If there was a first class lounge at an art museum, it would look like Muzeion in the Design District. There isn’t anything grandiose or flashy about it, but it feels like a sanctuary separate from our quotidian insta-, multi-, e-, dot com, i-world.
What is immediately noticeable is the juxtaposition of contemporary art with classical pieces of largely non-western art. The founder, Guillermo Cardenas, likens it to a conversation between young children represented by the contemporary pieces and very old people represented by the classical pieces. He points out that there is something universal about art and that there is an eternal conversation to be appreciated by pairing such different art objects. It sounds theoretical, even mystical, but in looking around, there is certain freshness in the classical pieces, and a more grounded feel about the contemporary work. As displayed on the walls, it makes perfect sense.
The gallery has an inevitable flow, as persistent and imperceptible as undertow. At the center of the gallery is a miniature plaza with a giant fountain that reminds me of a Max Ernst painting. This central plaza is separated from the rest of the gallery with translucent crystal panels and a sunken border of grainy sand. Inside the plaza are statues on pedestals. Throughout the gallery there aren’t the empty (negative) spaces of other galleries; as a result sight lines feel compressed and art objects feel more immediate.
There isn’t any one element by itself that makes a statement – they all work together to create “an experience” as Guillermo explains. “The leitmotif of the building and the art is energy.” When he mentions feng shui it all clicks.
Remember those ubiquitous little fountains that were all the rage more than a few years ago? For most of us, Feng Shui was a fad embodied by some exotic Eastern accessories to be replaced by the next fad. For Guillermo, an architect, Feng Shui was the foundation, an ancient foundation. Most of us take for granted where the door should go or how the approach to the building should be designed – is that even a decision? Guillermo didn’t take anything for granted as he overhauled the space with feng shui as his north star.
Muzeion is his brainchild. There is a Latin hospitality that is a part of his demeanor reinforced by a Continental passion for discussing ideas. With silver hair and the consuming intensity of someone who loves his profession, he reminds me of a favorite college professor. He listens intently; the corners of his eyes narrow with concentration when he speaks. He has a million faraway stories and more than a few unconventional ideas. When encountering such a strong weltanschauung, you come to a fork in the road where you have to choose deference or doubt. With his ideas manifested all around us, I go with the flow.
When I ask Guillermo how he selects so many eclectic pieces he again comes back to energy, the energy of the art itself. Everything in the gallery is working together to create that energy. In discussing the space and the benefits of positive energy, Guillermo exclaimed, “If you have a headache, don’t take an aspirin, come here!” And that is the vision for how these pieces in the gallery can make a difference in your life. The ‘energy’ or “Ch’i” as it is called in feng shui are meant to improve the energy of your home – they improve the energy and balance of your life.
Be sure to put Muzeion at the top of your list for the next Design District Gallery Walk on September 22. Sometimes I struggle to connect with pieces as I walk through a gallery — at Muzeion, the Temple of Muses, it felt like the gallery was connecting with me.