NY, pt 3

18 January 2010

Hey lovely New York people, it’s a wonderful day here in the city, temperature is a good 45, plenty of shine and very clear. You’re on the L train, heading into Manhattan really soon now. It’s so beautiful outside, lots of sun, lots of smiles. If you’re going to Grand Central, get ready because we’ll be there in about 2 minutes. No need to rush though, take it easy. Also, we’ve had some small reports of pickpocketing happening on some downtown lines, so make sure you keep an eye on your stuff. But relax! Have a nice, wonderful stress-free day in the city. All the best.

  • The MET ** The content A lot. The MET is big. Really big. But the MET is quite unlike any other museum you have visited. Whern was the last time you saw Oceanic ethnographic art share a building with contemporary fruniture design and Gaugin? The Metropolitan doesn’t really feel like a big museum. At most it feels like a collection of individual collections. And it would be unfair to judge the entire place at once, you really have to look closely at each section separately. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. Despite the evident budget, the Oceanic temporary exhibition was inferior to the permanent one housed in Berlin. The Flemish paintings failed to include a single one that I have come to love from the literature, while I spent the same amount of time I was in the MET, I spent looking at only the Rembrants in Vienna. The Middle American gold collection was quiet good. Let’s say I would have to take a longer time, actually days, to have a well-formed opinion. But the MET feels like a lot of hard work. It’s difficult to find the quality stuff in this vast pile. Actually, it’s already quite difficult to find your way at all. Good art doesn’t have a price, maybe this is a problem when trying to build a world-class museum in America?

** The box As my friend Valentina remarked, the exhibition of the Roman times feels very different from the Oceanic part. The latter is presented very clinical, very clearly with only the signs providing contextualization. The former, however, feels like it “should be”. Highly kitsch, the halls are decorated with faux pillars and mosaics. It’s actually extremely funny, because it feels almost like a pastiche of a real museum.

  • The Guggenheim ** The content Right now, the Guggenheim is hosting an immense Kandinsky retrospective. It features a lot of his pre-Bauhaus work, which I probably appreciate more that his later work. Every period is represented well. After following the whole timeline, I felt amazed by the progress that happened, personally affected by the personal pain that seems to jump out of some of the works (qutie amazing for me, since abstract art tends to be difficult for me), and even quite amused by the subversive humor that runs through all of it. Well done, Wassily. You’re probably the first and only abstract artist I can appreciate on his own terms.

Apart from that, the Guggenheim also hosts the “perfect” permanent collection. Picasso, Monet, Manet,… When I walked into a tiny side room, I saw a 4sq meter black rectangle. My first thought was “not another black canvas”. But there was an odd bronze shape corner that moved me forward to see the piece. As soon as I stood in front of it, I was aware I was not looking at plain darkness, I was looking into a big sculpture. And what I saw was darkness. The kind of darkness you think you can feel, if it wouldn’t keep receding from your invisible fingertips. There are two other rooms where you can see the exterior of the piece. It’s a huge metallic zeppelin shaped structure, positioned so it barely touches the walls and ceilings. It’s impossible to walk around. It’s as foreboding because of it’s familiarity as Munch’s scream. It’s Anish Kapoor’s Memory

** The box The Guggenheim is a perfect place to appreciate art. It feels very sturdy, yet has the serenity of wind shaped red rock. It never feels overwhelming or overtly present, yet has it’s own aesthetic. Highly functional, it felt as if it was purpose built for this exhibition. It’s almost as if some great giant took a big rock, hollowed the centre, traced a spiral with a calm but forceful hand, and then slowly pulled up to create… space. The building doesn’t feel like it was purposely built, it almost feels like it was found to be great to display art.  It feels wonderfully unobtrusive. I’m running out of adjectives.

  • Bonus round : The new museum

We were cheap. We got lucky. The only thing I knew about the new museum was that it had a free night every Friday. And I saw Urs Fischer. It was great. Urs Fischer has invented his own medium, where he takes pictures from ordinary objects from XYZ axis, and then pastes the blown up pictures on a mirrored box. It’s an interesting thought in itself, looking at “things” from different perspectives, and only being able to see the full image in your head, due to association with seeing these everyday objects in real life. But he’s a good enough to not stop there. From the front, a guitar. From the back, you notice it’s actually broken and the back is missing. A zombie turns out to be a cardboard cutout from the side. The surprising symmetry of a dangling chain.

But there is something odd about the colouring on the second floor, but you don’t stop to think about it. And you read the explanation on the wall, and it described how he took a picture of all the walls, and pasted them on the same spot, offset by a couple of centimeters. And suddenly, you see it. The wallpaper seems to have a texture of paint. The real exit sign has a phantom 2D brother right next to it. There are nails projected on the wall. And all the shadows are inconsistent with the actual lighting, and the scary thing is is that it used to be my job to catch exactly this problem. Great stuff, it caught me completely unaware. The implications of this will be left as an exercise for the reader.