Burg Altena, Germany
Contemporary Arts Center

(11.09.2002 , United States, CINCINNATI )

The Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
Will Provide a Landmark New Home
for One of the Country's Leading Contemporary Arts Institutions

New Center Marks the First U.S. Project Designed by London Architect Zaha Hadid

Cincinnati, Ohio, August 15, 2002 – The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) will open its groundbreaking new building to the public on Saturday, May 31, 2003, providing a new home that will serve as a unique catalyst for the Center's pioneering programming. 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 within a presenting space. With the move to Hadid's provocative, inviting new building, located at Cincinnati’s busiest intersection, the Center will also become one of the most centrally-located contemporary art institutions in the nation, projecting the CAC's mission to present fresh, compelling and challenging art and ideas into the very heart of the city.

The Rosenthal Center will be the first free-standing home for the CAC, one of the first institutions in the nation dedicated to contemporary art, and it will provide a dynamic landmark for downtown Cincinnati. Its debut next spring will continue the CAC’s history of visionary programming that includes being the first institution in the region to present the art of Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Nancy Graves, John Cage, Amadeo Modigliani, David Smith, Bill T. Jones, Jackie Winsor, Phillip Glass, Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer and Jim Dine, among others. The new Center marks architect Zaha Hadid's first commission in the U.S. 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.
"Zaha Hadid's appreciation and understanding of contemporary art and of the Center's commitment to engaging a diverse public is integral to her design. The brilliant result is an environment that will encourage a challenging, playful dialogue between the city and the museum, the artists and the space, and the art and the audiences we serve."

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. Because the Center's focus is on organizing changing exhibitions and performances, it offers its audiences entirely new experiences with each programming cycle. The new 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. Hadid's design elements will engage in a dialogue with the works of art, facilitating unique arrangements and installations that will make the experience of viewing art at the Center distinct from the presentation of the same works at any other venue.

"The imminent completion of the new building marks the realization of our long-term goal to establish a permanent home commensurate with the Center's reputation and programming," said Mr. Desmarais. "This stunning building will significantly strengthen our ability to make contemporary art available to the broadest spectrum of residents and visitors to the area. The location and design reflect the Center's vital role in the Cincinnati community as an advocate of innovation, diversity and free inquiry. Once completed, it will enhance our role not only in the region, but in the national and international art world as well."

The 85,000-square-foot structure is located on an 11,000-square-foot lot at the northwest corner of Walnut Street and East Sixth Street, across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts (designed by Cesar Pelli) in downtown Cincinnati's burgeoning cultural nexus, the Backstage District. The six-story Center will feature 17,000 square feet of gallery space, the UnMuseum (a children's education center for participatory art installations, hands-on projects and other programs) and a 150-seat performance space, as well as a bookstore, café kiosk and office facilities. The new building will provide twice as much exhibition space as the Center's current facility -- a suite of galleries on the second floor of a downtown office building that the CAC has occupied since 1970.

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. More than 750 individuals and families from throughout the community have participated in the campaign, including students, artists, CAC members and trustees, private and corporate foundations, the City of Cincinnati, the State of Ohio and the National Endowment for the Arts. The entire project now totals $34.8 million.

The CAC's inaugural exhibition at the new Center, Somewhere Better Than This Place, was conceived to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the building’s challenging yet engaging design. The exhibition will feature the work of 30-plus emerging U.S. and international artists in various media, including installations, film, photography, video, audio and live performance, which explore society's relationships to place and what particular places, real and conceptual, reveal about the human condition.

About the New Building
Hadid's design was informed by the Center's role not only as a venue for the presentation of contemporary visual and performing art, but also as a dynamic cultural hub situated at an active urban crossroads. The main entrance on the building's south side capitalizes on traffic patterns to capture the interest of pedestrian and automotive activity in the busy downtown area. The glass facade on the ground level invites views into the new Center and erases the line between interior and outdoor space. The lobby is light-filled and transparent, while the upper floors are divided into rectangular blocks, some of glass and some of raw concrete, giving the building a weightless and graceful sculptural quality.

A central feature of Hadid's design, and an integral part of her strategy to engage visitors, is a design element that the architect calls the "Urban Carpet." Fabricated from raw cement, the Urban Carpet extends from the city's existing intersecting grid lines at Sixth and Walnut streets, forming the floor of the Center's ground level and gradually curving upward into the back wall of the new structure -- drawing the public sidewalk into the CAC and further erasing the boundary between indoor and outdoor space. As it curves and rises to form the back wall of the building, the Urban Carpet will serve as a backdrop leading visitors up an open, suspended ramp/stair that zigzags from the mezzanine to each successive floor and to the galleries above. The openness of the space and the sight lines created from the ramp/stair will enable visitors to view the art objects and installations from above, below and from the side.

