What exactly is a film museum? It’s a question without a clear answer, but one upon which some $300 million is riding as the Academy Museum lopes towards the goal of a 2017 opening.
In his first interviews since being named director of the burgeoning museum, Kerry Brougher has opened up to the press about his vision for the museum that will inhabit and rethink the historic May Company building on Wilshire Boulevard, stressing the importance of creating an “immersive experience” that both captures the magic of watching a movie and communicates the complex artistry and technology that goes into making one.
“In an art museum,” Brougher told Variety‘s Tim Gray, “you hang a Picasso on the wall. You’re hanging the actual art work, as it was meant to be seen. But in a film museum, you’re getting a different kind of experience of film, not one projected in a movie theater.”
Think screens-on-screens for Brougher’s conceptualization of the museum: three-dimensional montages presented on multiple screens that visitors could walk through, as well as smaller screens that could create ‘micro-experiences,’ allowing some interested visitors to dive deeper into the craft of moviemaking without forcing all museum-goers to have that experience.
Of course, the Academy Museum isn’t just going to be a film museum–it’s going to be a museum about the Academy. That means artifacts from the Academy’s collection (things like Dorothy’s ruby slippers) will be housed in a permanent collection surveying Hollywood history as well as rotating exhibits focused on more specific topics. And, of course, there will have to be some exhibit pertaining to the Oscars.
And then there are the theaters–three of them, in fact. One, the large, spaceship-like sphere set to crown the museum, would be used for film premieres, Brougher hopes. The other two would be for “installation-based projects”–“I would imagine we wouldn’t do many feature films,” the newly-appointed curator told The New York Times.
When Brougher officially steps into his role on July 1–he is currently the interim director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington–he will be joining a project with many vocal critics. Chief among those, perhaps, is Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times, who has criticized the Renzo Piano-designed ‘spaceship’ theater plans as “trapped in a kind of retry-futuristic limbo, with little to say about contemporary Los Angeles.” (He also called it a “snub-nosed helmet” and “a sleek, giant albino Pac-Man.”
In May, Zoltan Pali, the LA architect who was collaborating with Piano, left the job with little ceremony. The Academy is now looking for another firm to join the project as executive architect as the beginning of construction looms for later this year. Hawthorne called the shake-up a possible “blessing in disguise” and urged the Academy to take at least six months “to take stock” and tweak the design.
“Unfortunately,” Brougher told Variety’s Gray when asked about the criticisms, “the image that’s been used a lot is not accurate. I’m coming in somewhat late in the process, but I think it’s all coming together nicely.”
As tunneling for the new Metro line through the mid-Wilshire district commences (and continues to shake up Museum Row), Brougher will certainly have his work cut out for him when he begins his new job in July.