Julia Tarasyuk, co-founder of Museeum, is an art historian and a passionate museum explorer. She has been engaged in international cultural management for the past 14 years and has accumulated extensive experience working with various institutions and cross-cultural art projects in Russia, France, the UK and Japan. Currently based in Tokyo, she devotes her time to cultural research, writing, curating, museum consultancy and all things Museeum. Follow Julia's news on www.juliatarasyuk.com
Your secret art venue when you seek peace and quiet
For me, museum visits are ideally a solo experience. As much as I enjoy sharing, I love museums the most when I browse through them on my own and have all the time in the world to take pleasure in every single detail. Time stops when I enter a museum environment and I completely loose track of everyday life. I guess that’s why my favorite museums for seeking peace and quiet possess a charming and almost mystical atmosphere.
I travel a lot and wherever I go I experience a place through museums. In Paris, where I lived for a couple of years, Musee Rodin’s enchanting garden always welcomed me and provided shelter from the summer heat. In Germany, where I often went to visit friends, I very much love Tadao Ando’s spacious and airy architecture of the Langen Foundation near Neuss, North Rhine-Westphalia. I often visited Van Gogh’s favorite Arles for the photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles and absolutely adored the Reattu Museum on the river Rhone. The museum is housed in the former Grand Priory of the Order of Malta, built in the late 15th century. Everything breathes history in that place.
The Beyeler Foundation in Basel is another place to go to recharge your batteries. Rarely can you find such an organic combination of art, architecture and natural surroundings.
I have a soft spot for museums that once served as peoples’ houses. They are incredibly intimate spaces, which give a great introduction to the thoughts, feelings and desires of the person who at some point lived there. Among my favorite “museum houses” is the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, one of the oldest private museums in town dedicated to contemporary art and housed in the residence of its founder businessman Kunizo Hara. Another is the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok is a true oasis in the middle of a bustling city. I can spend hours in the Frick Collection in New York and the Wallace Collection in London imagining how life used to be in these magnificent houses many years ago. In Russia, the museum houses I love revisiting are the newly reopened Anna Akhmatova Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Chekhov Museum in Melikhovo which is the former country estate of the Russian playwright and writer Anton Chekhov.
The best food experience in an art space
I’m a very sensorial person and remember places by their smells and tastes. When I lived in London I spent a lot of time in the library of Tate Britain and absolutely loved their café with gluten free egg sandwiches. I cannot imagine a visit to the gallery without this favorite taste. For a more sophisticated meal of dim sum, I head to the Hakone Open-Air Museum in Japan. Their restaurant Yamucharow boasts a large selection of dim sum and a spectacular view over the mountains and, on a clear day, Sagami Bay. Paris is a great place for museum food experiences. Palais de Tokyo has a couple of nice venues for food and drinks and in summer the shared terrace with Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is the best place to observe the Eiffel Tower in the changing afternoon light.
My top secret and all-time favorite bar, Midnight Apothecary is located on the rooftop of the Brunel Museum in South London. It is an educational charity in the Brunel Engine House, designed by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel to be part of the infrastructure of the Thames Tunnel. Every summer its rooftop turns into a lavish herb garden with a selection of creative cocktails made with these herbs. My favorite part is grilling marshmallows over a campfire in the middle of this unexpected paradise.
A museum gift shop that you never leave empty handed
I rarely leave museum shops empty handed. Apart from books, which I tend to buy in quantities not compatible with airline regulations, I always look for design items and unusual jewelry. Camden Arts Centre in London has a great selection of ceramic art objects produced in the Centre’s residency program.
Perez Art Museum in Miami has a fantastic selection of costume and fine jewelry by designers of Latin American origins. During my last visit, I bought a gorgeous textile necklace by an Argentinian designer. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice is also a gem for jewelry hunting. Actually I can share with you a funny museum shopping related story. I’d been recently working on a project with a famous Japanese curator and every time we got together I couldn’t stop staring at her incredible earrings. These huge black and white pearls couldn’t get out of my mind but being aware of Japanese social code I didn’t dare to ask where they were from. To my greatest surprise a couple of months later while doing a research on the MET shop I stumbled across those earrings. I immediately ordered them and can’t wait to wear them with every summer outfit.
Your museum with a wow-factor
Without thinking twice I’d say the most incredible museums I’ve ever visited are the Chichu Art Museum at the Naoshima Island designed by Tadao Ando and the Teshima Art Museum by Ryue Nishizawa at Teshima Island. Both islands are situated in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. This experience is hard to describe, it needs to be felt with all the five senses.
Among my other wow-museums are the Kolumba in Cologne and D.T. Suzuki Museum in Kanazawa. The Kolumba houses the collection of the Archdiocese of Cologne and is located on the site of the St Columba church destroyed in WWII. The current building designed by Peter Zumthor is intertwined with the gothic ruins of the original church and a 1950s chapel. Walking around the museum, the gothic ruins and the chapel is a very special, almost spiritual experience. D.T. Suzuki is a place for self-reflection like no other celebrating the ideas of a prominent Buddhist philosopher. I could compare visiting this museum with a meditative and healing experience.
An answer to this question wouldn’t be complete without two German museums which took my breath away whenever I visited them – The Boros Collection in Berlin housed in a 1943 bunker which went through being a Nazi Germany shelter to a Red Army prisoners-of-war camp, to a fruit and textile storage and to a hardcore techno club before it became home to the distinguished collection of contemporary art. Another museum is the Julia Stoschek Collection in Dusseldorf, named after someone I consider to be one of the most interesting and consistent art collectors today in addition to being a smart and beautiful woman. Funnily enough both Christian Boros and Julia Stoschek decided to have their apartments on top of their museum buildings and I’ve always been so tempted to have a glimpse upstairs.
Please share with us a special personal memory related to a museum experience
If I had to do my personal top 5 of museum experiences here is what it would look like:
1. The most memorable. Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage in Moscow – a monument of constructivism designed by the legendary architect Konstantin Melnikov in 1926. Then, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, it became my firstbmuseum “home” where I worked and literally lived for couple of years. This building stores so many beautiful memories. It is currently the home to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.
2. The longest visit. When I first went to New York I couldn’t get enough of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The MET is still the epitome of a perfect museum for me. Never have I felt more welcome and at home. That day I arrived early in the morning and left with the very last visitors.
3. The most surreal. My first ever travel to see a particular museum happened many years ago while studying in Spain.I tricked my friend into going to Bilbao to see THE famous Guggenheim. Despite the burning heat and a very uncomfortable journey, this museum will forever enchant me and still signifies the architectural future.
4. The most romantic. I have recently been at a friend’s wedding held at the breathtaking setting of the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami. A former winter residence of the industrialist James Deering built in 1916. The myriads of Italian style gardens served as the perfect venue for such a magnificent event.
5. The best museum event. In 2013 I was lucky to attend Kraftwerk’s live performance at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.There was such an intense concentration of energy, everyone was moving around in 3D glasses. Absolutely mesmerizing.