NYC: The Guggenheim

So I’ve ridden the subway (Metro) and marvelled at its shininess (with maybe a little hint of rust treatment around the edges or is that paint?) I’ve also marvelled at the fact that the platforms are about two blocks long — that’s looooooooooooong! Especially compared to the London Underground. $17 for a one week pass. I’m not sure London’s transport system competes, although London makes up for it in other ways, I guess.

Anyway, I took a ride up to Central Park yesterday, which is exactly like you’ve seen in all the movies with a reservoir in the middle surrounded by a fence, signs saying ‘This is the City’s drinking water’ and a jogging track. Why do people do this walking thing in a tracksuit, btw? It’s WALKING for crying out loud. I do it every day. Not a real sport.

Over on the East side of the park is the famous Guggenheim Museum of modern art. You know the one (even if you think you don’t). It is a white lopsided cake of a building has the distinctive spiralling gallery going up on the inside.

So I did what every visitor to a museum of modern art does. No. Not just buying a ticket. I looked carefully at the first few things. Admired the Picasso, walked around the big wooden totem pole thing, wondered why there was a huge white rubber plant upturned and hanging down from the top floor.

Then I got tired.

So I did the next thing every visitor to a modern art museum does. I invented my own names for the works I didn’t appreciate or understand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know much about art but I know what I like. Kind of. I think. I liked a lot of the metal sculpture and various paintings. I definitely appreciated Albert Giacomelli’s honestly titled pieces — the Nose, Spoon Woman, that sort of thing (although not Woman With Her Throat Cut which just looked like a large farm implement badly welded).

However, if you’re going to have fun in galleries, you’ve got to admit that nearly everything by Vasali Kandinski could be titled This Way Up and not lose anything by such labelling. Many other works by other artists seem to scream out for plaques dubbing them Childish Scrawl, Random Blobs and Aesthetically Pleasing Doodle. There’s a lot of pleasing doodling has gone inside the Guggenheim.

Andy Warhol’s 150 Marilyns made me snigger and on the top floor is a glass igloo cleverly titled to make you think it might possibly be something else. It isn’t, it’s definitely a glass igloo. Oh, and there’s a piece of sculpture called Elipse which if it isn’t a kiddies climbing frame then I don’t know what is. How they keep toddlers from scaling it is a mystery.

The distinctive gallery building itself is the best thing and there’s a huge exhibit detailing the proposed new architectural insanity that the Guggenheim is planning to build on the Manhatten Waterfront. It is to be a huge confection of flowing titanium, wonky glass walls and limestone which will stand on its own island and is on a scale to compete with the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the world’s highest building. That’s big. Huge. A monster!

It simply says New York is mad. Everywhere are massive buildings whose very scale dwarves and diminishes the human spirit to antlike proportions. Yet still people try to make a mark here, perhaps because of this very challenge. I can see where Ridley Scott got the inspiration for the cityscape in Blade Runner. More, I can see why — to show human life as somehow small and transitory on the face of such a world.

Notwithstanding that, I enjoyed the Guggenheim. I loved the little touches around, like a keyhole shaped door and offshoot galleries and the shiny brass drinking fountains that people just can’t resist using. I didn’t much like the vertigo-inducing low balcony that runs around the spiral. Although it gives you glimpses of what’s above and what’s below, I just had to look the other way when people sat on it for a rest!

Sometimes weird, sometimes wonderful and if you look at it all in the right way, definitely something funny about the whole thing. I resisted buying anything from the souvenir shops however, despite the temptation of a Picasso domino set, a Mondrian mouse mat or a marvellous mobile. The search for something tackier continues.

And now I must go to walk off a Guinness inspired hangover, but that’s another story.