"The building will facilitate a truly participatory experience for the artists and the public, helping to break down the perceived barrier between art as something sacred and real life outside," noted Desmarais. "By creating a building that interacts with works of art, we will be pushed and inspired to do things in completely new ways. We want to invite artists to create work for these spaces and to engage directly with the architecture. Given the uniqueness of Hadid's design, artists will have opportunities at the Contemporary Arts Center that won't present themselves in any other space."

Inaugural Exhibition and Programming
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. The exhibition will be, in part, a comment on the Center's distinct role as a place where artists express alternative perspectives on life and society. The exhibition is organized according to four themes, with groups of works examining the social construction of identities; discourses of social order; changing patterns of social relations; and sublime social encounters.

Organized by CAC Senior Curator Thom Collins, Somewhere Better Than This Place will feature extant and newly commissioned works in a range of media that either offer participatory experiences for viewers in the new building, or are generated out of performance activities staged in the real world and documented for presentation in the gallery setting. Participating artists will include Francis Al˙s, Vanessa Beecroft, Janet Cardiff, Olafur Eliasson, Zhang Huan, Nikki Lee, Steve McQueen, Lee Mingway, Shirin Neshat, Yinka Shonibare, Lorna Simpson and Sam Taylor-Wood. Somewhere Better Than This Place is sponsored by Lois and Richard Rosenthal.

The City of Cincinnati
The new CAC is the vanguard in a wave of growth and revitalization taking place in Cincinnati's downtown riverfront area, where several simultaneous development projects are underway. The city's two other major art museums, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Taft Museum of Art, are engaged in large-scale renovations and expansions of their facilities, which are also scheduled for completion in 2003. In addition, a new Cincinnati Reds ballpark is opening in 2003 and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the largest museum in the country dedicated to the secret movement of slaves north to freedom, in 2004. The CAC's new Rosenthal Center also joins a series of building projects realized in Cincinnati over the last several years that have been internationally recognized for their architectural significance, including the Aronoff Center for Design and Art designed by Peter Eisenman in 1996 and the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies at the University of Cincinnati Medical Campus designed by Frank Gehry in 1999.

About Zaha Hadid
Regarded as one of the most innovative and original contemporary architects working today, Zaha Hadid has been recognized internationally for her architecture and urban designs, as well as for her paintings and drawings. Her work began to attract widespread recognition in 1983 with a winning entry for The Peak Club in Hong Kong, followed by first-place awards in competitions for Kurfurstendamm in Berlin (1986), an Art and Media Center in Düsseldorf (1989) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House (1994). In 1988-1989, Hadid received the commission for Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, which was immediately recognized as one of the seminal buildings of late 20th-century architecture. Other major projects have included Land Formation-One in Weil am Rhein, Germany (completed 1999), the Mind Zone in London's Millennium Dome (2000) and a car park and tram terminus in Strasbourg, France (2002). Her current projects include the design for the Wolfsburg Science Center in Germany, slated for completion in 2004; the National Center for Contemporary Arts in Rome; the recently completed Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Austria; and a Central Plant Building for BMW in Leipzig.

Hadid's paintings, drawings and designs have been shown internationally, including retrospectives at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1998, which traveled to the CAC, and the Architectural Association in 1983. Her work has also been featured at the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1978), the GA Gallery in Tokyo (1985/2001), the Harvard Design School in Cambridge, Mass. (1995), National Building Museum in Washington (2202) and Centre for Contemporary Arts in Rome (2002). Born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950, Hadid began her formal study of architecture in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London and was awarded the Diploma Prize in 1977. She then joined the Office for Metropolitan Architecture; began teaching at the Architectural Association with Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis; and later led her own studio at the AA until 1987. Hadid is currently a visiting professor at Yale and holds a Professorship at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria.

About the Contemporary Arts Center
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 U.S. dedicated to exhibiting the art of our time. Throughout its distinguished 63-year history, the Center has earned a reputation for provoking thought and introducing new ideas by presenting the work of diverse artists working in various media from around the world. 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. In 1990, the Center was at the center of an important First Amendment legal case, when it successfully defended the right of Cincinnati's citizens to view an exhibition of the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe. The CAC focuses on new developments in painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, performance art and new media, presenting 12 to 18 exhibition cycles and 20 to 40 performances annually.

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For more information or visuals, please contact:
Allison Derusha/Jacque Burke
Resnicow Schroeder Associates
Tel: (212) 671-5155/(212) 671-5154
Fax: 212-595-8354
Email: aderusha@resnicowschroeder.com

Susan Jackson, Public Relations Director
The Contemporary Arts Center
Tel: (513) 345-8415
Fax: (513) 721-7418
Email: pr@spiral.org; www.spiral.org

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