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November 13, 2008 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-11-13

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4B - Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


UMMAs changing body impresses

From Page 1B
new auditorium, viewing ceramics in what will
be the first gallery space dedicated to Korean
art at an American university, or simply having
a cup of coffee while enjoyingthe view from the
new cafe. The caf6 and the museum's extended-
hour "walk-through" space, which Steward is
suggesting as a campus shortcut, are intended
to draw otherwise unlikely visitors.
The old building and new Frankel wing will
be multi-purpose. They will be split into galler-
ies, researchand conservation areas, education-
al and social spaces, storage, retail and a cafe.
"We worked very hard to integrate func-
tions in this building," Steward said. "We want
to persuade visitors, when they come to the
museum, to visit the whole thing."
When the museum reopens after its $41.9
million makeover, it will be more than double
the size of its old building, the Alumni Memo-
rial Hall.
The University owns more than 18,000 art
pieces, but was previously only able to show 3
percent of that collection at a time. UMMA's
off-site location at the juncture of South Uni-
versity and South Forest - what used to be
the original Mitch's Place bar - allowed for.
even more limited exhibitions. Now the added
53,000 square feet in the new building will
allow UMMA to show 10 percent of its entire
collection at a time. And viewing and appreci-
ating this art need not be separate from learn-
ing about it.
What UMMA calls its open storage gallery
is one way the museum seeks to combine art
appreciation and education. The space that was
once the Chinese gallery (renamed The Shir-
ley Chang Gallery of Chinese Art in the new
museum space) will now feature cabinets with
floor-to-ceiling glass shelving. The construc-
tion of the gallery allows for a dense arrange-
ment of 600 to 800 pieces - such as Chinese
pots, American decorative arts objects, Afri-
can pieces .- that scholars and visitors can

come in and study during the museum's open
hours without an appointment.
"It's a way to create something in between
the pristine display of art gallery spaces and
dead storage space, a way of animating the
collection," Steward said. Call it experiential
Around the corner from the open stor-
age gallery is the old Japanese gallery space,
which will become the Asian Art Conservation
Laboratory's new location. UMMA's Asian Art
Conservation Lab has been around for 25 years
and is one of few in the country. Today, the lab
does client work for other museums as well.
Here, visitors can watch conservationists at
work, from behind the glass doors.
"Sometimes, literally, it's like watching paint
dry, but the public is really fascinated," Steward
"It's like alchemy;
a magical mixture
of art and science
coming together."
said. "It's like alchemy; a magical mixture of art
and science coming together."
The conservation lab, open storage gallery
and temporary contemporary gallery all con-
tribute to UMMA's greater emphasis on "con-
nective tissues" - art spaces that provide the
link between different cultures, between art
and science, and between education and appre-
The building itself demonstrates an archi-
tectural blend of old and new. Alumni Memo-
rial Hall, built between 1907 and 1910, reflects
the Beaux-Arts revival style. While renovation
of the old building stuck to historic preserva-
tion, where workers removed dropped ceilings
and additions added in earlier 20th-century

"attempts" at renovation, the building didn't try
to imitate the past.
"We need to build a building that was of our
moment, historically, not looking just to the
past," Steward said. "Having said that, we also
sought to build (an addition) that would keep
company with the old, in terms of scale and
For most of the University's undergraduate
population, Alumni Memorial Hall has always
been fenced in and under construction. Seniors
may have vague memories of UMMA's pop
art or history of photography exhibitions or
of the great black wing of Charles Ginnever's
"Daedalus" draped over the front lawn. (The
sculpture has been moved to the South Univer-
sity side of the building, with "Orion" taking its
original place) UMMA closed in June 2006,
giving them some time topack up the collec-
tions before breaking ground in September of
that year.
"We've really been pushing to get this open
because another class graduates," Steward said.
"Two and a half years is more than half the
average student's (undergraduate career)."
The corridor that connects the old and new
buildings, with tall glass lenses opening onto
views of campus, seamlessly blends old and
new, interior and exterior. The weathered sand-
stone of the old exterior, rosy from 101 years of
oxidization, is paired with new sandstonefrom
the same quarry, framing the passageway. A
few steps further, you can see the Wisconsin
limestone of the new addition. The clear glass
windows allow for another degree of "outside-
you're inside this building," Steward said.
So many aspects of the renewed UMMA, in
form and purpose, feed into the belief that art
can be part of the everyday experience. While
there's sometimes the conception that art
museums are a place of exclusivity, of high cul-
ture and pretension and a ban on cell-phones,
it doesn't have to be that way - and the new
UMMA will work to encourage the idea that
an art museum is for everyone and anyone.

