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PRINT Summer 2009

THE MUSEUM ARCHITECTURE OF RENZO PIANO

Renowned for elegant galleries that defer to their contents, Renzo Piano has quietly become the most prolific designer of art museums around the globe—signaling a decisive shift in taste among museum patrons from the bold to the more decorous. To mark last month’s unveiling of the majestic Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, Artforum invited SEAN KELLER to take stock of Piano’s numerous museum projects, assessing their effect on the field of architecture and on the vast quantities of art they now house.

NO LIVING ARCHITECT has shaped the character of the contemporary art museum more than Renzo Piano. The past quarter century has seen the completion of fourteen major commissions—nine in the past decade alone—yielding a roster of buildings that is unprecedented in its scope and prestige. Whether creating new institutions from the ground up, as at the Menil Collection in Houston and the Fondation Beyeler near Basel, or expanding already-sprawling quarters for encyclopedic collections in Los Angeles and Chicago, Piano has designed an influential portion of the spaces in which we see art today. Given the ongoing crises in finance and philanthropy, these are also likely to be the spaces in which we will see art for some time to come. Four other major US projects remain on the books, at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner

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