Travel Newsletter

Europe and the United States have been opening, and planning to open, new cultural and recreational attractions faster than anyone can possibly keep up with. But if you’d like to try, here are some highlights:

In Paris the Beaux Arts Gare d’Orsav was reborn in December, after extensive renovation, as the Musee d’Orsay, a museum of 19thand early-20th-century treasures. The airy new exhibition space contains, among many other things, the outstanding Impressionist collection from the Jeu de Paume, which is now closed.

In Brussels the ambitious new renovation project is the national opera house, the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie, which reopened in November. Now the decor of the 17thcentury-style building is distinctly post-Modern, and the stage machinery electronic. Not everyone likes the changes; not everyone was expected to. Nonetheless, they suit the renewed sense of purpose that La Monnaie has gained since it acquired a new director, Gerard Mortier, in 1981.

Amsterdam’s new Music Theater, to be used for opera and ballet performances, will get plenty of use this spring and summer, inasmuch as the city has been named the EEC Cultural Capital for 1987 (some of the special events planned are listed on page T-12). Also in the Netherlands, in The Hague, the Mauritshuis national gallery will reopen in June after years of restoration. The Mauritshuis is renowned for its collection of Dutch masters. And Rotterdam, the world’s busiest port, has a new indoor-outdoor Maritime Museum.

For at least several weeks after a vast new structure containing the Museum Ludwig and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum opened in Cologne, West Germany, last September, it was drawing 25,000 visitors a day—nearly twice as many as any other cultural attraction in the world. The Ludwig 20th-century collection, which fills two thirds of the exhibition space, is generally acknowledged to be topflight on the whole, though its donor, Peter Ludwig, who made his fortune manufacturing Lindt chocolate, attracts controversy the way sweets attract children. The WallrafRichartz collection is well regarded for its unusual medieval paintings and old Dutch and Flemish works.

However, starting this month Berlin can be counted on to upstage Cologne—at least—with its 750th anniversary celebration. A lavish program of special events is scheduled (see pages T-9 and T-10 for highlights). But permanent enhancements of the city have also gone forward, loosely under the rubric of the International Building Exhibition. Berlin’s previous building exhibitions have resulted in demonstration projects by Alvar Aalto, Walter Gropius, Oskar Niemeyer, and Le Corbusier. This year more than 150 completed projects, great and small, will be on proud display. These include a new museum at the former Hamburger Bahnhof, redevelopment (on both sides of the Wall) of the once grand and lively Friedrichstrasse, and a new Chamber Music Hall, which will open in late October.

Here at home New York City has generated its share of news with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Lila Acheson Wallace Wing for 20th-century art. The opening of the wing, in February, added 40,000 square feet (or nearly half the amount of space that the Museum of Modern Art has) to the amount of New York exhibition space dedicated to modern art. Another 10,000 square feet will be added when the wing’s rooftop sculpture garden opens, next month. The Met’s 20th-century collection is surprisingly large and fine, if eclectic. Also in New York the acoustics and the decor of Carnegie Hall were restored to their original, 1890s, glory during 30 weeks of renovation last year. New air-conditioning means that the hall will be able to remain open in summer.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts will open in Washington, DC, this month, with the exhibit American Women Artists, 1830-1930. Beyond Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keeffe, virtually none of the artists represented in the exhibit—or in the museum’s permanent collection, for that matter—are household names. The museum’s founder, Wilhelmina Holladay, believes that many of them deserve to be, and her persistence and strength of conviction have now won her a chance to prove her point. In late September a new, underground Smithsonian complex will open in Washington as well. It will be the new home of the National Museum of African Art and also the home of the new Arthur M. Sackler Gallery for Asian and Near Eastern art.

After decades of private ownership, Montpelier, James Madison’s home, in Orange County, Virginia, has been turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is restoring it. The mansion was opened to the public last month and will remain open while the work proceeds.

This month in Chicago the headquarters of the Terra Museum of American Art will move from Evanston to the heart of the city. The inaugural exhibit, A Proud Heritage, will include paintings from the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as works from the Terra’s permanent collection, which is strong in American Impressionism. And next month Chicago will get a new Museum of Broadcast Communications. Innovative “decade rooms,” covering the thirties through the eighties, will present programs typical of the periods in question, in settings also typical of them.

Next month in Nevada, near nothing much except the border with Utah, the new Great Basin National Park will be dedicated. The 76,800 acre park contains both Lehman Caves, a huge stalagtited and stalagmited limestone-solution cavern, and Wheeler Peak, soaring more than 13,000 feet high. The park is also home to a diversity of flora and fauna, including mule deer and golden eagles. Meanwhile in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a new Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is being readied for a June opening.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its Robert O. Anderson building in November, and the Museum of Contemporary Art took up residence in a newpermanent building in December—a combination amounting to 85,000 square feet of new exhibition space for Los Angeles. The new wing of the LA County Museum is architecturally exotic, but from the start the focus of interest has been the contemporary art and special exhibits it’s meant to house. It opened triumphantly with The Spiritual in Art (now on its way to Chicago); this spring and summer the LA County will present everything from Treasures of the Holy Land to Avant-Garde in the Eighties. Conversely, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s building is so striking that it has attracted perhaps more attention than the inaugural exhibit. Individuals: A Selected History of Contemporary Art, 1945-1986. which will remain on view through the end of the year.

Barbara Wallraff