CINCINNATI, OHIO – The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) will open its new building to the public on Saturday, May 31, 2003. Designed by the London firm of Zaha Hadid Architects, the new Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art will extend the CAC’s 63-year tradition of innovation by encouraging viewers, artists and art to interact in new ways. Cincinnati’s busiest intersection, the center will also become one of the most centrally located contemporary art institutions in the nation.
The new center marks architect Zaha Hadid’s first commission in the United States and the first art museum in the country designed by a woman.
“This new building will make the Contemporary Arts Center the most accessible institution of its kind in the nation, moving contemporary art away from the fringes and literally bringing it into the life of our city and its residents,” said Charles Desmarais, Alice and Harris Weston director of the CAC.
The CAC is dedicated to presenting new developments in painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, performance art and new media. It does not have a permanent collection. The new 85,000-square-foot building will feature galleries of varying sizes and ceiling heights to accommodate the varied shapes, scales and media of contemporary art. These varying galleries connect and interlock like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, made up of solid structural elements and open spaces.
In an unprecedented show of support for the project and for Hadid’s groundbreaking design, the center exceeded its original $27.5 million goal and raised $34.6 million prior to breaking ground at the project site in May 2001. The CAC’s fundraising campaign has supported the cost of the new building, and is providing funds for the center’s endowment and annual operating expenses to ensure the long-term health of the institution. The entire project now totals $34.8 million.
The inaugural exhibition, “Somewhere Better Than This Place” will feature more than 50 works that respond to and comment on society’s varied relationships to particular places, real and conceptual. It is organized according to four themes: social construction of identities, discourses of social order, changing patterns of social relations, and sublime social encounters.
Founded in 1939 as the Modern Art Society by three visionary women in Cincinnati, the Contemporary Arts Center was one of the first institutions in the United States dedicated to exhibiting the art of contemporary time. The center established itself as a leader in 1940 as one of the few American institutions to exhibit Picasso’s “Guernica” and has continued this pioneering tradition by featuring the work of hundreds of now-famous artists early in their careers, including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Nam June Paik, I.M. Pei and Laurie Anderson.