The building is terrific: it sits handsomely into the surroundings, without shouting its modernity too loudly. And inside it is just wonderfully light and airy.
The contrast with the modern buildings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art couldn’t be greater. Those are just depressingly blocky, and thoroughly unwelcoming: inside the galleries are bleak and barnlike. Here, the curves of the building draw you in and the foyer is a delightful space: and galleries are divided into rooms on a human scale where you want to linger.
There couldn’t be much more contrast between the curating, either. LACMA has some wonderful pictures. But they are, so to speak, just plonked on the walls, in a take-it-leave it spirit, without description or scene-setting or comment. Christchurch of course has to try a whole lot harder, as the collection lacks the Rembrandts and the Picassos. But the result is that it thoughtfully displays what it does have with intelligent and illuminating commentaries. Or it puts together little groupings of old and new, of New Zealanders visiting Europe and Europeans visiting New Zealand, of western-influenced and Maori-influenced in ways that make you look. (Though some of the really contemporary stuff was the usual pseud-ery, worth about twelve seconds contemplation.)