Harvard Art Museum and Renzo Piano: a success story


Contemporary Art

The story that I want to tell you today justifies the reputation for excellence that ‘Made in Italy’ has earned all over the world. A story that touches me personally due to the fact that it involves places that are familiar to me, where I’ve studied and lived. We are talking about Harvard University, whose new Art Museum was unveiled last November. The man behind this extraordinary piece of work is Italian architect Renzo Piano, who for this project has managed to merge three previously independent museums – Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum and Arthur M. Sackler Museum – into one single reality. Some people didn’t like the final result at first, but we all know changes are not always easy to accept.

Today we can say that Piano’s project has overall gained an incredible consensus. Washington Post journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Kennycott, among many others, has enthusiastically expressed his approval in an article published on January 3, 2015 where he wrote that “Harvard’s three-in-one ‘teaching museum’ offers other art institutions much to learn”. Why is that? First of all, because of all the new spaces created thanks to Piano’s makeover, secondly, because of the way he handled the fusion, carefully and with style, combining three separate, distant entities.

Kennycott also underlines the elegance with which artwork has been presented, cleverly arranged by the curators, who have pulled all stops in order to deliver an engaging and stimulating display able to trigger visual connections in the minds of its visitors, mainly students. Exhibition solutions made of targeted combinations that at first glance seem incompatible and distant, only to reveal themselves as part of a wider context. Kennycott in particular mentions Auguste Rodin’s and Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures, an example of how two only apparently incompatible pieces could actually be deeply connected. Combinations that can only stimulate one’s curiosity, essential in the pursuit of science.