Lum: Into the maw of the museum |

Lum: Into the maw of the museum

Su Lum

On Sunday afternoon, my friend Hilary, my neighbor Danielle and I set off to check out the new Aspen Art Museum.

I cannot say I embarked on this mission with a lot of enthusiasm, but I was definitely motivated by curiosity and a sense of duty; after all, I can hardly write about it if I haven’t been in it.

A number of columnists and letter writers have taken potshots and downright fusillades at “the basket” as it grew to dominate the corner of Hyman and Spring. Now it was time to see what was behind the dreaded facade.

Hilary had to drop Danielle and me off because the museum has co-opted most of the parking spaces in its periphery. The area was so traffic-jammed you’d think a new Harry Potter book had come out.

I don’t know how the museum gets away with things like that — snatching parking spaces, the thunderation on Little Nell and then the tortoises. Lordy Lord, could you pay for such a plethora of ill will?

My first observation was that the doors are too difficult to pull open. Between us, Danielle, who will be 10 years old Friday, managed to get into the first gallery, which seemed cavernously high and very, very square. Square was the theme, inside and out.

“I don’t like the music,” Danielle observed. I’m so deaf I couldn’t even hear it until we met up with Hilary and went up the glass elevator to the penthouse floor, where a young man was playing a suicidal composition by Eris Satie on a white piano. The piece was listed to be played for the entire 24 hours of the party. I hope it wasn’t the same guy — if so, I hope he’s OK.

The elevator was the alternative to the “grand staircase,” two straight-up sets of stairs, one up, one down, which I expect will receive little wear and tear judging by the extreme number of steps and the cruise-ship median age of Sunday’s visitors.

Speaking of cruise ships, between the glass elevator and looking out between all that latticework on the outside, I felt as wobbly as a boat in a storm.

We were just getting off the elevator when Hilary got into a heated exchange with a man who was proclaiming that the “art exhibit” of the tortoises was not animal abuse. Good grief, a fight before we’d barely gotten started. The place was crawling with security, and luckily they put a lid on the altercation just in time.

I’m not going to say anything about the art. As they say, I only know what I like, but I did like the replicas of the emergency shelters created by the museum’s architect, Shigeru Ban, and the exhibition of Colorado minerals.

A friend of mine has suggested that the local pigeons will find a perfect roosting place in the exterior weave. Closer inspection showed that the width of the lattice was surprisingly thin, perhaps too thin for pigeons, and that reminds me — I haven’t seen any pigeons around lately. Perhaps some artistic extermination has been going on under the cover of darkness.

Anyway, wear heavy gloves if you try to climb it, and don’t fall on the tortoises if you make it to the top.

Back home, we had a three-generational rehash of our expedition, agreeing that the exhibition rooms were too high and square and the entire atmosphere cold. The galleries might look better with 100 visitors clinking wineglasses, but with just a dozen viewers it felt very empty and echoing.

Being constructed of paper and glass, perhaps the paper will melt with the storms of winter.

P.S.: Huge congratulations to Camilla Auger for her brilliant opinion piece in Monday’s Aspen Daily News and Tuesday’s Aspen Times.

Su Lum is a longtime local who wishes everyone would stop looking for and talking about community congregation and dwelling spaces. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at