Posts Tagged ‘St. Petersburg’

Tampa’s ambitious work of art

March 2, 2011

The new Tampa Museum of Art opened to much fanfare last year

Tampa, in my experience, is one of those Florida cities that people from away can’t place. I was often asked when I lived in Boston, “Now where is it, on the West Coast or East Coast?”  (West!) I lived in the “Tampa-St. Pete” area for many years, and now watch the two cities’ growth from afar and occasional visits. St. Petersburg has developed a stronger personality, but Tampa is catching up. One example: it’s stunning new Tampa Museum of Art , open just over a year now.

View of the Hillsborough River from the museum's second floor

We toured the gleaming new space during a visit late last year and were mightily impressed. The building, designed by Stanley Saitowitz, sits along a bank of the Hillsborough River, next to the spiffy and even newer Glazer Children’s Museum and Curtis Hixon Riverfront Park, a tremendous addition to downtown green space and entirely new to me. From the lobby and hallways of the modern-industrial 66,000-square-foot museum one can see the water, and, on the other bank, the landmark minarets of the Moorish-styled University of Tampa.

The ultra contemporary space — all shiny on the outside — lends itself well to its modern works, including a Calder mobile in the lobby, a room with cool LED displays, a sculpture-filled terrace, and a Do Ho Suh bathroom installation made of fabric that I so wanted to touch.

But the two or so rooms of ancient stuff was just jarring. OK, yes, the museum has this important collection of Greek and Egyptian art, but it just doesn’t work here. It broke my flow and harshed my buzz. What’s a modern-looking museum to do with its old stuff? 

A rock garden decorates the lobby

If you aren’t into art (what’s with that?),  at least check out the lobby (free) and Sono Cafe, which has an upscale sandwich menu and gelato — best enjoyed on the patio overlooking the river.

Another free thrill is the museum-commissioned nighttime display by digital-light artist Leo Villareal, which turns a wall of the museum into “a kaleidoscope of patterns and colors,” according to one article. Alas, we visited during the day. Next time!

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New Dali Museum is the surreal thing

December 30, 2010

Florida`s new Dali Museum opens 1/11/11

Salvador Dali would enjoy the hoopla. To great fanfare, the new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., opens to the public 1/11/11 at 11:11 a.m. It is a beauty, both real and surreal.

January is chock full of public events to herald the arrival of this masterpiece of museums. Whenever you visit, now or later, take a docent tour. Not only are they entertaining, but, trust, me, you’ll want the explanations.

We were treated to a sneak preview of the $36 million building late December. With two weeks to go before the opening, things were still very much a work in progress, and the artwork hadn’t been moved from the current site eight blocks south. Though I loved the old museum, which opened in 1982, it was time for a step up for Dali’s art and for downtown St. Petersburg, these days a lively tourist destination.

End of the Helical Staircase and geodesic glass bubble on top of building

Many folks don’t realize that the Dali Museum here has more of the surrealist’s paintings than any place outside of his museum in Spain. The core collection was donated by the late A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse. The new 66,400-square-foot building more than doubles the old, and the exhibition space jumps from 7,000 to 15,000 square feet, meaning more paintings, sculptures, and melting clocks can be displayed.

The building itself, designed by architect Yann Weymouth, is the perfect vessel for Dali’s work. Visitors are first hit with a view of the “Glass Enigma,” geodesic glass bubbles that front the building. From the inside, the structure, made with 900 triangular glass panels held in a steel grid — none identical — looks over the city’s waterfront.

We hope the "melting clock" bench at the old museum will make the move

Just at the entrance is the cleverly titled “Avant Garden,” featuring a grotto and bridge, hedge labyrinth, and a patio with stone pavers forming the golden rectangle. Dali loved mathematics.

Inside, you’ll walk by (or browse in) an enhanced gift shop that will hold even more items than before, some custom-designed with Dali in mind, as they have been in the past. To the right is the first Dali café, with lacy metallic chairs. In the center is another mathematical masterpiece – “the Helical Staircase” – a spiral staircase resembling a strand of DNA that ascends to third-floor galleries and ends midair with a flourish of steel.

It's always raining inside "Rainy Rolls"

Also sure to make a splash is “Rainy Rolls 2010,” a custom-made version of Dali’s “Rainy Taxi.” His original installation of a taxi that rains on the inside was the hit of the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris. It’s been re-created several times over, and this one was designed by Alain Cerf, founder of the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum. The car is a fully functional 1933 Rolls Royce Sedanca whose mannequin driver, dressed in vintage dive gear, carries a passenger, in this case a mermaid, who is being rained on. (The water is actually coming down between plexiglass panels.) It’s an engineering and artistic marvel, and makes you realize there really is no shelter from the storm. That, my friends, is surreality.

