Six art galleries in unexpected places | Travel

The Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan is an art museum housed in a former train parts and agricultural equipment factory.
Photo by Piero Cruciatti/AFP via Getty Images

When the functions of our built environment are no longer needed, buildings often stand empty or are demolished. It is therefore refreshing to see visionaries giving new life to abandoned architecture. These six art galleries and museums around the world are set in unexpected settings, with paintings and installations adorning places like an old railway factory or an empty water cistern.

Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern (Houston, Texas)

Every two years, a new installation is staged at Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, where visitors descend into an underground drinking water cistern dating from 1926 to see spectacular works of art illuminating the walls. Multimedia artist Anri SalaThe immersive sound and cinematic experience of “Time is No More” is currently showing. Exhibits fill the entire space – all 87,500 square feet, supported by 221 columns.

“It really is an ambitious public art program, simply because everything we do there has to occupy a very large space,” says Karen Farber, vice president of external affairs at the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the organization owning the cistern. “But it’s also a dream for any artist to be able to walk in there and create something totally original for that space.”

The cistern was decommissioned in 2007 after an irreparable leak was discovered. The city of Houston was looking for someone to tear it down in 2010, when the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, a nonprofit group dedicated to revitalizing the city’s 10-square-mile Buffalo Bayou area, stumbled upon the site. The art program is curated, rather than an open call, and each installation is site-specific, intended to play on the size and reverberation of the space with visuals and audio. Buffalo Bayou Partnership retains about a foot and a half of water at the bottom of the cistern. Visitors follow a walkway that wraps around the edge of the cistern, near the top of the 25-foot-tall columns. “It creates this incredible reflective surface because the water is absolutely still and glassy,” says Farber. “It looks like an infinite space.” In addition to the arts program, the Partnership hosts historic space tours and sound healing meditation sessions.

Feuerle Collection (Berlin, Germany)

the Feuerle Collection in Berlin is home to Imperial Chinese furniture dating from 200 BCE to the 17th century, Khmer sculptures from the 7th century, and pieces by a handful of international contemporary artists, all tucked away in a former WWII bunker. This is part of a very specific design choice to juxtapose ancient art with more modern periods and cultures, something namesake Desire Feuerle in a former art gallery in Cologne in the 1990s. The approximately 79,000 square foot space presents works of art in two main exhibition halls, then in a few rooms: the sound room, the of the lake and the incense room. In the Incense Room, visitors will find a collection of Chinese incense artifacts and can participate in an incense-as-art ceremony. The Feuerle Collection is the only institution in the world to present the ceremony in this way. Visitors can also meditate and take gong baths among works of art. To visit, you must be 16 or older and make a reservation.

The Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Six art galleries in unexpected places

The mattress factory

Popscreenshot via Wikipedia

As its name suggests, the mattress factory, a contemporary art venue in Pittsburgh, occupies a former mattress warehouse. The building, which once produced Stearns & Foster mattresses, was built in 1900. Artist Barbara Luderowski bought the property in 1975 and founded the museum two years later. Three historic buildings now make up the campus: the old factory and two historic townhouses. The Mattress Factory is well known for pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, continually developing alternative forms that include video, performance, and site-specific installations. The current exhibition (the first in person since the start of the pandemic) is called “make home here.” It focuses on five local Pittsburgh artists and the work they produced during the Covid-19 lockdown. Artists include Naomi Chamberswho was inspired by the Black Panthers and Maslow The pyramid of needs; Justin Emmanuel Dumas, which recreated an actual house in its exhibition space; and Harrison Kinnane Smith, who arranged for the mattress factory to mortgage its own property, with the proceeds then directed to a neighborhood black landlord in response to discriminatory property tax policies. The exhibition runs until spring 2022.

Arquipélago—Contemporary Art Center (São Miguel, Azores, Portugal)

Arquipélago—Contemporary Art Center

Arquipélago—Contemporary Art Center

Courtesy of the museum

On February 8, 1893, a newspaper in the Azores announced plans to open three alcohol distilleries, all on the largest island of the Portuguese archipelago, São Miguel. In the end, due to economic concerns and political movements, only one will be built in 1896. The Ribeira Grande distillation plant operated until 1902, before the building became a military barracks and then a factory of tobacco, until 2006. Today, the property is an art museum, the Arquipélago—Contemporary Art Center.

Redesigned by architects Francisco Vieira de Campos, Cristina Guedes and João Mendes Ribeiro, the museum consists of an exhibition space on the first floor and in the basement, a theater, archives, a library, a shop, a bar, and an artist-in-residence program that requires artists to use the factory’s high ceilings. Current exhibitions include “Quatro Quatro”, an exhibition dedicated to four local artists (until February 6) and “Se podes olhar, vê. Se podes ver repara. », an exhibition presenting the collage works of João Amado (until January 16).

NAGA Gallery (Boston, MA)

NAGA Gallery

NAGA Gallery

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NAGA Gallery in Boston isn’t just a working art gallery, it’s located inside a working church. the Alliance Church, built in 1867, is a Gothic Revival stone church in the Back Bay neighborhood, and a work of art in its own right, with the largest and most complete Tiffany church interior in the country. It features rare glass mosaics, glass lanterns, 42 large windows, and many other Tiffany features. NAGA Gallery moved into the church in 1977, when members of the congregation who were artists asked if they could hang their work inside. It is now a cooperative gallery; NAGA stands for Newbury Associated Guild of Artists. The artwork inside is all by local New England artists.

Pirelli HangarBicocca (Milan, Italy)

Pirelli HangarBicocca

Visitors view Blind, 2021 during the personal exhibition “Breath Ghosts Blind” by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, at the Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, on July 16, 2021.

Piero Cruciatti/AFP via Getty Images

At approximately 161,500 square feet, the Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan is one of the largest exhibition spaces in Europe. The non-profit art museum building, built in the early 1900s by engineer Ernesto Breda, served as a factory producing train parts and agricultural equipment until the 1980s. The art museum took over the space in 2004, with exhibits focused on community engagement and interactivity. In the past, visitors could walk through the work itself (rather than viewing it from afar as in a typical gallery), cross strapped into seats, or even fly with a harness. In addition to permanent artist installations Anselme Kiefer, Osgemeos and Fausto Melottiof them temporary exhibitions are currently in progress: Neil BeloufaDigital mourningwhich focuses on the concept of living in a digital world, until January 9; and Maurizio Cattelan‘s”Blast blind ghosts”, running until February 20, which explores the existential concepts of life. Admission to the museum and special exhibitions is free.

Mildred D. Field