D.C.

Smithsonian Hirshhorn bubble project bursts

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WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - The bubble has burst.

The Smithsonian Institution's plan for a major art project intended to put the Hirshhorn Museum on the cutting edge of innovative art has deflated. Funding for a giant inflatable pavilion bubbling out of the circular Hirshhorn Museum fell short for the $15.5. million project. 

The museum complex said Wednesday that the project was halted after four years of planning and fundraising.

The Hirshhorn Museum is a showcase for modern and cutting edge art. Its avant-guard works dazzle and fascinate, but the 150-foot inflatable bubble left some confused. 

“I can’t imagine an event filled bubble, but maybe in their heads,” laughs Jenna Mullaly.

The plan called for the huge inflatable structure to rise from the museum's center. It would host special events and exhibits. The architects intended for the bubble to be a work of art itself as it rose above the museum and altered the capital's skyline. 

“The bubble would add something that opens up a huge venue for programming and education,” says Mary Early, an art dealer. 

About $7.8 million had been raised or committed for the project, including more than $1 million from Bloomberg L.P. as a naming gift. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas says most donations had been pledges so far. But a divided board and problems with raising revenue eventually burst the bubble. 

“Well if they didn’t do it right they probably had their reasons or didn’t have enough support,” says Jennifer Daubon. 

After years of planning and bickering, the bubble is consigned to oblivion. While some shrug, others mourn what they believe would have been a new attraction and possibly a new symbol of the city.

“My reaction to the news that the bubble is not going to be constructed is great disappointment,” Early says. 

Now the museum must return the funds raised for the project.

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