To Amsterdam from Russia with love

February 6, 2010

The Hermitage Amsterdam is housed in the Amstelhof on the Amstel River

Let’s just agree to put aside, shall we, the hookers and hash. The Amsterdam you don’t hear as much about is filled with beautiful historic buildings, great restaurants and cafes, funky design shops, and world-class art museums. That’s what the city is to us.

Most museumgoers associate Amsterdam with the world-class Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. But now there’s a third art attraction pulling in the crowds. Last summer, the Netherlands capital opened the Hermitage Amsterdam, a branch of the renowned State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (where I hope to some day go). This Hermitage is run by a local foundation and independently financed.

The 17th-century Amstelhof was formerly used as a state-run home for the elderly

Wessel and I had the chance to visit in November. The weather was dreary but the place was packed. Everything about it is magnificent, from its setting along the bustling Amstel River to its location in the Amstelhof, a 17th-century building formerly used as a state-run home for the elderly.

The restored 107,000-square-foot building holds rotating and permanent exhibit space, a restaurant, outdoor terrace, courtyard, auditorium, children’s wing, and gift shops.

Church Hall with a view of the river

Our favorite spot (and everyone else’s, it seemed) was the Church Hall, a grand gathering area with large windows overlooking the Amstel. A smattering of comfy chairs faces the windows and they’re always filled.

The exhibit we saw, the inaugural (it ended Jan. 31) naturally focused on Russia, specifically on the Russian Court. The pageantry, polish, and pearls were lovely, but I’m much more interested in the upcoming show, opening March 6 (through Sept. 17). Called “Matisse to Malevich: Pioneers of Modern Art from the Hermitage,” the 75-piece modern-art showstopper is expected to draw huge crowds. The Hermitage has one of the world’s finest collections of early-20th-century French masters and famed Russian painters, so this will be a blockbuster. Most of the works in this show are usually on permanent display in Russia.

Metal fence with camellia blossoms near the back side of the museum

We’ll be back in Amsterdam in April, and will gladly fight the crowds to see this collection. On this trip, it will (hopefully) be warm enough to rest up in the courtyard, admiring the Hermitage from the outside

Admission for adults is a stiff $22, but that’s Europe for you.

Florida mangroves create tunnel vision

January 4, 2010

Diane on the well-marked paddling trail

When Wessel suggested we take our kayaks and paddle among the mangrove islands at Weedon Island Preserve in Florida, my first thought was: we’ll get hopelessly lost for days and have to drink saltwater and eat alligator meat (after hunting them with our pocket knives).

I’d read that the state preserve (north of St. Petersburg on Tampa Bay) has two marked paddle trails. But I also know how easy it is to get turned around on the water, especially when all you see are water, sky, and outcroppings of mangrove trees.

A great blue heron waits for us to pass

As usual, Wessel convinced me to put my life in his hands, and off we went, our two Florida-based kayaks crammed into the Honda Civic (one on top, one out the rear), while I had to smoosh myself into a corner of the back seat. You can also rent kayaks right at the preserve through Sweetwater Kayaks.

Ibis colony along Papy’s Bayou

We chose the four-mile loop trail (the South Paddling Trail) over the two-mile up-and-back one. And, surprise, surprise, the trail wasn’t just marked, it was WELL marked. Even I, who can get turned around in my own neighborhood, was able to follow the sign posts, close to 40 of them. What a thrill! Thank you, Weedon Island!

After putting in next to the fishing pier, we crossed a little bit of the bay, then headed into the islands, paddling through several saltwater ponds and over seagrass beds and mudflats. As soon as we saw one marker, we’d look for the next. Sometimes they were a bit tucked away, but we never missed one.

Diane finds her way through the mangrove tunnel with half a kayak paddle

We saw a few jumping fish, great blue herons, egrets, and ibises. The real excitement was the mangrove tunnels, created by the trees and their exposed roots growing so close together that they form a canopy over tidal creeks. At times the passageway was so narrow we had to pull our detachable paddles apart and use only half. This is not the place to be when the bugs were out. In late December, no problem.

Wessel makes his way through mangroves

About a third of the way we pulled ashore at a little park for a picnic, the only stopping place along the trail. That little diversion would have been thoroughly pleasant had I not dumped a digital camera into the water while docking my boat. (Argh……..) The photos were saved, but not the camera.

The last leg of the 2.5-hour trip was along Papy’s Bayou, an area of deeper and open water, where we were greeted by cavorting dolphins. Thrilling! We can’t wait to return — next time with the waterproof camera.