Postcard: New York

Art Life , TAL International Dec 06, 2010 1 Comment

The Art Life’s roving international editor Din Heagney writes from the city that never sleeps [and other New York cliches…]…

Dear TAL,

I know it’s been a while since I posted to you. You see I’m in New York up to my eyeballs in art, fashion, architecture, food and parties. New York City is full of smack-bang surprises blended with the usual movie-inspired familiarities and a good dose of social contradictions all tied up in a big glamorous bow. I suspect that this bow holds together the more undesirable elements, like some great cultural corset.

In any case, I was keen to get to the New Museum on Bowery, as it’s one of the most exciting art museums to open in the city since, well, since the Guggenheim probably. While there’s a smattering of studios for those artists who can still afford rent in the area, the placement of this asymmetrical edifice still makes it pop on its gritty street surroundings. Three years on from its launch, in the unlikely downtown area on the skirts of NoLita, this is a serious postmodern retake on the white cube, designed by SANAA architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. The building looks spectacular when the sunlight hits it. The grated metallic surface bounces the light around, creating a sheen veneer that says ‘hey I’m a sexy modern thang’. Although when it rains the museum looks not so much ‘new’ as much as kind of dull, it’s then the old, worn out ornamented buildings surrounding it dominate once more. History holds its place it seems, no matter how cute the upstart may be.

Anyway, I’m glad I made it to see Ugo Rondinone‘s Hell Yes! rainbow sculpture that has supplied the only slash of colour on the otherwise frozen facade of the New Museum since it opened in late 2007. Just a couple of weeks ago, Isa Genzken’s Rose II sculpture was unveiled as the new feature piece on the exterior. As a 28-foot standard rose in painted steel, it’s a major work, in engineering terms at least. Artistically, Rose II is more playful and romantic, something of a love offering to the city from this artist who studied here many years before she represented Germany at the Venice Biennale. Although who got Rose I? Should New Yorkers be jealous of another lover? Walking up from the Lower East Side the other day, I was a little surprised at how flat the work appeared from afar. Even though it’s very much sculptural it was an overcast day, so that effect of the light maybe absorbed the colour. When you’re up close you can appreciate the scale of those giant metallic petals that drip water from the fallen rain, like misty dewdrops on a Valentine’s Day card, which is possibly not what Genzken was aiming for.

So Hell Yes! will soon be installed somewhere else, which is a good thing I suppose. Personally, Rondinone’s rainbow was synonymous with the New Museum, representing more of a winking, optimistic outlook of contemporary art in an industry that tends to be more than a little glum at times. Either way, love is always in need. Let’s just hope the affair lasts.

Din x

PS: I’ll write soon about the FREE exhibition I saw there…

Andrew Frost

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