Paintings and sculptures by the great Old Masters.
Cool circus stuff.
But not many cutting-edge works.
That has been the Ringling Museum of Art’s reputation for years.
The opinion of the Sarasota institution will be significantly altered this week, though.
On Thursday, timed with winter solstice, the museum opens its Skyspace.
Created by James Turrell, his firmament-framing architectural designs have been lauded ever since the internationally renowned American artist started creating them in the 1970s.
When Turrell’s Skyspace opened about four years ago in Pomona, Ca., the Los Angeles Times called it “an urbane oasis and thinking citizen’s entertainment center all rolled into one impeccably designed whole that is both elegant and spectacular.”
At more than 3,000 square feet, the one at the Ringling is the largest Skyspace on the planet.
It features a 24-foot square opening in the canopy 35 feet above and a central colonnade composed of columns 20 feet high.
The Skyspace experience consists of sitting on angled benches made of reclaimed cypress and having your attention directed to the opening above.
The 56-seat installation brings the heavens to the viewer like a living painting adorning the roof rather than a distant, starry dome.
LEDs, synchronized with the changing seasons, manipulate the viewer’s experience.
Colored lights also work their magic at dawn and dusk.
The sole Skyspace in Florida, it’s one of only two public Skyspaces on the East Coast.
Steven High, executive director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, has called it “one of the most important acquisitions in the Ringling Museum’s history.”
More importantly, Skyspace is the foundation for Ringling’s Art of Our Time initiative aimed at promoting contemporary visual and performing arts.
All those eminent works by guys who died hundreds of years ago are nice.
But it’s important the museum also remains vibrant.
And Skyspace will be very much alive for the foreseeable future.
Details: The Skyspace officially opens 8 p.m. Dec. 22 during the Greet the Light: Solstice Celebration with music by a DJ, dancing and a cash bar/food in the Museum Courtyard, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 at the door; $10 advance/$15 at the door for members. Information: 941-358-3180 or www.ringling.org
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Visit heraldbuzzworthy.blogspot.com.