Mass MoCA’s Sol LeWitt exhibit has been named the No. 1 art exhibit in America for 2008 by Time Magazine, which hailed it as "a great new American art-world destination."
The exhibit is located in the Berkshires, a short drive from Hampton Terrace, a top-rated inn located in Lenox.
The honor comes on the heels of a rave review for the exhibit from The New York Times last week, among other raves since its Nov. 16 opening in the Boston Globe, The Hartford Courant and various art and design Web logs — all of which bode well for Mass MoCA and the city, local officials say.
The LeWitt retrospective, which will be on display until 2033, outshone several worthy opponents for Time’s top honor, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Gustav Courbet exhibition earlier this year, along with two showings of the Terra Cotta Warriors from Japan.
"The wall drawings of Sol LeWitt are art’s equivalent of gifts that come with ’some assembly required,’" wrote Richard Lacayo, Time Magazine critic. "The plan is for the drawings to remain in place for a minimum of 25 years. So, this isn’t just an exhibition. It’s a great new American art-world destination."
Among the museums included on the magazine’s "Top Ten Museum Exhibits" were Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contem-porary Art and The Paul Getty Museum.
"It’s deeply gratifying and a real honor to be chosen as the top exhibition of the year, ahead of shows presented by major institutions like the Met, MoMA and the Getty," Katherine Myers, the museum’s marketing and public relations, said.
"So many people put long hours into the installation, and everyone associated with it is delighted and honored," Myers said. "Despite the economic news, our visitation numbers have been high, and we’re cautiously optimistic that this amazing installation will continue to drive visitors to North Adams for years to come."
Lisa Corrin, director of the Williams College Museum of Art, who helped coordinate the exhibit, said the honor demonstrates the impact local museums have on the art world at large.
"This honor demonstrates yet again that the museums in our community are operating at a level of international importance," Corrin said. "While we in the Berkshires have great affection for Mass MoCA as a home-grown institution, it is a cultural treasure that has an impact on art lovers worldwide."
Mayor John Barrett III said the attention being paid to the newly opened exhibit has been outstanding.
"When we first announced this project over a year ago, we knew it would be big, but not like this," he said. "This (the Time recognition) is one of the most prestigious honors any cultural institution can receive. It’s a feather in the museum’s cap and a feather in the city’s cap as well."
Barrett said the announcement couldn’t have come at a better time for the museum or North Adams.
"It’s great for the museum, but even better for the city," he said. "In these hard economic times, it’s going to bring more and more people to the city."
Myers said the museum’s attendance has been "strong" since the opening of the LeWitt gallery.
"We had our best Thanksgiving weekend ever — more that twice as many visitors as some of the previous 10 years," she said. "It was also our best November ever, by far."
The LeWitt retrospective is an ongoing collaboration between the museum, Yale University Art Gallery and Williams College Museum of Art. Students from Yale, Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts worked as interns during the six-month installation process of LeWitt’s conceptual drawings, which exist as sets of directions. The completed Mass MoCA installation is the largest in the world of LeWitt’s work.
"The partnership between Mass MoCA, WCMA and Yale provides a new model for how museums with very different missions can come together to do together, as a group, what they could not do alone," Corrin said. "At a time of economic downtown, we will need to work together in order to achieve great things without lowering our standards of excellence."
LeWitt, who died in April 2007 after a prolonged battle with cancer, first began planning the exhibition after a nearly six-hour visit to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003. His vision quickly became a 27,000-square-foot, three-floor installation featuring 105 of his wall drawings in Building 7 at the MoCA complex.
"The setting is close to perfect," wrote New York Times art critic Holland Cotter in a Dec. 4 review of the exhibition. "The space, with its generous windows, is large and flexible enough to accommodate more than a hundred of the ink-painting murals LeWitt designed between 1969 and 2007.
Guests of Hampton Terrace typically consider their dining experiences in the Berkshires to be a key ingredient of their stay. So we spend a lot of energy making sure our guests’ choices are informed.
Our confirmations include a seriously edited-down list of the better local restaurants…a list based on our personal experiences, but also based on the fact that our guests have had literally over 15,000 dinners in the area….and we hear about them at breakfast. We also keep copies of those menus in a binder in our front hall.
No doubt, the top of the list includes Blantyre, Wheatleigh, The Inn on the Green, and several other highly-rated Zagat choices. Blantyre is located just one mile from us….and this week, their chef now belongs to a rarefied group of culinary craftsmen.
Christopher Brooks, Blantyre’s top chef for the past eight years, has received a Grand Chef Trophy. The award was presented last month by the International Congress of Relais & Chateaux at its annual gathering in Vienna.
The Relais & Chateaux association is comprised of 480 of the world’s finest hotels and gourmet restaurants.
The designation of Grand Chef is awarded annually to the "contemporary elite" of fine dining. This year, the honor went to Brooks and three other chefs from around the world.
For restaurateurs, the honor is tantamount to earning an Oscar for best director or a Pulitzer for commentary. Even for Blantyre — an establishment accustomed to racking up culinary accolades — the honor has special meaning.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Brooks said in an interview with The Eagle on Friday.
Brooks credited his "dedicated team at Blantyre" and singled out Arnaud Cotar, his No. 2 man — or chef de cuisine — for special praise.
Brooks, who has worked in tony kitchens around the world, remains passionate about cooking. "It’s a love," he said. "It’s a way of life."
Born in North London, he spent much of his youth on England’s South Coast, where began his career at Chewton Glen, an exclusive hotel in Hampshire, England.
That’s where he served an apprenticeship, from 1984 to 1988, with chef Pierre Chevillard, whom he still credits with teaching him the fundamentals of cooking.
"He was the person who trained me, (and) I still look up to him today," Brooks said.
In addition to the Grand Chef Trophy, Brooks has received kudos from the Zagat restaurant guides and Condé Nast Traveler.
Meanwhile, Blantyre is the No. 1 ranked dining establishment in the Berkshires, according to Zagat’s 2008/2009 Restaurant Guide. Forbes.com included the Lenox landmark on its "50 Best in the World" list, while Travel & Leisure listed it among "The World’s Best Hotels."
Brooks’ recipes are included in a new book, "The World of Blantyre & The Cookery of Christopher Brooks. He and the book’s author, Claire Hopley, will sign copies at The Bookstore in Lenox on Dec. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Blantyre is an extraordinary experience. At Hampton Terrace we encourage our guests to "Turn Back the Clock to the Gilded Age" and that is true….but Blantyre represents a walk into a true Baronial castle, and the room rates there reflect that experience. Off-season rates run from $600 to $1,300/night mid-week. I won’t say an experience at Hampton Terrace, the #1 rated Lenox inn on Trip Advisor, will compare…but then again, we are charging roughly 15% of that. So we encourage those of you who would like a Blantyre experience, to let us find a great room for you here, and then we’ll send you five minutes down the road for a "destination" meal.