In 1953, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design the Solomon Guggenheim Museum. Wright was invited to put on an exhibition dedicated to his concept of the Usonian House. It was titled; 60 Years of Living Architecture — The Work of Frank Lloyd Wright. By that time, Wright was well recognized world-wide and highly acclaimed for his exceptional work in architecture. Surprisingly, that exhibit was his debut in New York.
Yesterday, I took a trip into Manhattan to visit the Guggenheim. I have to say that I was disappointed for a number of reasons. My first complaint; half of the museum was closed as a team was assembling the installation of their spring exhibit. In fairness, I should mention that the normal price of $22.75 was adjusted to $16 due to the limited viewing. I am not sure if the adjustment to the fee was because I complained that I saw no mention of the closure on their website, or if this is standard, but even $16 seems steep for what was available to view. This museum is even smaller than MoMA! With “Global Partners’ like BMW, Bloomberg and United Bank of Scotland, one would think they could either expand the selection or lower the admission fee.
The museum is an interesting building to behold from the outside. I would expect nothing less from an architect of such standing. The second cause for disappointed was the policy prohibiting photography anywhere other than the lobby. I was not even permitted to take a picture of the lobby from the second floor balcony! For a small museum to disallow photos is just silly and shortsighted. The art has been paid for and then, usually donated by a wealthy patron. The building is owned by a foundation that enjoys tax benefits and exemptions.
To my mind, allowing photography is a way for the museum to gain a wider following. Permitting photography will not damage the art or diminish its value.
As part of the regular collection, there were about a dozen Picasso paintings, a handful of other notables, like Seurat and a Kandinsky exhibition. On levels 2 & 4 there were works by Carrie Mai Weems, an artist with whom I am not familiar and frankly, when I read an intro that opens with; “Carrie Mae Weems is a socially motivated artist whose works invite contemplation of race, gender, and class.” I roll my eyes and sigh. Can anyone imagine a male, Caucasian artist focusing on gender and race? He would be labeled as ethnocentric or “racist”. This type of artist introduction leaves me cold. It is tiresome. Its premise seems to be that all white people are evil and all men are oppressors. I say rubbish! Most of her work was just, eh. However, I enjoyed, in fact, I laughed out loud at the written text that accompanied a set of five photos titled; NOT MANET’S TYPE. The text; “Standing on shakey ground, I posed myself for critical study but I was no longer certain of the questions to ask / It was clear, I was not Manet’s type. Picasso – who had a way with women – only used me, and Duchamp never even considered me / But it could have been worse. Imagine my fate had De Kooning gotten hold of me / I knew, not from memory, but from hope, that there were other models by which to live / I took a tip from Frida, who from her bed painted incessantly—beautifully while Diego scaled the scaffolds to the top of the world.”
The photographs demonstrated splendid composition, light and shadow. Weems is a buxom, large breasted woman. Her statuesque body is reminiscent of a Renaissance model. Her commentary was humorous, even sardonic in its wit. Clearly she is not enamored with DeKooning and on that score, I could not agree more! Frida , of course, refers to, Frida Kahlo and Diego is Diego Rivera.
My final complaint about the Guggenheim is that the designer of the building, Frank Lloyd Wright’s so called, ‘ongoing exhibition” consists of a scant few panels relegated to the basement. Oh, but he is a white male so, that is where he belongs, right? Ridiculous! I will not return to the Guggenheim. It is not worth the admission fee.
Fortunately, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is about 5 blocks south on 5th Ave. I left and went to view some great art there. Current exhibitions included art from Korea’s Golden Age and Japanese Ink Arts. I could wander the MET for hours and never be disappointed or bored.
Next stop, Chinatown to enjoy some of the excitement of the Chinese New Year.
I was hungry and a little tired of wading through the crowds, so I stopped into New York Noodle Town. There, I sat at a community table and had the pleasure of conversation with a young woman of Chinese heritage and her husband. They were fun and engaging and we shared casual talk. I gave my card and asked them to check out the blog. I ordered some duck with rice and took Cristina’s recommendation on the wonton wrapped shrimp and noodle soup. Both items were tasty and they shared some of their eggplant with me as well.
After dinner, I headed back to mid-town to catch my bus home, but not before a stop at the Heartland Brewery for an I.P.A. with a plate of pork and ginger stuffed dumplings.
On the bus ride home, I was fortunate that my MP3 player was working properly….first time in a while! So I listened to tunes and reflected on my day in the city. The excitement of the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, the sounds and visual stimuli and the smell of street vendors selling hot pretzels and roasted chestnuts made me think of Dad and our trips to watch the Golden Gloves so many years ago. It was an enjoyable day.