JUMMA director James Steward shows off parts of the new UMMA expansion. The
museum is slated to open next semester


An off the
grid auteur


Daily Arts Writer
What's the least original place
you can go for a semester abroad?
Florence? Sydney? 'Beijing? Did
you answer Barcelona? If you
didn't, you should have. While
it seems there's always a revolv-
ing hot spot for overseas study
- in the '90s it was Prague, for
instance - come second semes-
ter junior year, students at the
University of Michigan gravitate
toward Spain's east coast.
Since I will be a second semes-
ter junior one day - God willing
- I decided to bone up on the city
by watching Whit Stillman's 1994
film "Barcelona." Why not check a
Frommer's Guide, you might ask?
To be honest, investing that much
effort into determining a location
for studying abroad makes it a bit
too real. Why take a serious look
at an important life decision when
you can watch a movie instead?
"Barcelona" followstwoAmeri-
cans, Ted andFred, living in Spain
at the end of the Cold War, and
documents the sustained enmity
the Spanish felt for Americans
at the time. It's also an example
of Stillman's ability to depict the
petty bickering among America's
educated elite.
After watching "Barcelona," I
took the opportunity to distract
myself from the daunting task of
picking a city and looked into the
rest of Stillman's filmography.
Startingin 1990, Stillman made
his mark with "Metropolitan," a
film about a group of Princeton
students at the end of New York's
debutante ball circuit. With sharp
wits, the hyper-literate cast of
characters focuses on downward
social mobility, the existence of
God and the fleeting nature of
their friendship.
wrote, directed and produced,
was nominated for an Academy
Award in 1991 for Best Original
Screenplay. In 1994, "Barcelona"
was released to warm critical
response and made a modest profit
at the box office. In 1998, Stillman
returned to New York with "The
Last Days of Disco," a film about,
upper-class 20-somethings and
their journeys through nightclubs
and transitory affairs. All three
films focus on the meanderings of
highly educated snobs. And yet,
all of them are fascinating.
Stillman has written and
directed three films, which
have influenced the likes of Wes
Anderson and Noah Baumbach.
A regular Stillman player, Chris
Eigeman, found his first role in
"Metropolitan" as the cynically

sharp-tongued Nick Smith. He
then went on to star in two Baum-
bach films. Stillman has defined
yuppie society through pitch-per-
fect filmic depiction, yet he's been
all but forgotten.
There's no question that film-
makers come and go with the
summer wind. Stillman, however,
is an Academy Award-nominated
screenwriter and a critically laud-
ed voice in contemporary cinena.
So where in the world is he?
Over the past few years there's
been a swirl of discussion linking
Stillman to a slew of projects in
variousstagesofproduction. None
of it has panned out. Not "Little
Green Men," the adaptation of the
Christopher Buckley novel; nor
"Dancing Mood," the script about
the influence of reggae music in
Jamaica; not even "Red Azalea,"
the story of a filmmaker during
the Cultural Revolution in China.
The only work Stillman has put
out in this decade is an extended
novelization of "The Last Days of
While Stillmanis takinghis time
picking his next project and con-
tinuing to recede from the forefront
of the filmworld,his markremains.
He's no household name, but mov-
Lessons learned
from a dormant
and influential
iegoers everywhere have seen the
product of his influence without
necessarily knowing it - though
maybe some do: "Metropolitan" is
distributed for home viewing by
the Criterion Collection, a staple
of any cinephile's movie collection.
On the other hand, "The Last Days
of Disco" is just about impossible
to find on DVD. (An Amazon.com
search shows it can be purchased
new for $154.99.)
The question remains: We see
his impact on film today through
highfalutin banter and lofty
social ponderings, but will we see
it again? Refocusing my thoughts
on studying abroad, I considered
the prospect of studying in Spain.
With Stillman off the scene for so
long, who knows how Barcelona
has changed? I think it's probably
better to wait and rent Woody
before I make any final decisions.
I find it's always best to consult a
second opinion.





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