Sunday, December 1, 2013

America Windows

Detail, Marc Chagall's 'America Windows'.
Wandering through the wonderful Chicago Art Institute the other day, followed the corridors from the old wing (the ex-World's Congress Building from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893) to the spectacular piece of architecture that is the Modern Wing - opened in 2009 and Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning Italian architect Renzo Piano. I paused on my way, at the juncture where the two buildings meet, to admire a set of luminous blue stained glass windows. These were Marc Chagall's 'America Windows', purpose made for the Art Institute and recently reinstalled. They were new to me, though I've admired Chagall's stained glass in churches, such as Zurich's Grossmüster and Frauenkirsch. These windows int eh museum are lovely things, beautifully lit. I looked them up:
Marc Chagall’s America Windows were a gift to the Art Institute of Chicago created by the artist for their specific context. Long a favourite of visitors, the searingly blue light creates a powerful background for the moments and events that occur across the piece...Removed to protect the pieces during the construction of the Modern Wing, the pieces were extensively conserved, and a new context was required that could better protect the pieces from the effects of temperature and humidity.
The new location allowed implementation of integrated systems that carefully address every aspect of the conservation and presentation of the system. Vinci Hamp Architects coordinated a team of structural, M&E and fire safety engineers along with Lux Populi to integrate what is, perhaps, the most refined light box around. The studies included photometric studies to ensure evenness of the illumination without flattening out the perceived depth of the piece (observe how most stain glass windows in museums appear flat), optimum colour temperature and rendition to best reveal the tones and elements of the piece, elimination of edge effects, thermal moderation to prevent condensate or thermal cracking and numerous other aspects.
Marc Chagall. America Windows, 1977. A gift of Marc Chagall, City of Chicago, and the Auxiliary Board, commemorating the American bicentennial in memory of Mayor Richard J.Daley.
Here's a bio of Marc Chagall, who was born in Belarus (then the Russian Empire) in 1887.

Renzo Piano's Modern Wing of the Chicago Art Institute.

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