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Have Museum, Will Travel


Rendering by Ombra Bruno/Officina di Architettura

Inside the Pier
A rendering of the Nomadic Museum. Inspired by Colbert’s Venice Arsenale show, right, the New York interior will have no natural light. The installation is a three-part experience. In addition to 100 images, the show will include a “floating library,” in which pages from an epistolary novel Colbert has written will be projected on screens. At the end is a film—narrated by Laurence Fishburne—showing people dancing with elephants and other cross-species encounters. Admission to the museum: $12.

Photograph by Joshua Lutz/Redux for New York Magazine

Artist and Architect
Gregory Colbert and Shigeru Ban at the Nomadic Museum site last week. The building is “a paradigm,” explains Colbert. “This kind of architecture doesn’t exist. It’s not trying to be separate to the work. It’s organic to the work.” Ban adds that the containers reflect Colbert’s love of “things that age. Each one has its own history.”

The Land
A view toward the city—looking through the remains of the Cunard/White Star Line’s original archway.

Photographs by Gregory Colbert

The Roof
Its eighteen sections could be lifted into place only when there was no wind (otherwise they’d blow away), explains Dean Maltz, an architect who partnered with Shigeru Ban on the project. So, construction workers put up an American flag near the pier, and when it wasn’t waving, they knew it was safe to proceed. The crane was too heavy to go on the pier, so a barge had to be used. It took two months to build the entire structure.

The Art
Over thirteen years and 33 expeditions (Burma, India, the waters off Tonga), Colbert has assembled what he calls “a loving exploration into the nature of animals in their natural habitat as they interact with human beings.” The people in his work include Burmese monks, trance dancers, and, of course, Colbert himself.

Photograph by Gregory Ombra Bruno

The Venice Show
Colbert’s 2002 show at the Arsenale was attended by 100,000 people. “It’s not just going to be a museum,” he says. “It’s a full experience.” In New York, visitors can buy a handmade three-part book about the Venice show, which will cost around $20,000. (Other books of animals are $30.)


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