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Mass MoCA Plans Giant, Long-Term Exhibits By Turrell, Rauschenberg, Holzer

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 Updated November 16, 2014, 12:00 am

Nine immersive light environments by James Turrell, indoor projections by Jenny Holzer of poetry, and artworks by the late Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Bourgeois are among the new long-term exhibitions that Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art plans to add as it doubles its already supersized space by transforming more of the old Sprague Electric factory in North Adams over the next three years.

The museum plans to announce the projects by these major American artists at a press conference with Gov. Deval Patrick Monday.

Mass MoCA’s plans began to become public, as ARTery reported last winter, when the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave the first approval for $25.4 million state infrastructure grant for the museum’s renovations, which has since seen approval from the entire state Legislature and governor. The museum says it has also collected $13.5 million in pledges or donations as part of a $30 million private fund-raising campaign.

Renovations—designed, like the museum’s earlier developments, by the Cambridge firm Bruner/Cott and Associates—are expected to commence summer 2015 and be ready to open to the public mid-2017, the museum says.

Much of this has been apparent for months. What’s new now is the announcement of the specific artists the museum plans to feature in some 90,000 square feet of new space for exhibitions running 15 to 25 years long. The museum says the projects will include:

• A long-term exhibition of nine immersive light and space environments by James Turrell, including a dramatically scaled ganzfeld commission specially designed by the artist for Mass MoCA and “the first ever realized for long-term public view in North America,” plus a new outdoor “skyspace” observatory to be created from an old water tank.

• A series of temporary exhibitions, long-term installations, and scholarly programs realized in partnership with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, focusing both on artworks by Rauschenberg and on work by other established and emerging artists realized in conjunction with the foundation’s Captiva-based artist residency studio program.

• A long-term exhibition of the carved marble sculpture of Louise Bourgeois—“some large and never before seen”—realized in partnership with The Easton Foundation.

• A long-term installation of works by Jenny Holzer, including indoor light projections featuring changing selections of poetry by a long list of authors (as she presented at Mass MoCA in 2007 and ’08, pictured in video at top), and campus-wide installations of carved stone benches and electronic signs. Holzer will also create a new artwork for handheld devices that will allow visitors to access augmented reality projections on their smartphones throughout Mass MoCA’s campus.

• A production studio, living archive, and broadcasting facility coupled with audio/video installation galleries for the work of Laurie Anderson, who will utilize the dedicated facility to make and show new work, and to exhibit both new and archival video and audio material plus instrumentation and other objects from her extensive collection.

• A suite of participatory music-making and rehearsal spaces, organized around the handmade instrumentation of “new music composer and community-music impresario” Gunnar Schonbeck, to be realized in collaboration with Bang on a Can, a new music consortium based in New York.

This “Phase III” of the museum’s build-out is expected to total 130,000 square feet of interior renovations—including 20,000 square feet of temporary exhibition space—on top of the museum’s existing 120,000 square feet of galleries.

The first part of this “Phase III renovation” opened last September—the transformation of an old concrete water storage tank into a seasonally-open, 10,000-square-foot gallery hosting a 15-year-long installation of paintings and sculptures by the German artist Anselm Kiefer on loan from the Hall Art Foundation, which was founded by commodities trader Andrew Hall and his wife Christine. This followed in the footsteps of the museum’s retrospective of Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings installed across 27,000 square feet of a three-story mill building, which opened in 2008 and is scheduled to remain on view for 25 years. It was developed by the museum in collaboration with the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown and Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut.

As part of the new renovations, the museum also says it plans new bike paths, including new bridges across the Hoosic river and a bikeable passageway that will transverse one of the museum’s largest mill buildings.

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