Nelson-Atkins Museum to open new Glass Labyrinth

Posted at 5:13 AM, May 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-22 07:55:42-04

On Thursday, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will welcome its newest exhibit.

Robert Morris’ Glass Labyrinth sits on the south lawn of the museum, in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Garden.

Morris in an internationally recognized artist who is from the Kansas City area. The Nelson-Atkins Museum has wanted to include one of his pieces in its collection for many years.

“I think we were all thinking something indoors, but this is the perfect way to celebrate him and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park,” said Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Morris’ Glass Labyrinth, which is the artist’s first permanent labyrinth in the United States, is an equilateral triangle. Schall said the geometric shape responds to the shapes of the Nelson-Atkins and Bloch buildings.

“This is kind of a beautiful completion of some of the geometries that are existing in the park,” she said.

A labyrinth is a maze-like structure that originated in Greek Mythology. It was used to house a Minotaur, a mythical creature that was half man and half bull, on the island of Crete. Athenian hero, Theseus eventually slayed the Minotaur.

But a labyrinth is not a maze. A maze has many branches, many paths that a person can take, some leading to dead ends.

“With a labyrinth, there is only one path and so by following the path, you are led to the center and by following it in reverse, you are led to the exit,” said Schall. “So there is no chance of getting lost or running into dead ends.”

Nelson-Atkins visitors are encouraged to explore the Glass Labyrinth, to walk the path and find their way to the center.

“I think what we all hope people will enjoy here with the Labyrinth is the idea that you can actually walk in and through and amidst it,” Schall said. “This is really the first opportunity that we've offered our visitors to really experience something inside and out.”

The glass is covered with a product called EnduroShield for Glass. This is a protective coating that protects the glass from etching, corrosion and stains. It also makes the glass repellent to water and oil. While the glass will still need to be cleaned, it won't need to happen as often.

Steve Waterman, the museum’s Director of Presentation, said figuring out the best way to clean the glass will be a learning process.

“We have a little to learn about the piece and over the course of the summer we should come up with the right cleaning regimen,” he said.

The ribbon cutting ceremony is Thursday evening from 6-9 p.m., at the Glass Labyrinth on the south lawn. Robert Morris will be there to discuss his piece. The public is invited to attend.