A haven for the well-heeled pleasure seeker, the mountain town of Aspen is known for good skiing, even better après-ski, and the surrounding White River National Forest. Now it is adding the polished programme of the Aspen Art Museum to its attractions, in a new 33,000 sq ft structure by 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Shigeru Ban, which officially opens to the public on 9 August.
Located in downtown Aspen, the building, a new home for the existing institution, founded in 1979, is Ban's first US museum. 'Right from the start of the selection process, Shigeru received the highest scores,' recalls Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the museum's CEO and director. 'He was up for several other museum projects at the time , but as we were the first team to visit him in Tokyo and tour his projects, I think he was charmed by our commitment.'
Wallpaper* visited the building earlier in the year, featuring it in our July 2014 issue (W*184) while it was in the late stages of construction. The now complete museum's simple glass box structure exposes it to postcard-perfect surroundings on all fronts. Ban added another layer, literally, by draping a wooden screen over the glass façades. Reminiscent of his intricate paper and cardboard experimentations, the textured overlay is made from a durable, fire-resistant composite of wood and paper, reinforced with resin.
'Because the museum doesn't have collections, there are many different exhibitions - it's like a basket and you can put anything you like inside,' Ban explains. The building's public rooftop is accessible either via a glass lift or the three-level grand staircase, and showcases a sculpture garden set against unobstructed views of Ajax Mountain. 'Without going through the lobby, you can go up to the roof,' smiles Ban.
The new Aspen Art Museum will open with several heavy hitters - an unprecedented pairing of Yves Klein and David Hammons, and abstract painter Tomma Abts and Venice Biennale alumna Rosemarie Trockel. The unique rooftop exhibition space will feature a new project by Cai Guo-Qiang, while the first level will house the debut museum showing of Ban's humanitarian work, such as his Paper Partition System for the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, created for victims of natural disasters in various versions from 2006 to 2011. It's a perfectly pitched opening for a perfectly placed museum.