Pixar and the new Oakland Museum

We finally got around to visiting the new Oakland Museum this weekend. The Pixar exhibition gave us the excuse but what I was most interested in was seeing the remodeled exhibition spaces.

We were not disappointed. First, Pixar was very cool. I’m always interested in the backstage aspects of any artform and seeing the models, development sketches, storyboards, and color scripts only enhances my appreciation of the films. That these correspond to a set of movies which have been as consistently high-quality as Pixar’s offerings have been makes them that much more interesting and impressive.

All that being said, the most impressive piece on display is completely unrelated to the production of any of the movies. The Toy Story Zoetrope is just a stunt piece but it steals the entire show. Rather than being a two-dimensional zoetrope which you view through slits in a rotating barrel, this one is three-dimensional and uses strobe lights to create the impression of movement. I don’t think it’s possible to spend too much time watching the result.

As for the main collection, I was expecting good things and still ended up being pleasantly surprised. Rather than displaying pieces by art movement, chronology, or media, the art collection is curated in a way which focuses the collection toward the museum’s mission of being a museum of California. Pieces are grouped by subject matter and as a result, you notice new things about both the subject and the artwork.

The art collection also has an interesting section challenging museum-goers to think about whether or not an object is Art. In general, the discussion is good and should be in all museums—even if museumgoers insist on missing the point. The group we encountered treated the section as a quiz rather than a discussion starter and then proceeded to critique everything else in the gallery as if they had never been to a museum before. The specific discussion in the Oakland Museum though is a bit too limited and starts way too late (1960s) in art history. At the very least you have to start with Duchamp here.

The history collection is also much-improved. Hands-on activities for kids, lots of reading for the sign-readers among us, and does a good job at the multicultural/multiple-language thing. It’s no longer the dusty garage it used to be.

I’m very pleased though to have first seen the new permanent collection during the Marvelous Museum exhibition. Since I’m already critiquing and comparing the curation, having an exhibition which provides some backstage mindset while also tweaking the new curatorial choices was like touring the museum with another companion.

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8 responses to “Pixar and the new Oakland Museum

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