Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center

After Mapplethorpe, New Museum Puts City Back on Art Map

Exterior of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center (formally called the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art), designed by architect Zaha Hadid. Courtesy Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center hide caption

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itoggle caption Courtesy Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center
The museum's "Urban Carpet."

The museum features what the architect calls an "urban carpet," designed draw pedestrian traffic into the museum's exhibit spaces. Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center hide caption

itoggle caption Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center

In 1990, an exhibit by controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe put Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center on the cultural map. The explicit, homoerotic photographs sparked a trial on obscenity charges. The Center and its director were ultimately acquitted, and the art center was in the national spotlight.

Now the center is in the spotlight again, thanks to a new exhibit facility, officially titled the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, which opened to the public June 7, 2003. The museum was designed by Zaha Hadid, a high-profile architect born in Baghdad in 1950, known for her bold but often impractical designs.

This is the first major American building for Hadid, and it's also the first major American art museum designed by a woman. Naomi Lewin of member station WGUC reports that the art center is drawing rave reviews.

Charles Desmarais, director of the art center, finds the new space invigorating. "There is a physical reaction that people have to the spaces that (Hadid) creates," he tells Lewin.

Just last month, Zaha Hadid received Europe's most prestigious architecture prize, the Mies van der Rohe Award, for her design of a transit station in France. Her firm is currently at work on a museum in Bartlesville, Okla., and projects on three other continents.

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