Dra­matic new Nor­ton Mu­seum of Art to re­open

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Phillip Valys

Artist Pei White’s cot­ton ta­pes­try “Eikón” is a mashup of na­ture and de­sign, stretch­ing 40 feet across and tow­er­ing high in­side the Great Hall at the new Nor­ton Mu­seum of Art in West Palm Beach. Take a deeper look at White’s ta­pes­try – a close-up of gray, crin­kled, re­flec­tive my­lar – and you no­tice a hint of green: It’s a re­flec­tion of the 80-year-old banyan tree loom­ing just out­side the Great Hall.

White’s ta­pes­try is just one of many new fea­tures at the mu­seum on South Dixie High­way that add up to a dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion.

The Nor­ton, which closed last July to fin­ish three years of ren­o­va­tions, will re-open to the pub­lic on Feb. 9 with eight new ex­hi­bi­tions and a $100 mil­lion face-lift, adding 12,000 square feet of gallery space, along with new class­rooms, a restau­rant, a sculp­ture gar­den and a 210-seat au­di­to­rium.

Hope Al­swang, the Nor­ton’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, ad­mits the makeover wasn’t easy. Speak­ing on Fri­day dur­ing an early-peek me­dia tour of the new mu­seum, Al­swang told the room­ful of ar­chi­tects, jour­nal­ists and donors that,

“If we were a car, we would’ve been a 12-year-old Volk­swa­gen. And some­one handed us a Lam­borgh­ini.” Hope Al­swang, Nor­ton’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor

some­times, the wait felt end­less.

“If we were a car, we would’ve been a 12-year-old Volk­swa­gen,” Al­swang says. “And some­one handed us a Lam­borgh­ini.”

That “some­one” is Lord Nor­man Fos­ter, the star ar­chi­tect whose firm, Fos­ter and Part­ners (Lon­don’s Wem­b­ley Sta­dium and New York’s soar­ing Hearst Tower), steered the mu­seum’s gi­ant makeover.

Here’s what we saw dur­ing the sneak pre­view at the up­graded Nor­ton Mu­seum of Art.

En­trance and Great Hall

First off, the Nor­ton Mu­seum’s grand en­trance plaza no longer faces the south, but South Dixie High­way to the west, with park­ing now re­lo­cated across the street south of Wood­lawn Ceme­tery.

A 40-foot-long Fos­ter-de­signed con­crete bench in the en­trance plaza frames a serene, inch-deep re­flect­ing pool. The cen­ter­piece of the pool is Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, a 19-ton sculp­ture by Claes Olden­burg and Coosje van Bruggen, which de­picts a wheel-shaped typewriter eraser – an ob­so­lete piece of tech­nol­ogy.

A 43-foot-tall canopy made of pol­ished, re­flec­tive alu­minum pan­els hangs over the plaza. A half-cir­cle cutout in the canopy ac­com­mo­dates a 65-foot-tall banyan tree, which is so close it brushes against the build­ing.

In­side the 3,600-square-foot Great Hall, a tall room just off the main atrium, there is a grand pi­ano, book carts, a cof­fee bar and mod-style lounge seat­ing with mas­sive wooden floor lamps.

Sculp­ture gar­den

The wide win­dows of a

150-foot-long in­door sculp­ture gallery of­fers eye-pop­ping views of the mu­seum’s out­door sculp­ture gar­den. Nearly an acre in size, the gar­den it­self in­cludes a

9,000-square-foot event lawn, with out­door sculp­tures perched along the edge of the prop­erty. Note­wor­thy is Antony Gorm­ley’s To­tal Strangers, a col­lec­tion of cast-iron, life-size hu­man fig­ures stand­ing on the lawn.

“It used to be our south park­ing lot, which is in­sane,” says Ch­eryl Brut­van, the mu­seum’s con­tem­po­rary-art cu­ra­tor. “The gar­den is eas­ily our most im­pres­sive ad­di­tion.”

Orig­i­nal 1941 gal­leries

Cru­cial to the Nor­ton’s re­design was pre­serv­ing the mu­seum’s squat, orig­i­nal east wing, built in 1941 when the mu­seum first opened to the pub­lic. David Sum­mer­field, se­nior ex­ec­u­tive planner for Fos­ter and Part­ners, says that when his team ripped up the car­pet­ing in the east wing, it ex­posed the gallery’s orig­i­nal oak hard­wood.

“We weren’t deal­ing with a blank sheet of pa­per here,” Sum­mer­field says. “When we ripped the old ceil­ings down and tore up the orig­i­nal car­pet­ing, we saw the skele­ton of the build­ing, and we knew we had to weave new de­sign into the orig­i­nal struc­tures seam­lessly.”

