When Colbert originally conceived the idea for the Nomadic Museum, he aspired to create the first 21st-century museum for nature—a place where nature is celebrated, a place where animals have a voice, a place where walls become doors that open our senses to the music of nature. Gregory Colbert’s Nomadic Museum is a purpose-built temporary structure used to house his traveling Ashes and Snow film and photography exhibition. Just as Colbert’s films and photographs depict a world without hierarchy between species, a place where there is no “other”—the Nomadic Museum also aims to be inclusive, not elitist, a democratic expression of the wonder of nature that is accessible by visitors of all cultural and social backgrounds.
To share his photographs and films, Colbert imagined a structure that could easily be assembled in ports of call around the world, providing an ephemeral environment for his work. He envisioned a building that would be the architectural equivalent of open arms, a place that would welcome rather than intimidate visitors, and would emerge seamlessly from the world of the images themselves. The Nomadic Museum resolves the disconnect that often exists between an artist’s work and the environment in which it is presented.
Colbert first presented Ashes and Snow at the Arsenale in Venice, Italy, in 2002. With his debut, Photo magazine declared, “A new master is born.” It was described as “extraordinary” by the Economist, and “distinctive . . . monumental in every sense” by the Wall Street Journal. Stern magazine described the photographs as “fascinating,” and Vanity Fair named Gregory Colbert in its “Best of the Best.” The New York Times, in an article by Alan Riding, stated, “The power of the images comes less from their formal beauty than from the way they envelop the viewer in their mood . . . They are simply windows to a world in which silence and patience govern time.”