The art rules. At least it should. But it doesn't always. You'd think that galleries and museums would be constructed realizing the prime intent is to show off the art. That's why those structures exist. Or not.
I just took a road trip to East Lansing, Michigan to see Michigan State University's new Eli & Edith Broad Museum designed by acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid. The building is thoroughly spiffy from the outside, looking like it had be delivered by aliens. Fascinating looking buildings of this sort are compromised by the slightest overlooked details like a driveway or university signage.
But the larger point is that the building seems more important than the art it showcases. This is because the interior, and the art therein, serves the building instead of the other way around. Too many compromises pervade the museum's galleries and dilute the art-viewing experience.
I'm not one who believes that exhibition spaces need to be rectangles, but when they are conical, narrowing at the far end, the subconscious response is to turn around.
Other spaces have bright, outside light, slicing into the room, with reflective surfaces that conflict with looking at the art. I was disappointed.
A decade or so ago Hadid did Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center and I remember liking it better. I can think of numerous other new museums that have been wonderful for the art, gorgeously integrated into the landscape, and exciting in their own right, like Crystal Bridges in Arkansas.
I want the art to be the priority. I want the architecture to serve the art. I don't mind that the building is a sexy attraction to bring lookers to, and into.it, but I'm upset when I see art take a back seat to the building. When that happens, to my mind, the building fails.