Free Night at Portland Art Museum

Like this blog, I had been avoiding the Portland Art Museum since our return from Europe.  Perhaps I had art museum fatigue.  And summer was coming.  And the current exhibits weren’t very interesting.  And also, it costs 12 bucks to get in.  So, being the cheapskates, ahem, “conscious consumers” we are, we got the scoops on the free night each month (currently the 4th Friday)… and promptly forgot about it for months.  I know, terrible.

Modern Art

Photo by CafeMama

I recently happened upon an article about photographer Catherine Opie having an exhibit at the art museum, and we only had one free night left to see it.  Oh, it was on like Donkey Kong.

Parking sucks anywhere downtown, so we usually just leave the car home and walk or take the streetcar.  The streetcar has an Art Museum stop, so duh.  Awesomeness.  And free.  Awesomer-ness.

The museum is free from 5pm to 8pm, and they make checking in pretty painless.  Hand stamp, free bag/coat check, and off you go.  I didn’t learn until later that you could rent an iPod Touch to enhance your museum experience, or download their (of course) iPhone/iPod Touch app to do the same.  Sweet.

The museum is divided into two buildings– one side for the contemporary art and the other for everything else– connected by a cool underground tunnel (ok, ok, so I happen to think tunnels are inherently cool; am I alone here, people??).  The exhibit we wanted to see was on the contemporary side, and since we tend to take forever when touring anything with placards… well, we decided to concentrate Friday evening’s explorations on just that one side of the museum.

Because it was Free Night, it was crowded.  Singles, couples, families, cliques, guide dogs– everyone having a night on the town, getting their culture on.

Since the Opie exhibit was on the top floor, we thought we’d be smart and take the elevator up and work our way down.  Yeah.  Didn’t count on that elevator being really, really slow.  Or the crowds of equally capable folks stepping smartly up the steps.  Or that dude rollin’ up in his wheelchair, separated from his friends stepping smartly up the steps because of his wheelchair.  I love gentle reminders.

The climb to the top took less than five minutes.

Catherine Opie

Catherine Opie

So after all that, the exhibit, while interesting, was very… abbreviated.  Opie is a great photographer; I would have loved to have seen more of her work.

Like any museum, the rest of the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art was a hodgepodge of love-it-or-hate-it pieces.  There was the usual collection of splash-paint-on-canvas crud mixed in with solid blocks of color with highfalutin’ names.  Lots of diamonds in the rough, though, which always make a museum visit worth it.

If you happened to follow our European tour of world-class museums, you may have been interested in seeing the great works yourself.  Now, you don’t need a plane ticket or even museum admission to see the good stuff.  Enter Google Art Project.  For those familiar with Google Street View, you can now tour a long list of awesome museums from the comfort of your own browser.  From Florence’s Uffizzi to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), there’s plenty to see and admire… without the stern security staff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *