The lore, and lure, of the American West is wide-open spaces, and some of the country’s best art museums are heeding its call. Expanding collections and new forms of media that require bigger and better gallery configurations are among the reasons museums are rethinking older buildings or creating entirely new ones. The results are spaces that are as much art as what is inside the buildings’ walls. Here, five recently designed or expanded museums west of the Mississippi that will surely light your creative spark.
SF MOMA (San Francisco, CA)
Expansion by Snøhetta
On May 14, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art reopened with doubled exhibition space through a 235,000 square-foot expansion designed by of-the-moment Norwegian firm Snøhetta. The gleaming 10-story extension rises behind the original 1995 brick building for an interesting architectural mash-up, featuring minimal, light-filled galleries and performance spaces, as well as reduced energy and water consumption. The first floor galleries of the new addition are free to the public, so visitors can simply meander in off the street and into Richard Serra’s monumental sculpture “Sequence.”
Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, TX)
Expansion by Renzo Piano
Heritage and history are the themes at the Kimbell Art Museum in Forth Worth, Texas. The Kimbell’s collection contains 350 carefully acquired works of art spanning from 3000 B.C.E. to the mid-20th century. Rather than integrating an expansion with the existing building, architect Renzo Piano paid homage to Louis Kahn’s original structure by creating a graceful concrete-and-glass pavilion 65 yards away, echoing the original building’s lines and proportions. Photovoltaic roof panels allow for substantial energy efficiency and the shading of direct light—a must for conserving the oldest masterpieces.
The Broad (Los Angeles, CA)
Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Los Angeles’s The Broad is a new, fiberglass-reinforced concrete ode to contemporary art. Its collection contains over 2,000 works, which are stored in a vault at the core of the building, uniquely visible from a window in the staircase between the third- and first-floor galleries. Visit the third-floor galleries—a vast open space lit by high-tech adjustable skylights—for blockbuster blue-chip works from the likes of Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Paul Basquiat. Until October 2, the first floor hosts to a fascinating retrospective of portraits by photographer Cindy Sherman.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR)
Designed by Moshe Safdie
Architecture can help orient you in a place, and the Crystal Bridges Museum aspires to do just that with a series of buildings and lakes that evoke the rolling hills, valleys, and water of the Ozarks. There’s a lot of history here too: The museum specializes in American art from the country’s inception to the contemporary era. One of the museum’s unique permanent acquisitions is an iconic midcentury Frank Lloyd Wright home, disassembled and rebuilt on the museum’s campus for public viewing.
Aspen Art Museum (Aspen, CO)
Designed by Shigeru Ban
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s design for the Aspen Art Museum boasts a woven facade and wooden roof trusses that evoke the textures of the surrounding forest. At the same time, the building encapsulates the experience of town and country that defines Aspen. Visitors enter by taking the stairs or elevator directly to the third floor and descending (not dissimilar to that other activity Aspen is famous for—skiing), gaining sweeping views of the mountain along the way. While the museum has no permanent collection, it is committed to a dynamic program of contemporary exhibitions.