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I used to joke around with brian about the Third Church of Christ, Scientist: and Brutalist architecture in general, saying how ugly it all was. He had sometimes written about this church, and I was giving him what was intended to be a good-natured ribbing. And yes, I *do* think it's ugly - in fact, it's an absolute eyesore; on the other hand, Brian is an expert at architecture, and I am nothing but a curious layman whose knowledge is barely above zero. When we first began talking about it, I remember that I was surprised to find out it was designed by I.M. Pei (who I suspect is taken seriously by real architects, but also becomes annoying since he's one of about five names (along with Frank Lloyd Wright) that people like me mention, because we don't know enough to mention any others). And then, I remember driving by it one day about a year ago, and seeing this: and, out of the blue, I became extremely sad - I wasn't even sure why. I've since looked into the building, and realize that it was considered by many respected architects to be - not an eyesore, but an important work. Yet, the businessmen and the bureaucrats apparently didn't listen to the architects and historians, and sacrificed this building forever in order to become another generic, glass-windowed office building. Shifting to something I have more expertise in (classical music), whether or not a piece is "pretty" or "beautiful" is of little importance to me in terms of assessing its value. I can't even begin to list the masterpieces which, to an untrained ear, might sound "ugly," "like noise," or "just plain boring," and yet, these pieces are not only appreciated, but positively cherished by me and most people with a music education. Example (*): I don't know the back story behind the church's demolition, but the thought of brain-dead government officials ignoring experts in order to pander to the masses makes me want to evolve towards Fascism. If this building was a masterpiece, even if I can't see it, then damn it, it's a masterpiece, and it's up to me to bring myself up to speed so that I can recognize it as such. What other works of importance are going to be sacrificed for the almighty dollar, and because the public wants something "inoffensive to the eye?" I may not be sophisticated enough to know that this was an important building, but I'm wise enough to recognize that experts, who know a whole lot more than I do, think that it was. If I were in a position of power, I would listen to what they had to say, public opinion be damned. (*) [Emphasis mine] "Early in 1943, I received the score of the Seventh Sonata, which I found fascinating and which I learned in just four days (**).... The work was a huge success. The audience clearly grasped the spirit of the work, which reflected their innermost feelings and concerns. (This was also felt to be the case with Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, which dates from more or less the same period.)... With this work we are brutally plunged into the anxiously threatening atmosphere of a world that has lost its balance. Chaos and uncertainty reign. We see murderous forces ahead. But this does not mean that what we lived by before thereby ceases to exist. We continue to feel and love. Now the full range of human emotions bursts forth. Together with our fellow men and women, we raise a voice in protest and share the common grief. We sweep everything before us, borne along by the will for victory. In the tremendous struggle that this involves, we find the strength to affirm the irrepressible life-force." -- Sviatislov Richter (**)
Nov 7, 2017 - "National Gallery of Art Celebrates 25-Year Anniversary of Director Earl A. Powell III; 2019 Retirement Announced" on nga.gov Thank you to Rusty Powell, and congratulations to Kaywin Feldman, who comes in Mar, 2019, from the Minneapolis Institute of Art. "National Gallery of Art Picks Kaywin Feldman as Next Director" on artnews.com