Monday, August 26, 2019
Museum template: The MIA
To expedite making reviews of museums I thought it would be nice to have a template. To have a template one has to write a template. So I'm going to do so.
"That's too boring!" you cry out.
No, not you. You wouldn't cry out like that! I am referring to you. And, fair enough. Good point you! So for my template I will also fill it in, using as an example, my local go-getter museum, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, which is maybe now officially called the MIA, which is perhaps slightly too cute, but I won't mark them down for it.
Are you ready?
Name of Museum:
The Mia, 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis MN, USA
Overall rating (not a strict average of the below) out of 100:
I give it a 90 because I like it and because it's our own local museum.
Th and F 10-9, Sa, Tu, and W 10-5, and Su 11-5. Closed Monday.
Good for a museum, kind of weak for a library. But they're not a library, though they do have a small nice one inside (by appointment only).
Quality of building architecture:
They say it's Beaux Arts and who am I to argue. That means it's sort of a Frenchified Classical looking thing. It's actually pretty grand and nice, especially when one enters from the old proper entrance on the north side, up the grand staircase that is now more often closed in lieu of the more modern, less impressive glassy side entrance. New buildings have been added in a connected way. They're all right.
Quality of interior design and display:
It's a nice big place with interesting features, rooms, period rooms, and displays. The variety of staircases are fun and the main window view is well featured and kind of spectacular sometimes with its near downtown view. It's a large place, but usually just short of overwhelming. Some of the viewing rooms can get a little warren-like, which can be good or bad depending.
General location in the World:
Minneapolis. It's really nice here. Don't make a special trip.
More specific location in city:
There's a park to the north that's a pleasant buffer. A short walk east takes one to "Eat Street" Nicollet Avenue, where there is a fairly interesting variety of restaurants. In most directions it's slightly divey, cut off by freeways, and bounded by overwhelming ugly urban boulevards. The museum grounds also host a decently peaceful courtyard and a good art college, but there's just not that much besides the museum to explore and it won't be part of an interesting walk or bike ride without a lot of craftiness and effort.
Cost and entrance fees:
Free except for a fairly expensive ticket if you want to hit the special exhibit going on, which may or may not be great, but is never necessary. Lots of boxes you can drop cash in if you want, but none of that shaming "Pay what you want but pay something" crap the Chicago Art Institute and the Met have employed before deciding to just soak the hell out of people because they're elitist assholes.
Ease of access:
If you have a car it's pretty good. They made their lot a pay lot, but it is almost never impossible to find decent street parking. Buses suck in the city but work. The train is too far. Biking and walking here can be a bit mazey.
3 stars, which is a bit generous, but it's my city and I have a car.
Oddly hard to say since I've been here so much and I've had my own favorites over the years, like the brilliant, witty Grant Wood view of Herbert Hoover's birthplace that they share with the Des Moines Art Center. But on the signature piece level one might want to go with the Rembrandt (Lucretia) or the Van Gogh. No single thing will bring one here.
This is more of a breadth kind of a museum, and they do a good job of it too. Still, their Asian collection is surprisingly excellent and the highest rate of delightful surprises will be found among it.
Revolving collections and shows:
Yes indeed. Sometimes the focus is a bit too insistently contemporary for this sort of "history of all art ever" kind of museum, but they do a fine job of it. They always run one big time show at a time, which varies in quality, but can be mindbogglingly brilliant, and the museum has seen visits from Caravaggio, Delacroix, Vermeer, and Da Vinci, which does set a high water mark that leaves little room for improvement.
I just like it here. There's a nice Chihuly chandelier at the entrance, big spaces, quiet nooks. It's a good place.
They are generally pleasant and helpful without being amazing.
There's a sort of restaurant cafeteria which seems to be open like 15 minutes a day three days a week, and though I exaggerate, it is merely an expression of my hate. Their food is, er, mediocre. They do have a still fairly good cafe (in the coffee bar sense of the word) which was actually great for about a year until the museum made a deal with someone else (I don't know the story). Unlike the restaurant (never open, remember), that one is open with the museum's hours I believe so...well done. My frustration with their lack of ambition and vision on this score, even as they manage some good things, makes this complicated to score.
How about 3 stars?
Big. Lots of nice stuff. Interesting. Bespoke. Pricey, but that's to be expected. Albeit a wee bit too polished sometimes for my taste.