Peabody Essex Museum Review

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Useful Info:

  • Collections: Fine and decorative arts from the five continents between the 18th century and today; also temporary exhibitions.
  • City: Salem, MA, USA.
  • Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, and until 9pm the third Thursday of every month.
  • Price: $18 regular, $15 students, $10 for children under 16 and free for members and residents of Salem.
  • Website

I’m having a little bit of trouble remembering the exact steps of my visit, partly because it was in June but mostly because the PEM is a museum with very eclectic collections and exhibitions in galleries that are not organized and laid out in the most logical way. It is the kind of museum you can explore freely without referring to a specific itinerary on the map. It is also not huge so walking around without following directions works there. You wouldn’t get lost. So I’m not going to go into too much details about how the museum is laid out and I’m just going to say that my visit took approximately 2 hours.

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For me, there were two things that stood out about the PEM. First, since we’re still on the topic of layout; I found that despite beautiful architecture and a promising ongoing expansion, circulation in the museum was often a problem. There are lots of dead ends in most galleries, so you always have to go back into a couple of rooms you’ve already seen. To move between the main parts of the museum, you have to pass by the atrium (pictured above) which is more or less in the middle.

That problem is a shame because the collections and exhibitions were great. There’s an array of things from Asian art to American art. Below is a picture of an ivory lobster in the Asian export galleries. I wanted to post it as a separate museum entry but the PEM doesn’t have a good collection database online. I really enjoyed the collections, and I was surprised to see this much Asian art in Salem, of all places. There is even a reconstruction of a Chinese house (but I didn’t visit it).

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I also saw three exhibitions which are now over: Audacious: The Fine Art of Wood, which made me want to be a wood artist because there was so much skills involved in the artworks; Branching Out: Trees as Art, which was a bit more child oriented; and Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals which was my favorite and led me to discover this series of photographs.

Finally I’d like to mention the thing I liked most about the PEM, which was, strangely enough, in the Maritime Art galleries. I’m not a fan of seascapes, it’s just personal taste. I find them repetitive and I get bored of them easily. But the PEM did something great in that gallery which caught my interest. They have an unsigned seascape in their collection; which some experts attribute to James Buttersworth and some others to Antonio Jacobsen. The unsigned painting is displayed between one piece of each painter; and there is a panel explaining both arguments. The visitor is left free to decide which side to join. I thought this was a fun and engaging way to make the collection interactive without being authoritative.

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 7.5/10
  • Architecture: 8/10
  • Collections: 9/10
  • Display: 8/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 8/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 7.5/10
  • Overall: 8/10

Walking Across the D.C Monuments

I picked a really bad time for my monuments walk across D.C. It was late afternoon in June but it was still unbearably hot and my phone was running out of battery (which explains the lack of original pictures in this post). I was on the verge of giving up and go home but it was my last day there so I sucked it up and did it anyway. Here’s a link to a good map so you can follow the itinerary as you read.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

I started at the Jefferson Memorial, which is this nice neat classical building you see pictured above. There’s a statue of Thomas Jefferson and some engraving of his quotes inside.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

I then walked to the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial (aka FDR Memorial). This one was probably on of my favorites. It is set on a horizontal stripe of land and mainly consists of fountains, as you can see on the above picture. It also has a statue of Roosevelt (and his dog), and some quotes engraved. I learned when I was there that the fountains are not an architectural coincidence as water was an important element for Roosevelt himself.

Image courtesy of Atlanta Black Star

My next stop was the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial (pictured above). As you probably have guessed already, it’s a giant stone statue of him with some quotes. Eh. Aesthetically, I didn’t find it that pleasing.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

Then, I walked through the Korean war veterans memorial, which is a field of statues of soldiers, to get to the Lincoln Memorial (pictured above). Again, it’s a classical looking building with a huge statue of Lincoln and quotes on the inside. The most enjoyable part of this monument though is the view you get from it. There is a large reflecting pool leading to the Washington monument right in front of it. I paused there for a while before finishing my walk.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

At the opposite end of the reflecting pool (and after passing through the Vietnam war memorial, another field of soldiers), is the World War II Memorial, a large oval fountain with names of all the states. I also appreciated this monument a lot.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

