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06.20.2014
Through the Veil
Get lost in a glass labyrinth at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Chris Smart

On May 22, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, unveiled the newest addition to its 22-acre Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park. Entitled Glass Labyrinth, the glass walled maze designed by world-renowned artist and Kansas City native Robert Morris follows a series of similar installations made over the past decade from various materials including steel, stone, and even chain-linked fencing. “This interactive and contemplative labyrinth sets the stage for an exciting future for the sculpture garden, the museum, and Kansas City,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, the Nelson’s Director, at the ribbon cutting of Morris’ first permanent glass work in the U.S.

The Nelson is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the sculpture park with the opening of the new commission, funded by the Hall Family Foundation of Hallmark Cards fame. In 1986, the Foundation bought 57 master works by artist Henry Moore from an Oklahoma oil tycoon. They approached the Nelson shortly thereafter, and by 1989 had collaborated to build an outdoor museum in the spirit of the Foundation’s mission of creating places for the public to experience the relationship between art, architecture, and nature.

John Lamberton
 

At 7 feet tall and weighing more than 400 tons, Glass Labyrinth is a 62-foot equilateral triangle–shaped maze. Considering the museum’s desire to have the commission take a prominent position on the grounds, and with limited space left in the sculpture park, the Nelson’s landscape architect, Rick Howell, had to be strategic about the work’s placement.

 
Toni Wood; John Lamberton
 

The permanent installation is located at the foot of the museum’s Bloch building, designed by Steven Holl Architects, and creates a gateway element at the southeast corner of the campus. Glass Labyrinth responds to the purity of the original building and the Holl addition. The piece’s translucence creates an interesting juxtaposition between the backdrop of the Bloch building’s frosted, channelized glass, and its adjacency to Henry Moore’s bronze Sheep Piece, with Roxy Paine’s stainless steel Ferment lurking over the scene and across from Claes Oldenburg’s infamous Shuttlecocks.

This is not a typical museum piece, where guests are discouraged from touching the art. “Visitors are invited to walk into the labyrinth to experience it and become a part of the art,” said Jan Schall, the Nelson’s Sanders Sosland curator of modern art.

The concrete foundation for the labyrinth was laid last Fall, and final assembly began in April. It was completed in early May. The Nelson has organized a summer of public activities to celebrate the sculpture garden’s anniversary.

Gunnar Hand