After years of planning and construction, the Saint Louis Art Museum proudly opened its doors to the new East Building expansion on July 29. It is a sprawling and ambitious 200,000 square foot project that adds 21 new galleries for permanent and temporary collections and increases the public space by 30 percent. The expansion houses the museum’s extensive postwar and modern art collection and is free for all visitors to the museum.
The East Building includes new amenities such as an additional museum shop and a new dining option called the Panorama Restaurant. It is an upscale dining affair that offers patrons a sweeping view overlooking Art Hill. Some of the entrée selections include a seasonal spin on blue crab cakes, roasted Missouri trout seasoned with Saffron and grass-fed beef skirt steak on a bed of zesty horseradish-potato puree. The restaurant is open during museum hours and reservations are highly recommended for dinner.
Architecture for the East Building has been modernized to mirror the kind of artwork inside. Giant floor-to-ceiling windows line the exterior and coffered ceilings provide much of the natural lighting for the museum. The design is a bit bland, but stands as a nice counterpoint to the main building’s neoclassical façade.
The interior shares many of the same characteristics as the exterior. It is a very modern design with whitewashed walls, wood paneled flooring, high ceilings and spacious galleries. It gives the impression that one is walking through a private owner’s personal studio admiring his collection. The design sets a reverent and intimate tone, which provides the necessary atmosphere for appreciating these works.
The museum currently has two exhibitions on display in the East Building which are “Postwar German Art in the Collection” and “A New View: Contemporary Art.” The latter exhibition encompasses a wide variety of styles such as pop art, abstract expressionism, minimalism and everything in between. Some of the notable artists in the collection include Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack.
The collection is tremendously diverse and no two pieces look alike. One gallery contained a pile of rocks positioned in a circle on the ground while another gallery showcased a long, spiraling tornado. The artwork ranges from semi-traditional to totally abstract, but there is certainly something that will catch your eye – whether it be shocking, funny or beautiful.
There were definitely moments where I was scratching my head in bewilderment trying to uncover the hidden meaning behind a particular piece, but there were other times when a piece challenged me to take a new perspective of what could be considered art.
It was in these moments that the significance and importance of modern art becomes clear.
Modern art challenges centuries worth of reinforcement of what constitutes art.
It’s weirdness, abstractness and complexity is all part of a collective movement that seeks to redefine the rigid conceptions of art.
The East Building celebrates this freedom of expression and wishes to put on a pedestal for the world to see.
The Saint Louis Art Museum should be applauded for its commitment to all forms of expression and the East Building is a manifestation of this dedication.