Now in the east wing are new paint­ings and sculp­tures from con­tem­po­rary artists such as Kara Walker and Ed Ruscha, Damien Hirst and Anselm Keifer. In two new Euro­pean gal­leries, there are mas­ter­pieces by Pablo Pi­casso, Paul Gau­guin and Claude Monet.

New spa­ces

The mu­seum’s new 210-seat au­di­to­rium, Brut­van says, will be used to host lec­tures, films and con­certs. Its walls are blan­keted in wooden pan­els pock­marked with hun­dreds of small holes – de­sign el­e­ments that im­prove From top: In a down­stairs gallery, guests check out the new ex­hibit “Nina Chanel Ab­ney: Neon,” one of eight ex­hi­bi­tions open­ing Feb. 9.

Damien Hirst’s “Un­ti­tled,” a 2007 paint­ing with but­ter­fies on can­vas.

Pae White’s ta­pes­try “Eikón” stretches across the Great Hall. the room’s acous­tics, she says.

Mean­while, a wind­ing gray stair­case lead­ing to the mu­seum’s sec­ond and third floors is dec­o­rated with a new in­stal­la­tion. “I Re­mem­ber Ce­ramic Cas­tles, Mer­maids and Ja­pa­nese Bridges,” from artist Rob Wynne, de­picts a whim­si­cal med­ley of poured and mir­rored glass that spells out the art­work’s ti­tle.

Up­stairs, the mu­seum’s grow­ing Chi­nese per­ma­nent col­lec­tion in­cludes 430 ob­jects span­ning five new gal­leries and a pe­riod of 5,000 years. Other gal­leries de­voted to pho­tog­ra­phy fea­ture the new ex­hibit “Out of the Box: Cam­era-less Pho­tog­ra­phy,” a col­lec­tion of pho­tograph­like images made with­out cam­eras.

“Hope [Al­swang] has kind of let me run wild, let­ting me beef up the col­lec­tion,” says Tim Wride, the mu­seum’s pho­tog­ra­phy cu­ra­tor. Now, he says, there’s enough up­stairs gallery space that “we can show the whole his­tory of pho­tog­ra­phy and fit a big chunk of it on our walls.”


Open­ing with the mu­seum on Feb. 9 will be Restau­rant at the Nor­ton, a 165-seat fine-din­ing eatery with ter­race seat­ing, pri­vate din­ing rooms and a nearby mul­ti­pur­pose room with Florida-in­spired gold-leaf wall­pa­per.

The menu (prices range from $12 to $28) fea­tures mod­ern Amer­i­can fare from chef David Schi­raldo, and in­cludes seafood small plates, such as ahi tuna tartare and red snap­per crudo, and sand­wiches such as the half­pound Nor­ton Burger with Nor­folk sauce and ched­dar cheese on a bri­oche bun. En­trees in­clude miso-glazed salmon and chicken pail­lard with or­ganic chicken breast, shaved veg­etable salad and cham­pagne vinai­grette.

If you go

The Nor­ton Mu­seum of Art,

1450 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon­day, Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri­days. The mu­seum is closed Wed­nes­days. Ad­mis­sion costs $5-$18, but en­try is free on Fri­days and Satur­days. Call 561-832-5196 or go to Nor­

The Nor­ton’s restau­rant hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon­day, Tues­day, Thurs­day, Satur­day and Sun­day and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri­days. It’s closed on Wed­nes­days, and the restau­rant will be­gin ac­cept­ing reser­va­tions on Feb. 11. Call


The Nor­ton’s free Art Af­ter Dark pro­gram, re­sum­ing Feb. 15, has been moved from Thurs­days to 5-10 p.m. Fri­days.

Note­wor­thy ex­hi­bi­tions in­clude “Nina Chanel Ab­ney: Neon,” (Feb. 9-June 25), a col­lec­tion of boldly colored paint­ings from the New York-based artist that tackle racial in­equal­ity and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Oth­ers in­clude “Out of the Box: Cam­era-less Pho­tog­ra­phy,” which re­vis­its Wil­liam Henry Fox Tal­bot’s 19th­cen­tury “pho­to­genic draw­ings” and Man Ray’s sur­re­al­is­tic “rayo­grams”; and “Good For­tune to All,” a col­lec­tion of rare paint­ings that cap­ture a Chi­nese Lantern Fes­ti­val from the late 16th cen­tury.


Guests walk past the re­flect­ing pool at the mu­seum’s en­trance plaza, the cen­ter­piece of which is Claes Olden­berg and Coosje Van Bruggen’s sculp­ture ti­tled Typewrit­ter Eraser, Scale X.


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