Small Talk / Exhibits

LACMA’s Miniature Metropolis

Metropolis II

We’re obviously huge fans of kinetic sculptures that incorporate toys, hence T/m’s two-story Toytisserie. Although it’s not in a museum of toys or miniatures, artist Chris Burden’s large installation Metropolis II has been amazing visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) since 2011. Metropolis II is a fury of 1,100 matchbox cars whirring by at a scale speed of 230 miles per hour on a complex system of tracks around a futuristic miniature skyline.

Witnessing the sculpture in person in the LACMA galleries evokes feelings of wonder and awe, but with a tinge of anxiety, similar to driving on a real-life multi-lane freeway in heavy traffic (after all, toys are teaching tools for life, you know!). It took Burden and his studio team over four years of research and design to get all the components exactly right—even so, a team of attendants is on hand in case a car derails or jams up the track. The sculpture runs intermittently for four hours every day at LACMA.
Photo: Chris Burden, Metropolis II, 2010, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, courtesy of the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation, © Chris Burden Estate

The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination

miniature Disneyland

As we know from an earlier blog post, Walt Disney was a huge fan of miniatures. Disney dreamed of creating little vignettes of America, placing them on a train, and touring them around the U.S. Although “Disneylandia” eventually grew to be a much bigger project, Disneyland, his “lands” were miniaturized and put on public view at The Walt Disney Family Museum. “The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination” represents the park with attractions that existed or were in development during Disney’s lifetime. Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and her family worked with Kerner Optical for nine months before premiering the model at the museum in September of 2009.

As with any other miniature, no detail was overlooked. The Rivers of America were crafted out of blue-painted shower door Plexiglas on a green base to create the illusion of depth. And all the hand sculpture flags fly in an eastern direction just as they would in Disneyland due to the western ocean breeze. Anyone familiar with the park may wonder if the model includes any hidden Mickeys. It doesn’t, but don’t be disappointed! Two hidden Walts can be found walking with his daughter behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle and riding in a red Autopia car.
Photo: Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Design for Eternity

Design for Eternity

The phrase “you can’t take it with you” certainly hasn’t been around forever. As The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas shows, ancient Mesoamerican and Andean cultures may have believed quite the opposite. From 100 B.C. until European contact in the sixteenth century, artists in the ancient Americas created small-scale models to be placed in the tombs of important individuals.

Although there is very little documentation on how these objects were used, Maya hieroglyphs refer to the miniature structures as “god houses” or “sleeping places for the gods.” The exhibit includes examples of these models in a variety of materials including ceramic, wood, stone, and metal that replicate historic palaces, temples, and everyday living spaces. Even though their original intentions may be lost, it’s fascinating to see evidence of humankind’s long-standing interest in miniature art.
Photo: House Model, 100 B.C.-A.D. 200, Nayarit, Mexico. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org.

Small Cities in a Big World

Miniature Cities

This falls into the category of “don’t breathe” or “we thought houses of cards were difficult;” these artists have taken it to the next level. In 2010, artist Peter Root spent 40 hours standing 100,000 staples on end to build a miniature city inspired by New York City that he called Ephemicropolis.

Stan Munro builds famous landmarks out of toothpicks. What started as a 5th grade art project turned into Toothpick City. The City features more than 50 famous structures from around the world (the Space Needle, Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge) made out of six million toothpicks and 170 liters of glue. Now on permanent exhibit in a Spanish museum, Munro has continued crafting, including Toothpick City 2 at the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, New York.

Artist Meschac Gaba made a large-scale model of a fantasy city featuring landmark buildings from around the world (Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Empire State Building). Seems simple enough, right? What if I told you it was all made out of sugar? Meschac Gaba: Sweetness includes 600 buildings, measures 30 feet by 20 feet, and took two years to build. Talk about sweet!
Photo: Toothpick City 2, MOST.org.

Imagining Home

Eugene Kupjack

We already know that fine-scale miniatures are an important part of any fine art collection. And the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) agrees. The Cheney Miniatures Gallery at the BMA features miniature rooms with English and American interior styles of the 17th to the 19th century. BMA honorary trustee Elizabeth F. Cheney commissioned Eugene Kupjack to create the rooms.

Four of the BMA’s 1:12 scale rooms are included in their newest exhibition Imagining Home, which explores different ideas and aspects of the places in which we live – whether decorative or functional, real or ideal, celebratory or critical. The exhibit, on view until August 1, 2018, will continually rotate works so there will always be something new to see. We for one would like to see Kupjack’s Shaker Community room, Southern Plantation entrance hall, New Orleans Rococo Revival Parlor, and urban New England Dining Room.
Photo: Eugene J. Kupjack. Entrance Hall in a Southern Plantation, 1780-1810. 1963-1984. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, Chicago, and Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth S. Battye, Baltimore. BMA 2012.626

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