the new museum

Thursday after work I went to the New Museum for the first time. I know, I know. How could I, who enjoys contemporary art oh so much, have never been to the New Museum until just now, mere days before leaving the city? Well, the answer’s actually quite simple: money. Whereas I can get into MoMA or the Met for free, the New Museum offers Columbia students no such perks. However, Thursday nights (from 7-9 PM) they offer everyone the perk of free admission!

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The New Museum’s current building was designed by SANAA in 2007 and garnered quite a bit of attention. Sure, it’s a nice building, but what really makes it for me is the giant rose sculpture “Rose II” (2007) by Isla Genzken on the facade. The museum’s stacked block design is bold in a quiet understated sort of way (and reminiscent of a project I did in architecture school) but it hasn’t decided whether it wants to be a standout or simply new yet unoffensive. In that way I suppose it’s also responding to the uncertainty of the context, since it’s not far from Storefront for Art and Architecture (on Kenmare) or the SoHo area (south of Houston) with all its trendy boutiques, but at the same time it’s right by good ol’ smelling-of-fish Chinatown.

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I only have exterior shots because photography isn’t allowed inside, and to be honest … there wasn’t much I would’ve wanted a photo of. They insisted we start from the top and work our way down (à la Guggenheim) so first up on the 5th floor was the exhibit “XFR STN,” video work that I gave a quick glance to before moving on. “Ellen Gallagher: Don’t Axe Me” on the 3rd and 4th floors and “Lllyn Foulkes” on the 2nd were both eh – weird but borderline interesting. I did like “Erika Vogt: Stranger Debris Roll Roll Roll” on the ground floor though. It’s in a small gallery tucked in the back by the cafe, and was a installation piece that I found fun to walk around in and well executed.

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My main complaint overall would have to be the interior vertical circulation. Because it’s annoying. Since the building’s floor plates are relatively small, vertical circulation is extremely tight and very vertical; you have your choice of elevators or stair shafts that feel way too much like emergency fire stairs. When I’m trying to enjoy art, the last thing I want to hear is that constant pinging of the elevator arriving and the last thing I want to do is go down a set of claustrophobic stairs where I’m grasping onto the railing so I don’t tumble down and down and down (the New Museum gots some tall floors). However, between the third and fourth floors there’s an extra staircase, the John S. Wotowicz stairs, hidden in the back behind the normal stair core. It’s easy to miss but definitely made me happy. It’s a straight shot between the floors and really narrow, with a small landing halfway up/down with some additional pieces of art and a window looking out.

That staircase and Vogt’s piece – those I would’ve taken photos of. But I wasn’t in the mood to possibly get yelled at (keep in mind this was in the evening after a long day of work before I’d had the chance to eat dinner) and, as much as I tried to get into the work by reading all of the supplemental text … I was pretty over the whole experience. Normal admission price to the New Museum is $10 for students and $14 for adults.. Would I have paid to visit? No. Definitely not worth it. But that’s generally how contemporary art goes – very hit or miss. So … huzzah for free!

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