Scottsdale Public Art: Knight Rise

One of the many reasons we love Scottsdale is its appetite for some of the country’s most thoughtful architecture and art installations. Found in the Nancy and Art Schwaim Sculpture Garden at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, a very short drive from Optima Sonoran Village, is one of those extraordinary displays, Knight Rise by James Turrell.

This inspiring work of art frames the dynamic colors of Scottsdale’s sky through an oculus or skylight. The skyspace is situated at the peak of a concrete dome with concrete benches encircling the room. Knight Rise gives guests their own unique experience with every visit. As the sky overhead changes constantly, so do the perceptions of light and color being framed through the skyscape, inviting visitors’ imaginations to run wild. In a simple, physical act of viewing the sky purely as light, hue, and texture, the artwork completes itself. More specifically, an engaged visitor completes the experience that is Turrell’s artwork.

Part art, part science, the skyspace is an unparalleled creation, and only 14 others are open to the public across the country. Those who experience Knight Rise find it to be meditative and inspiring; a space where one can find tranquility and peace within the confines of the concrete space.

Vibrant sunlight coming in from Knight Rise illuminates the concrete surface of the installation’s interior
Vibrant sunlight coming in from Knight Rise illuminates the concrete surface of the installation’s interior. Credit: Scottsdale Public Art

Knight Rise was completed in 2001 by Turrell, known as a “sculptor of light.” He is an artist of international acclaim considered to be one of the most significant and influential artists working in the world today. And while many artists use paint to replicate light, he uses light itself — sometimes manmade, sometimes natural — to create visual effects. Turell has been creating skyscapes across the United States for nearly five decades, mastering his craft along the way. Inspired by legendary artists from Monet to Mark Rothko, Turell tangibly employs color as the focal point of his practice. 

Knight Rise is a permanent installation located in the Nancy and Art Schwalm Sculpture Garden at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. To experience Knight Rise, visit the Museum anytime from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Modern Museums Around the World

As lovers of great design, Optima’s appreciation for both architecture and art itself runs deep, and there’s no better place to indulge this passion than at a modern museum of art. And with modern art and Modernist architecture sharing so much in common, it’s no wonder that many of these institutions are often housed in innovative and captivating buildings. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the best modern museums around the world — from the collections they contain to the structures that define them.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – Bilbao, Spain

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a museum of modern and contemporary art designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, located in Bilbao, Spain. You’ll recall from our Subsects of Modernist Architecture Series that Gehry was part of the Deconstructivism movement on Modernism in the 1980s. This museum, established in 1997, boasts an impressive collection of modern art, as well as site-specific installations from artists such as Jeff Koons. The building itself has been described as “the greatest building of our time” by architect Philip Johnson, and “a fantastic dream ship of undulating form in a cloak of titanium,” by critic Calvin Tomkins in The New Yorker.

Bildmuseet – Umeå, Sweden

Bildmuseet is one of Sweden’s foremost venues for international contemporary art, a part of Umeå University and the public heart of its arts campus. The strikingly Modern building was designed by Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with White. A living and breathing work of art itself, the building’s facade is made of Siberian larch wood that fades to a silver-grey color over time. In its lifetime, Bildmuseet was nominated in 2013 for the Swedish Kasper Salin Prize and the European Mies van der Rohe Prize and has been described as one of the world’s most beautiful university museums. 

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Credit: Axxter on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa – Cape Town, South Africa

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (or Zeitz MOCCA, for short) is a contemporary art museum in Cape Town, South Africa, and boasts the title of being the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. The building, which was commissioned through a public/private partnership between the V&A Waterfront and German businessman, Jochen Zeitz, is actually made from a converted historic 1921 grain silo. According to Zeitz MOCAA records, “The architects, Heatherwick Studio, aimed to conserve and celebrate the original structure’s industrial heritage, while simultaneously excavating large open spaces from the 42 densely-packed concrete cylinders from which it was comprised.”

Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum — Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

It’s no surprise that the
Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is one of the city’s main landmarks. The futuristic building was designed by Oscar Niemeyer with the assistance of structural engineer Bruno Contarini. Thanks to its strategic design, this museum offers more than just art to admire — the tall, angled windows offer sweeping views of Guanabara Bay and Sugarloaf Mountain. Beneath the structure, architect Niemeyer also designed a reflecting pool that surrounds the cylindrical base “like a flower.”

As an artform all on its own, the architecture of these museums stands strong alongside their impressive modern art collections. 


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