Considering that I often don't enjoy "modern art" much, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed a visit today to the new Institute for Contemporary Art. Honestly, I went mostly to see the new building, an architecturally intriguing addition to the waterfront; but the art was worth experiencing as well.
Kudos to the ICA for including downloadable MP3 files on their Web site that you can put on your own iPod or other MP3 player and bring to the museum for your own audio tour. It's definitely something other museums should consider. While it's certainly possible to read the short descriptions of the artwork and get more info to enhance the viewing experience; in the case of contemporary art, being able to hear audio files from some of the artists themselves explaining their work added to my enjoyment.
It was especially interesting to hear local artist Josiah McElheny talk about the very cool work, Czech Modernism Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely - one of my favorites for the beauty of the glass objects and the additional fascination of the endless reflections; as well as photographer Nan Goldin talk about some of her works. There were some great photos on display, including a well-known shot by WHO of a bullet piercing an apple.
As for the architecture, with all that's been written about the building, I was expecting something with much more of a grand impact. Unfortunately, it's hard for a building that's not particularly large and is surrounded by acres of parking lots to have much of an effect as you walk up to it. Right now the major drawback to the new ICA is its surroundings. There's no urban streetscape or feel at all, and no urge at all to go by foot anywhere but back to your car. A few blocks in the area are starting to shape up with a neighborhood feel; but right now, there are too many warehouses and parking lots at the sidewalk to expect that, say, conventioneers are going to feel like they're in the heart of a city as opposed to a warehouse district on its outskirts.
That aside, though, the building is a nice piece of work, making the most of its location with some stunning views from both inside and out. Here's a panorama I shot from inside the building (you can see some reflections off the glass):
and here a shot of the building itself:
The public galleries are up on the 4th floor. There's a theater on the 3rd floor that wasn't open when we were there. The museum shop isn't much yet - no postcards or notecards of either the building or any items in the collection, but I assume those are to come.
All in all, I'd recommend a visit to the ICA. And if the $12 admission seems too steep, Target sponsors free Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 pm. There are also free family days (adults accompanied by children 12 and under) the last Saturday of every month. Kids 17 and under always get free admission.