Opened in 1897, the Brooklyn Museum is New York’s second largest museum. The 560,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts building was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, and was originally intended to be six times its current size.The new Rubin Entrance Pavilion, completed in 2004, was created by James Stewart Polshek, also the designer of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. The skylight’s cascade of shingled, glass steps recalls the high staircase of the original entrance.
A fountain of “dancing” water jets lies in the outside public plaza. The fountain comes from WET Design, creators of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. Twelve bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin greet visitors just inside the entrance. The Brooklyn Museum holds a vast collection of art on its five floors. Art from Asia, Native America, Europe, the South Pacific and Africa are all represented here. In 1923,the Brooklyn Museum held the first African art exhibition in the United States, and today, with over five thousand items, the Brooklyn Museum has the largest African art collection of any American art museum.
Also of note is the Decorative Arts collection, which consists of several galleries and 26 period rooms, displaying domestic art objects from the 17th century to the present. The Brooklyn Museum also holds one of the finest collections of American Art in the world. The American Art collection includes paintings, sculptures, watercolors and prints from great American artists such as John Singer Sargeant, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keaffe, and Edward Hopper.
The Luce Center for American Art also includes the unique Visible Storage – Study Center, an open storeroom of objects and art pieces displayed in a compact fashion, allowing an inside look at how museums work.More information on these objects (which are identified by numbers) can be found on a special web site created for the Center. Computers are provided in the space for research.
Also world-renowned for its collection of ancient Egyptian art, the Brooklyn Museum houses works representing four thousand years of ancient Egyptian history. Found in a 1907 archaeological dig, the pre dynastic terracotta “Bird Lady” figurine is one of the oldest and most famous objects in the Museum. The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is dedicated to raising cultural awareness of feminist art. The Center contains the iconic 1970’s feminist art installation The Dinner Party (1974-79) by Judy Chicago, a triangular table with thirty-nine place settings, each place reserved for a woman of important historical significance.
Visitors exiting from the Norman M. Feinberg Entrance can view the Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden, a garden of architectural elements (dated between 1880 and 1910) that were salvaged from structures demolished throughout the metropolitan area. A replica of the Statue of Liberty, circa 1900, by an unknown artist on display in the garden was one of many smaller scale replicas inspired by the original in New York Harbor. This 30-foot replica was commissioned by the Russian-born auctioneer William H. Flattau to sit atop his Liberty Warehouse at 43 West 64th Street, which at eight stories was one of the highest points on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Even the New York Subway station for the Brooklyn Museum gets into the act with a sampling of architectural elements that once decorated many 19th- and 20th- century building in New York. The salvaged keystones, plaques, lunettes and boarders came from the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s collection.
by Andrea M. Meek