Arte Americana

Conceptual art and contemporary architecture lack the beguiling allure I find in brazen displays of Americana.

The Robert Olnick Pavilion at the Magazzino Italian Art museum Jared Nangle

  • The Robert Olnick Pavilion at the Magazzino Italian Art museum in Cold Spring New York, was designed by Alberto Campo Baeza and MQArchitecture. It opened last fall.

Cold Spring, as its irritatingly cute name suggests, is a quaint and tiny town, with a population just four people shy of 2,000 and a main street that looks exactly like the set of Gilmore Girls—wholesome and inviting, with red brick storefronts advertising local cheese and paisley curtains adorning the window of a doll repair shop. Three miles away is Magazzino Italian Art, the only American museum with a stated mission to advance scholarship about and public appreciation of postwar contemporary Italian art. Last September, the institution opened the Robert Olnick Pavilion, a collaboration between the offices of Spanish architects Alberto Campo Baeza and Miguel Quismondo.

The building is brutal and beautiful—a solemn, L-shaped mass of concrete embedded into a hill and sparingly appointed with objects meant to be contemplated and revered. It was February when I visited. Next to t…

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