September 1, 2021
I visited the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland this past weekend and was treated to stimulating blend of what the museum calls its mix of art, architecture and landscape.
If you haven’t heard about Glenstone, you’re probably not alone. Nestled on 150 acres outside of DC, the museum can be viewed by appointment only. We waited about six weeks to get a spot. The main reason is that the museum, though in a separate building, is actually part of the private residence of Mitchell Rales.
The first thing you notice as you make your way past one of the the only visually inviting guard stations I've ever seen is the landscape. Done by Peter Walker, it seems his team has taken great care in making sure that each view feels completely natural with subtle hills that provide glimpses of the architecture and art to follow. The journey was given as much thought as the destination. (Image below: PWP)
The building of zinc, limestone, glass and teak was done by Gwathmey-Siegel & Associates. What one notices immediately is that even though the building possesses all the angles and lines one usually associates with modern architecture, the juxtaposition against the natural background isn't incongruous. While each provide very different visual cues, you could see that there was a symbiotic relationship based on a shared philosophy. It was if as if the power of one was derived from the other. (Photo below: Scott Frances)
In terms of the art, a recent Washington Post article quoted Rusty Powell, director of the National Gallery of Art, as saying that 25,000 square-foot museum holds “one of the world’s most important” collections of post-World War II contemporary work. While not all of it is on display, the pieces shown were meticulously curated and the docent who gave the tour helped create an open dialogue about the works shown.
It's often said the the simplest things are most difficult. In the case of Glenstone, all heavy lifting done in building the collection, designing and building the museum and molding the surrounding landscape, has created an experience where the barriers to reflection are minimal and the residue of possibility is hard to shake off.