Hammons Yves Klein/Yves Klein David Hammons
. Members only were invited to the spectacular commencement on August 2nd, which included a specially commissioned explosive project by Cai Guo-Qiang. The museum will treat the general public as well, with a free 24-hour opening party of music, performances, film and food, starting on August 9th at 5p.m. and stretching into 5pm the next day.
The Aspen Art Museum designed by Shigeru Ban, 2014.
First opened in 1979, the new AAM has been in the works for seven years and differs from many major institutions around the world. For one, the $72million for the renovation was entirely privately funded, coming to fruition at the will of art enthusiast donors. AAM is also a non-collecting museum, meaning it can focus its budgets and efforts on commissioning new works specifically for the museum, rather than acquiring existing works and worrying about long-term storage, and building a collection.
Shigeru Ban designed the new 33,000-square-foot building to embrace the gorgeous city all around it. Resembling a giant wooden crate, the three-story building is made of glass walls covered in woven veneer planks -- giving the public a view out, juxtaposing the installations with windows onto the city and the surrounding Ajax Mountain. The rooftop sculpture garden also overlooks this scene, destined to be a favorite spot, like the roof garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, overlooking Central Park and the New York skyline.
Cai Guo-Qiang, Black Lightning, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Aspen Art Museum.
Cai Guo-Qiang, Moving Ghost Town, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Aspen Art Museum.
Leading the christening of the new building is a new commission by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who brought a day time pyrotechnic installation to the members opening last week. Black Lightning appeared like a dark bolt above a mountain close to the museum, along with a thunder clap, before dissipating into the blue sky. The general public will enjoy his other work for AAM, Moving Ghost Town, a site-specific environment for the rooftop which includes three African Sulcata tortoises with iPads strapped to their backs, who wander freely along a section of replanted turf. The iPads feature footage filmed by the tortoises themselves, who were unleashed in three ghost towns with cameras strapped to their backs. The ghost towns are shown from the tortoises’ perspectives, giving a hint of narrative as told by the animal world.
Yves Klein, Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 154), 1961. Courtesy of Yves Klein and Artists Rights Society. Photograph by Ben Blackwell.​
David Hammons, Untitled (Kool-Aid drawing), 2003. Courtesy of Marilyn and Larry Fields Collection. Photograph by Nathan Keay.
For the 24-hour opening event, the public is welcomed to peruse the inaugural exhibitions. David Hammons Yves Klein/Yves Klein David Hammons brings together two significant artists, creating a dialogue between their very different work. The exhibition compares Klein’s Fire Paintings and his signature Yves Klein Blue monochromes with Hammons’ Basketball and Kool-Aid Drawings, finding a thread of similarity with each artists’ transformation of everyday objects and materials into artworks of deep meaning and significance. The parallels also extend to each artist’s involvement with performance and public intervention, furthering the connections between the two.
David Hammons, Time Out (Basketball Drawing), 2004/2010. Courtesy of Eleven Rivington.
Yves Klein, Untitled Fire Painting (F 5), 1961. Courtesy of Yves Klein and Artists Rights Society.
Stretching across Shigeru Ban’s latticed façade is Jim Hodges’ With Liberty and Justice For All (A Work in Progress). The text-based sculptural installation invites viewers – both museum goers and passersby – to contemplate the current state of society and its relationship to power, politics and change, all without even entering the building.
Jim Hodges, With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress), 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Aspen Art Museum.
The subject of process is the focus of Tomma Abts’s exhibition of abstract drawings, called Mainly Drawings. The collection shows Abts’s extensive range with 41 works from 1996 to the present. Without a preconceived idea of the final result when creating her works, Abts’s pieces capture the spirit of dadaism with an abstract aesthetic.
Tomma Abts, Untitled #1-7, 2013. Courtesy of greengrassi.
Tomma Abts, Untitled, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.
The new Gallery 6 houses Less Sauvage than Others, a collection of works by multimedia German artist Rosemarie Trockel. Known for making work that questions feminism, the concept of fine art, and the relationship between humans and nature, this exhibition focuses on Trockel’s ceramics. Several new works were created for the exhibition, which range from sculptural pieces to objects and wall hangings.
Rosemarie Trockel, Avalanche, 2008. Courtesy of the artist and Spruth Magers Berlin London.
To round out the opening exhibitions, AAM put a spotlight on the architect himself, in the exhibition Shigeru Ban: Humanitarian Architecture. The survey spans from Ban’s early refugee shelters for the United Nations in the mid-1990s to his exploration into temporary humanitarian housing, as well as his fascination with cardboard as a building material. The exhibition, along with a fully illustrated catalogue, will show Ban’s lifelong quest to design in response to natural and manmade disasters, using architecture as a tool to help mankind.
Shigeru Ban, Cardboard Cathedral, 2013. Courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects.
Shigeru Ban, Paper Emergency Shelter for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Rwanda, 1994-1999. Courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects.
Along with the exhibitions, the 24-hour public opening will feature around-the-clock programming, including a continuous piano rendition of Erik Satie’s Vexations, an opportunity to wear costumes by Vienna’s innovative artist collective Gelitin, screenings of Night Sky by Alison O’Daniel and Blue by Derek Jarman, live musical performance by 90s swingers Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a Silent Disco at midnight on the roof deck, coupled with calmer activities for Sunday -- morning yoga, breakfast workshops for the family, panel discussions and food tastings from the new café. With an all-out celebration that involves the community, the new Aspen Art Museum has anchored the picturesque Colorado city as an important venue for not only tourism and skiing, but for cutting edge contemporary art.