Art for Study

Scott Simons Architects, Portland
Words By Brian Shuff
Photos By Robert Benson

Builder

Wright-Ryan Construction

Thanks to a mature handling by Scott Simons Architects, what once was basement storage is now the Portland Museum of Art’s spectacular Art Study Room (formally, the Peggy L. Osher Art Study and Collection Committee Conference Room), a space the museum’s Collections Committee uses to assess works under consideration for purchase.

Scott brushes aside the flashy precautions that come with designing a space for high art—temperature control, moisture control, a fire system that extinguishes flames with gas instead of liquid. “That’s all just to protect what will go in the room,” he says. “The true purpose of the room is to view art.” Pieces up for deliberation can be placed on a wooden shelf or hang from a grid on the opposite wall. “The lighting in the room can match multiple configurations throughout the museum, so committee members can get an exact idea of what a piece will look like in the galleries,” Scott says. “Often, they’ll bring in other pieces that might hang with a new acquisition, just to see how they play next to each other.”

A cafe adjacent to the Art Study and Collection Committee Conference Room at the Portland Museum of Art. Above: Sixteen-seat table by furniture maker Jamie Johnson. Chairs by Sherwood Hamill.

The space resounds an august calm—the natural grain of three gorgeous walnut tables by Jamie Johnson doing no small part of the work—indeed, ideal for the contemplation of art. That and big expenditures.