And last but not least is the Washington Monument, a tall white obelisk that you can see from pretty much anywhere in the National Mall. The whole walk took about 2 hours, with breaks at some of the monuments. I skipped the Capitol because it’s a bit off path and I got a closer look at it another day, and the White House because you can’t really get close anyway. In the end, I didn’t regret doing the walk. It’s quite a touristy thing to do but it’s a unique experience and all the monuments are quite impressive. It would have been a shame to miss it. I recommend doing it under temperate weather conditions though because it is a lot of walking outdoors. You can also visit the monuments at night when they are lit up.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Review

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Useful Info:

  • Collections: Modern and contemporary art, plus changing exhibitions
  • City: New York, USA.
  • Opening hours: Saturday-Thursday 10:30am-5:30pm, Friday 10:30am-8pm (also Thursday 10:30am-8pm in July and August). Members can come from 9:30 every day.
  • Price: $25 regular, $18 seniors, $14 students, free for children under 16 and member. Members can bring up to five guests for $5.
  • Website

I’m not going to spend a long time introducing the MoMA, it is one of the most famous museums on this planet and I’m sure a lot of sites can do that better than me. I just want to share my experience of it, so here it is.

I went to the MoMA on a Sunday, which was the last day of the Björk exhibition, but it wasn’t too crowded. I really appreciated that and I wanted to focus on it because I think it really changes the visitor’s experience.

DSC_1329So the MoMa has 6 floors with things on display (or 5 for non Americans but I’m going to follow their system here). The first floor has no galleries, but this is where the sculpture garden is located. We started there and worked our way upwards.

I don’t remember exactly what was located in which gallery (next time I promise I’ll take notes), and the plan of the museum is not very explicit about it. According to it, the second floor houses prints and illustrated books, media, and contemporary galleries. I do remember the contemporary galleries having a lot of Andy Warhol artwork in them. It was one of the first things I saw inside the MoMA and I was very impressed. You can check out the Campbell soup room in the picture above.

The third floor has architecture and design, drawing, and photography. If my memories are correct it also had this huge corridor with video game projections on both walls that you could control (pictured below). The MoMA actually has a good number of interactive things on display like retro games and they are pretty successful.

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Moving on, the 4th and 5th floor have painting and sculpture, but not just any. I knew the MoMA was a big deal but I never expected to see so many major pieces from the 20th century on display in the same building. They have Dali, Ernst, Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Monet, Kahlo, Rothko, Van Gogh and so many other spread over those two floors. I was seriously mind blown. I posted the picture below to my Snapchat story so you can have an idea of my reaction.

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The 6th floor has a shop and temporary exhibition galleries. When I went there it was an exhibition about Yoko Ono, which is still running until September 7 2015. I can’t tell you what I thought of it because by then it was almost closing time and I really wanted to see the Björk exhibition.

I know the exhibition is over now but I’d still like to share my thoughts about it with you. I missed some parts of it, because it was almost closing and also because the MoMA has temporary display galleries spread out on different floors, so t can get confusing especially when they are used for the same exhibition. They don’t connect so you’d have to go in then out then switch floors and back in.

But anyway I saw bits of the movie that they were projecting and the core part of the exhibition, which was more like an experience than a traditional exhibition. They gave us mandatory audioguides in which Björk herself narrates a story, hers. The audioguide follows the exhibition, which is divided into several rooms which make up the different phases of her career and growth as an artist. Each room has a corresponding track on the audioguide and objects on display, from costumes to notebooks to personal objects. The sound is very Björk-like and dreamy, and I enjoyed listening to all of it. The material displayed was also stunning (check out this amazing costume below). But there was one major flaw with the exhibition; and that was that the tracks of the audioguide were too long compared to what there was to see in each room. Overall though I was really glad I got to see this exhibit.

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Wrapping up, I think that if you’re in New York you should absolutely not miss the MoMA. My visit took about 3 hours but it felt like way less. There is so much to see at this museum, the collections are incredibly rich and interesting. It is relatively easy to navigate and not huge, which is always something I appreciate in a museum. Make sure you also check out the design store. It’s overpriced but they have so many pretty things. The MoMA is definitely my favorite museum in New York and my second favorite in the US so far (yup the MFA still has number one).

