Portland Art Museum
At Its Essence, Art Is About Connection
Connections to the City and its Surroundings
Surveying the Museum from the South Park Blocks today, you immediately appreciate its historic importance, while sensing its growing influence on the city's evolution.
The Museum’s two existing buildings are both impressive structures, though stylistically miles apart. The main building, the Belluschi, is modernist: Italian-born Portland architect Pietro Belluschi made his name with it in 1932. The Mark Building—purchased by the Museum in the 1990s and now home to the Jubitz Center for Modern & Contemporary Art—plainly reveals its former incarnation as a 1920s-era Masonic temple: imposing and colonnaded.
A glass-walled addition—the Mark Rothko Pavilion, announced in 2016 and slated to be finished in late 2020 or early 2021—will bridge the two structures. Filled with natural light and communal spaces, the passageway will also be its own welcoming portal and gathering place. Functionally and aesthetically unifying, the Pavilion will give the campus “an uninterrupted artistic vista,” integrating it deeper into the fabric of the community.
Connections to Art and Each Another
The Portland Art Museum isn’t merely a venue for renowned works of art (such as Monet’s Water Lilies) or touring exhibitions (such as this spring’s Constructing Identity: Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African-American Art). It’s also a community gathering place designed to encourage respectful dialogue, inward reflection, common understanding, and a greater awareness of the world around us.
Of course, not everything will inspire you. But there will be pieces that do: paintings, busts, photographs that seize you in your tracks. You’ll lose yourself for a moment in a brush-stroked face, or some hallucinogenic geometric design. You’re communing with an artist—but you’re also communing with an expression of the human spirit that transcends the individual and time to resonate right at soul-level.
And if you have a companion or two along, more likely than not something on display here is going to get you talking. Engrossed in a discussion, or lost in solitary reflection on a bench before a painting: These are the moments the Museum strives to create.
Connections to a Brilliant Past and an Even Brighter Future
We began this article with a quote from the Portland Art Museum: "At its essence, art is about connection."
The Portland Art Museum’s been making connections between art and people since 1892. An important chapter of that storied history was Mark Rothko’s first solo exhibition in 1933. Born in today’s Latvia in 1903 (it was Russia back then), Rothko came to the U.S. as a 10-year-old and spent most of his teenage years in Portland, graduating from Lincoln High School. After a stint at Yale in 1921, he studied briefly under famed artist Max Weber.
Returning home to Portland as an burgeoning artist, Rothko's work first appeared in the Portland Art Museum’s brand-new home in the Belluschi Building. That success was followed by another at New York City’s Contemporary Art Gallery, which launched his massively influential career.
Today, Rothko’s rich legacy forms an essential bridge to the Museum’s future. His children will be loaning the Museum selected works of their father’s to be displayed in the Mark Rothko Pavilion on a one-at-a-time, rotating basis. These paintings will be among several destination highlights of the 30,000-square-foot, three-story structure, which will also allow museumgoers to stroll seamlessly between respective floors of the Belluschi and Mark buildings. And perhaps as important, the Mark Rothko Pavilion will connect The Museum even more intimately to the surrounding South Park Blocks.
According to the Museum, it "has launched the public phase of a $75 million capital and endowment campaign to fund the project, with $26.245 million raised toward the $50 million capital goal and $6.242 million raised toward the $25 million endowment goal." We encourage you to support this important endeavor.
All photos used by permission from PAM