REVIEW: Collection Ensemble

Walk into the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and you will be greeted by Collection Ensemble, the new museum entry way. It is certainly a stark contrast from the previous collection in the apse, which housed only European and American paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Where heavy gilded frames once hung on white walls, a diverse collection of art graces the now-black walls in the grand, columned space. Collection Ensemble is a museum entrance fit for the modern world: it feels sleek, modern, and almost minimalist compared to what only just recently hung on the very same walls. The white columns stand out against the black background, and though the frame of the entrance is still very much recognizable, it’s fascinating to me how something as simple as a change in the color of the walls could change the entire feel and light dynamic of the museum’s space.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in the museum’s front doors was Candida Höfer’s photograph Basílica do Palácio Nacional de Mafra. From far away, it appears to be almost a portal through the end of the apse, like you could just keep walking right into it. Walk closer, though, and you will see that it is actually a photograph of a Baroque church. Almost ironically, two marble statues, one by Richard James Wyatt and the other by Randolph Rogers, remain unmoved on either side of the photograph, survivors of the apse’s reimagining.

The exhibition is divided into nine “gatherings,” separated by the apse’s already existing columns. Among the titles of these spaces are “Community Blocks,” “Constructing a Scene,” “Light Details,” “Entrancing,” “The Cosmos + Me,” and “Water Protocols.” I appreciated these carefully thought-out names, as they offered a lens through which to view the artwork in each gathering. Additionally, signs with each gathering title give a “key” of which artwork is which.

Also new is the seating space just inside the doors of the museum. With comfy seating, coffee table books about art, and art hanging over your head, the little area seems as much like someone’s home as it does an art museum. From the vantage point of this seating, it is possible to admire most of Collection Ensemble.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to check out the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s new entry space, stop by for a visit!


JM is a dual degree student in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the College of Engineering. Some of her favorite things include running, reading, all things creative, purple, and zebras.

One thought to “REVIEW: Collection Ensemble”

  1. Not sure what I was expecting, but this restaging felt like a bit of a disappointment. Yes, the walls were black and yes the work was different, but it’s hard to take the classical feel out of that space. I feel like you have to conquer the space itself if you want it to feel really new… Maybe they need to install something 2-story? Take over the whole apse?

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