Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Guggenheim

The Guggenheim is a modern-art museum located on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, towards the southern end of Museum Mile.  The museum itself sits at 88th and 5th Ave, just south of the Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design and just a few blocks north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Guggenheim is a gorgeous building, despite the fact that I shot
this photo straight into the sun.  I suppose J.J. Abrams would approve
of the lens flare, anyway.
Sally, the kids, and I went through the Guggenheim on Friday last week after hitting the Museum of the City of New York and before heading down to K-Town for lunch.  I wouldn't normally recommend trying to take in a full art museum in between other activities in a single day out in the City, but we had enough time to see the main gallery and some of the paintings in the permanent collection.  If you're not a true art-lover, that might well be the way to go.

The Guggenheim's main gallery is a great interior spiral, which the museum staff was careful to tell us is curated from the bottom to the top.  This means that you're supposed to start on the ground floor and walk up, slowly taking in the exhibits until you finish at the apex.  There you can stop in the gifts shops (two!) before catching the elevator back down.

Looking down on the main gallery.
The Guggenheim's roof caught Sally's imagination.
Indeed, the museum itself is a piece of art in its architecture.
According to Sally, however, the cool kids all take the elevator up and walk down, seeing in the collection unfold in reverse as gravity slowly pulls them back to Earth.  She regaled us with stories of her time living in Inwood and hanging at the Guggenheim for Saturday night parties, drinking chardonnay with the elites.  Which is, I have to admit, a little hard to imagine.  My wife did three-and-a-half years in a hut in Paraguay with neither electricity nor running water back when she was with the Peace Corps.  Granted, she attended Columbia's Teacher's College when she got back, but still...  She's a very real, very down-to-Earth person.  It's hard to see her in a slinky black dress, rubbing elbows with Manhattan's high society.  I don't typically think of our family in those terms, really, though I suppose we wouldn't necessarily be out of place if we tried to blend in.

In any event, we caught the elevator up and walked down.

Exhibits in the Guggenheim's main gallery rotate.  When we went, the main gallery was showing Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better.  The Guggenheim's website describes it thus:

From 1979 to 2012, Swiss artists Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) collaborated on a body of work that offers a deceptively casual meditation on how we perceive everyday life. Through a witty “misuse” of cultural genres—from low-budget Hollywood movies and picture-postcard views to the art historical notion of the readymade—they transformed the ordinary into something decisively not.

My favorite piece from How to Work Better,
I love the way the placement of the scissors creates tension. 
There was a whole series of cast rubber objects, the point
of which I honestly didn't understand.  This cast rubber candle
caught my attention, however.
This collection includes hundreds of these little clay sculptures, depicting
events in human history, great and small.  This is Washington crossing the Delaware.
I found the collection fascinating, though not every piece caught my attention.  Still, they definitely had something in the idea that you can take the everyday objects and create something interesting.  I don't know what a real art critic would say about it, but a lot of it spoke to me--much more than I would have imagined given that description, at any rate.

Capitalism shows men climbing on top of one another.
This Picasso was Sally's favorite.
Lobster and Cat is easily my favorite Picasso.
The museum's permanent collection is towards the bottom.  We didn't see it all, but we did see several of the Picassos and French Impressionists.  I've never been a particular fan of Picasso, but I will say that he painted in more, different styles than any other a painter I've every encountered.  I'd never noticed this before, but it was obvious when viewing his work alongside guys who worked in one style exclusively.

I enjoyed the Guggenheim a lot more than I thought that I would.  We wound up spending about two hours in the museum, and for me that was plenty.  However, it wasn't enough to see everything, and it certainly wasn't enough to give serious consideration to all of what we saw, so if you plan your own trip, consider accordingly.

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