I visited the National Gallery of Art recently. I first entered the so-called East gallery to find a modern space. It was a little disappointing. But this mobile hanging from the ceiling was cool. It was moving at a fairly good speed. Better, I think, is this view, with some color on the wall and a tree. I like the coldness of a stone wall with a living tree. That says something. This space also reminded me of the most beautiful outdoor surroundings of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Whereas the NGA made me feel like I was in some sort of public space where I leave after a number of hours (say, a museum or concert hall), the Getty had a feeling of a very nice (and large) private estate. The entire outdoor surroundings in fact surpassed the art inside, becoming its own aesthetic playground. The art in the west wing at the NGA is far better than the Getty's, I'm saying. We took in two special exhibits of Spanish art, one of armor, the other, still life paintings. The guy could paint good "heirloom" tomatoes but not so great bread. I seriously get the National Gallery's desire to have a "modern section," something to echo the aesthetics of art in the past fifty years (at least). They have their little pyramid things sticking out like the ones at the Louvre, but let's be honest, they really don't compare. There are orange cones around them outside. There's a road going past.
Mr. Pei, we like the glass stuff in Paris. We want some too, please! Come on. Getty: It's not that I'm trying to compare one museum's wing to another's complete museum, two coasts apart. That's what I have done, but ultimately, that's not the point. Have you ever been on the underground "bridge" that connects the main United concourse at the O'Hare airport? It's kinda cool. They have a lot of lights and play Gershwin music. At the National Gallery they tried something like that. This is the area beneath the street I mentioned. Soon, you come up to the wedges of glass designed by I.M. Pei. The scene at the airport is better, even more artistic. Pei's design uses water. In the cafeteria, you can watch the water cascade down. Of course, the Getty has water too. All I'm saying is, I used to think the NGA was a top-museum. What hangs on the walls inside is but one measure. Your use of space and the architecture is another. But copying the Louvre and the O'Hare airport is ultimately just disappointing. I mean, look at the de Young in San Francisco: Someone punched real holes in that façade. That's awesomeness. While the NGA also may be copying other famous landmarks (namely the Pantheon in Rome), I still am a sucker for this space on the (now firmly preferred) west gallery: That's all.