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Visitor's guide to the new Tampa Museum of Art

The long-awaited Tampa Museum of Art, as seen from the Curtis Hixon park in downtown, opens Saturday. Renowned architect Stanley Saitowitz designed the $32.8 million museum.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

The long-awaited Tampa Museum of Art, as seen from the Curtis Hixon park in downtown, opens Saturday. Renowned architect Stanley Saitowitz designed the $32.8 million museum.

The Tampa Museum of Art opens to the public Saturday after years of planning and construction. It's worth the long wait. Located at 120 W Gasparilla Plaza off Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa, it gives visitors a multiblast of art for every taste, an architectural gem to explore and a great big adjacent park that has its own charms. You can make a day of it, packing a picnic or purchasing something from the museum's new cafe. And an evening, too: The museum and cafe will stay open late during the free movie being screened in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at dusk. Wouldn't you know? It's Night at the Museum.

What art will I see? | Three galleries feature special exhibitions; two will have works from the museum's permanent collection.

1 A Celebration of Henri Matisse: Master of Line and Light: This is the big one filling almost half of the museum's gallery space with equal parts star power and scholarship. Henri Matisse (1869-1954), shown here, is universally shortlisted as one of the great 20th century artists, usually linked with his friend and fellow giant, Pablo Picasso. This show has more than 170 prints, paintings and sculpture.

2 Taking Shape: Works from the Bank of America Collection: Five important abstract painters — Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Helen Frankenthaler, Sam Francis and Sam Gilliam — are presented as examples of later 20th century artists continuing the revolution begun by artists such as Matisse away from the representational.

3 The Hidden City: Selections from the Martin Z. Margulies Foundation: The museum has engaged in a prestigious collaboration with the Margulies Foundation, which will loan works from its world-famous contemporary art collection over the next several years. The first installment has an urban theme linked to the museum's presence in Tampa's downtown.

4 Life Captured: Garry Winogrand's Women are Beautiful: Winogrand was part of a movement in modern photography that married a spontaneous, documentary style with deeper meaning. "Women are Beautiful" was a series taken during the 1960s and published in a book of the same name. The museum owns the entire portfolio and is displaying it as a whole for the first time.

5 From Life to Death in the Ancient World: Works from the museum's excellent collection of antiquities have been arranged around their functional use — these were made, after all, to be practical or decorative objects in their time — and then, in many instances, their symbolic significance as tomb embellishments upon their owners' deaths.

6 The sculpture gallery, which is open air, won't have art installed for the opening. But you'll see a great view of the Hillsborough River and the University of Tampa.

7 Leo Villareal: Sky: Commissioned for the museum's permanent collection, an exterior installation by digital light artist Leo Villareal will stretch 300 feet across the museum's south facade. It will be visible nightly.

Where's the best place to park?

The two closest lots are the William F. Poe Garage and the Rivergate Tower Garage, both off Ashley Drive. The Poe garage is north of the museum, accessed from Ashley or by turning onto Tyler Street and following it around the library to the traffic light, turning left at the light onto Cass Street. The Rivergate garage south of the museum is entered from Twiggs Street. Rates for each vary. For more on parking, go to tampasdowntown.com and click maps and guides at the top of the page.

What's happening at the grand opening?

The museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

10:30 a.m.: Public ceremony in adjacent Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park with city officials and museum leaders

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Free hands-on children's art activities organized by the museum in the park.

6:30 p.m.: The Tampa Theatre launches the free Sunset Cinema series in the park with a showing of Night at the Museum.

What are regular hours, admission?

The museum will open daily at 11 a.m. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday it's open until 7 p.m.; Thursday until 9 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday to 5 p.m. General admission: adults $10; seniors, groups, military plus one guest $7.50; students $5; and children ages 6 and under free. A "pay what you will" fee will be offered every second Saturday of the month from 9 to 11 a.m. and every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m.

What can I get at the cafe?

Sono Cafe, operated by Mise en Place restaurant, will have an Italian flavor with light fare of salads, panini, gelato and beverages that will include wine and Italian sparkling fruit waters. Prices top out under $10 for panini and under $15 for combinations. Indoor and outdoor seating. Open during museum hours.

What about tours?

No docent tours will be offered opening day. After that, a free docent tour will be every Saturday at 2 p.m. Self-guided audio tours can be accessed on cell phones. Information is provided at the museum.

What's in the gift shop?

The museum store will have periodicals, books and gifts along with items created exclusively for the museum using its new logo and signature detail of the perforated steel exterior. Examples: "onesies" for babies, collapsible water bowls for dogs, coasters, umbrellas, mugs. Prices range from about $3 to $25.

Can I get there by boat?

Limited temporary docking is free for boats small enough to navigate the Hillsborough River and its bridges. Tie-up only, no electrical or water connections.

What's in the park?

The new Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is full of open spaces and dedicated play areas for kids and dogs next to the museum. Visitors can grab snacks at the Sono Cafe and eat outside while everyone frolics. The dog park's grass is a high-tech hybrid that absorbs odors and is especially resilient to wear and tear.

The Tampa Museum of Art by the numbers

Overall square feet: 66,000 indoors, 18,000 outdoors.

Galleries: 14,000 square feet total plus 12,000 square feet of exterior facade for a light installation.

Cost: $32.8 million

Number of perforated circles in aluminium panels: About 900,000

On the Web

Coming Friday: Take an interactive tour of museum at entertainment.tampabay.com.

Visitor's guide to the new Tampa Museum of Art 02/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2010 10:03am]

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