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 8.5/10
  • Architecture: 8.5/10
  • Collections: 9.5/10
  • Display: 9/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 7.5/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 9/10
  • Overall: 8.5/10

Museum of Fine Arts Review

DSC_1210Useful Info:

  • Collections: Art from the five continents, ranging from the Ancient World to Contemporary Art.
  • City: Boston, MA, USA.
  • Opening hours: Saturday-Tuesday: 10am-4:45pm; Wednesday-Friday: 10am-9:45pm
  • Price: $25 regular, $23 concessions, free for children under 17 or 6 (depending on visit time)
  • Website

The MFA is the first place I visited in Boston and it is still my favorite museum that I visited during my US East Coast trip,but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The first thing you should know is that the MFA is a big museum, but it is still manageable. I spent approximately five hours there but I took my time and had a lunch break. The museum has 4 floors, and is divided into five main wings plus special exhibitions. I entered from the Fenway entrance (North) that you can see on the panoramic picture,which takes you straight through the European Art galleries, one levels 1 and 2. On the East wing, and spread across all four floors is the Art of the Americas. Then, the South wing is divided between Art of the Ancient world to the East (levels 1 and 2), and Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa (levels 1 and 2). Finally, the West wing houses the contemporary art galleries on levels 1 and 2. This may sound a bit complex but the museum is actually really easy to navigate and the color-coded visitor map is very easy to read and features highlights from the collections and where to find them. There are two reference points at the center of the museum: the Shapiro Family courtyard (pictured below) and the Rotunda.

DSC_1220There are many things I really enjoyed about these museums, but here are some highlights. Firstly, I found the museum extremely easy to navigate. All the galleries are clearly numbered and there are almost no dead ends, so you can have a fluid visit without having to repeat rooms. So even though the museum is large, you don’t waste time by tracing back your steps. Another thing I appreciated were the free tours offered regularly in all areas of the museum. I think that they partly justify the cost of the entry ticket. I didn’t listen to a complete one but I stumbled upon a couple and they seemed interesting and led by professional and knowledgeable people who don’t only talk about the art itself but also give some anecdotes about it and how it relates to the outside world. Speaking of value for money, another interesting feature of the MFA are the “Conservation in action” rooms (pictured below). My friend who was interning there told me that the curators are not a fan of these rooms because they take up some of the storage space but as a visitor, I thought it was a great addition to the museum. You get to see conservators work on some pieces through a glass wall, which can be a little strange but is also a really nice insight on the behind the scenes aspect of the museum life.

DSC_1266The price for the ticket also includes temporary exhibitions. The Hokusai exhibit was on  during my visit and I highly recommend it. It runs until August 9 2015. This exhibition was one of my highlights because it was so simply yet well designed. Every part focused on a theme, and the wall colors changed accordingly. It was easy to understand even without reading labels and explanatory panels, which provided more in depth information. There was also a small display case at the exit with objects that the museum staff gathered featuring the famous wave, which I thought was engaging. The most impressive part is probably that all the pieces on display (and it is a substantial exhibit) belong to the collection of the MFA. In terms of the permanent collection, my favorite displays included ancient jewelry and a case with Egyptian faience, both in the Ancient World wing. This wing is being renovated, so there are some new rooms and some older ones, and it should be even more impressive in the future. Another favorite of mine is the Contemporary Art wing (pictured below) which features some impressive pieces.

DSC_1234I would suggest two options for visiting the MFA. Either you want to do a comprehensive visit, in which case it is worth spending a few hours there. You can have a lunch or snack break; I had mine in the garden cafeteria which I highly recommend. You have a great choice of food, including an elaborate salad bar, and beautiful seating outside if it’s a nice day. The other option is picking a wing or two plus possibly a temporary exhibition and just visiting those parts, in which case it would take a couple of hours. Overall, I think that the MFA is more than just worth a visit. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming, well designed and well curated, engaging but not imposing. The pictures I took don’t do it justice but I love this museum and I can’t wait until I visit it again. Stay on the lookout for more reviews and musings in Boston, New York, and Washington DC, and for some new art inspired by everything I saw during my trip.

Rating

  • Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 7.5/10
  • Architecture: 8.5/10
  • Collections: 9.5/10
  • Display: 9/10
  • Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 9/10
  • Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 8/10
  • Overall: 9/10

American Musings

Dear readers,

I am currently on a three week trip to the East Coast of the USA and I’ll be spending time in Boston, New York, and Washington DC. This means that a lot of new posts are coming up but as I’m trying to make the most of my trip, I won’t have time to update the blog a lot until I’m back home. This is just my second day and I already have a review of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston starting to be drafted plus some new ideas for exhibitions and some artwork to share. I just don’t want to post stuff before syncing my pictures and I would like to take the time to write good posts and not just rushed stuff because I feel like this would be unfair.

So stay on the lookout for lots of new updates very soon and thank you for your patience 🙂