Arts Desk

Official Name for the Hirshhorn Bubble: “The Bloomberg Balloon”

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's upcoming "bubble" project has a new name: the Bloomberg Balloon.

According to Hirshhorn Director Richard Koshalek, the Bloomberg Balloon is the name that will be given to the museum's temporary inflatable pavilion, which was designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and will come online in 2013. The museum originally touted the feature using the working title "Temporary Inflatable Pavilion." But Washingtonians had come to know it by a much more elegant name: the Bubble.

The Bloomberg Balloon—the new, formal title—follows a gift from Bloomberg LP to the Hirshhorn. The gift was widely reported in 2010 as a $1 million donation toward establishing the pavilion, which will host lectures, seminars, and other programming. One Hirshhorn staffer says that the gift has since grown from $1 million, but the person was not authorized to say by how much.

Why rename the Bubble? According to the Hirshhorn staffer, Bloomberg LP wanted to avoid the potentially negative financial connotations associated with the word "bubble." Hence: the Bloomberg Balloon.

At last night's opening of "Song 1," another big public project put on by the museum, Koshalek said that these two public projects are only the start.

"This is the beginning of 10 big things, and we're going to land them here at the Hirshhorn like planes at LAX," Koshalek says.

The metaphor is a fitting one for a Los Angeles guy like Koshalek, who served as the director of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art and president of Pasadena's Art Center College of Design before he came to the Hirshhorn in 2009. "Song 1"—an ambitious video installation that artist Doug Aitken is projecting onto the entire exterior of the cylindrical Hirshhorn museum—is the first of these public projects.

The newly minted Bloomberg Balloon happens next.

Koshalek gave some hints about other upcoming changes to the Hirshhorn. One will be the lower lobby: That will be redesigned with a public feature by the iconic feminist artist Barbara Kruger, he says. Aitken, who is presently lighting up the museum's exterior 360-degree facade, was originally brought on by the museum to redesign its basement as a new bookstore. This is something Koshalek has done before: As the director of the Hudson River Museum, Koshalek commissioned artist Red Grooms to design the building's bookstore-as-artwork in 1979.

Then there's the museum's sculpture garden. Koshalek says that the museum is currently performing feasibility studies on a new design for what is now an excavated, 50,000-square-foot area. Under Koshalek's new plan, the Hirshhorn would extend its exhibition space here—creating a kunsthalle, or nonpermanent show space. This space could potentially reside underneath a permanent sculpture garden, he says, though these plans are tentative at best.

"Every public space" at the museum, he says, "will be content rich."

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