Image © Lee Ong-No
New York, USA
In September 2018, at the end of a restyling lasting more than four years, the Brooklyn Museum – New York’s second most important art museum and among the largest in the United States – began to reopen its Asian and Islamic collections to the public. It started with its Korean art, one of the richest and most prestigious collections in the world.
The exhibition design
The gallery of Korean art, one of the first established outside that country, is due to the interest of Stewart Culin, first Curator of Ethnology in the Brooklyn Museum, and his trip to Seoul in 1913. Today the gallery is three times the original size, exhibiting about 80 works (many of them on display for the first time) covering ceramics, metalwork, paintings, jewellery and costumes spanning a period of ca. 1800 years. In the intentions of the curator Joan Cummins, these works demonstrate the full mastery that Korean artisans-artists have possessed since the earliest periods of craft techniques, as well as their pioneering use of materials. The design of the new gallery was curated by Matthew Yokobosky, the Museum’s Director of Exhibition Design.
The display cases
For the protection and presentation of this unique patrimony, Goppion was called upon to create eight display cases, two of which were very demanding in terms of both their size (respectively 4 and 5.5 m long) and the requirement of an uninterrupted glass front. A difficult challenge, but brilliantly overcome thanks to the innovative pull & slide opening system of the glass doors. The glass sheets are suspended from the display case’s ceiling panel so as to guarantee perfect flatness and ease of movement even by a single person, despite the considerable weight (ca. 700 kg). The large dimensions entailed special engineering attention to the stability and rigidity of the structures, fundamental requirements also for the required air seal (0.1 Air Exchange Rate). The use of aluminum frames (Goppion platform-frame) ensures an exceptionally rigid and accurate structure with a significantly reduced weight with respect to the use of steel. The risk of deformation of the glass sheets (also in the long term), to the detriment of the air seal, or structural collapses in the case of glue failure is minimized by the use of the pre-tensioner integrated into the top of the display case (and completely hidden from view). This system, patented by Goppion, acts on the principle of architectural tie rods and holds the glass in compression. As in all Goppion display cases, the adopted materials were carefully selected to assure the absence of emissions of harmful gases and substances. The glass sheets (extra-clear anti-reflection glass with a low iron content) guarantee an exceptional level of brightness and transparency, allowing perfect colour rendering and increasing the overall impression of clarity and lightness of the constructions. Last but not least, we must mention the logistical complexity of the installation, due also to the exceptional size of the display cases, from the difficulty of moving them into the building to their positioning in the gallery.
The Brooklyn Museum represents another ‘global’ challenge to which Goppion was well able to respond by means of its usual approach, consisting of careful attention to the customer’s needs, the search for innovative solutions and experimentation, and a long series of trials and tests culminating in the prototypes that anticipated the construction and satisfied the demanding expectations of the museum staff in all details.