(An article that I had published in Prestige Magazine in 2010, images: © THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM; THE MoMA)
In a city that is home to 19 million people, a moment of tranquility is rarer than a Fabergé Egg, yet I was lucky enough to find this solace in the most unlikely of places.
Indeed my Nirvana came in the form of a painting…
Inundated; the most apt description of what it feels like to be a visitor for the very first time in this electric and pulsating city. The enormous skyscrapers, the hordes of people, the absolute bombardment of consumerism and the feeling that engulfs you upon your fist glimpse of a Jackson Pollock painting. Utterly inundated.
New York, special for so many reasons, but to me, one in particular: the art. The absolute omnipresence of art in every way, shape and form; magnificent art deco architecture, the string quartet that plays Chopin in the subway, the bronze “jumper” statues that have been strategically albeit eerily placed on skyscrapers surrounding Madison Square Park. The most spectacular art of all, however, is housed in three very special galleries: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), and the Guggenheim. Each of these gems boasts a very impressive and very diverse collection.
The idea for The MoMA came into being in 1928 primarily by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (wife of John D Rockefeller Junior) and two of her friends, Lillie P Bliss and Mary Quinn Sullivan. The three rented modest quarters for the new museum, which opened to the public on 7 November, 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash. The MoMA has been singularly important in developing and collecting modernist art – art produced between the 1860s and 1970s – and has been identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world. The MoMA’s incredible collection includes work by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, Jasper Johns, Andrew Wyeth and Jackson Pollock.
The Met is another international gem that houses art from as far back as 3500 BC. Its permanent collection represents works of art from classical antiquity and Ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art. Interestingly, the museum is also home to a vast collection of musical instruments, including Ringo Starr’s snare drum.
The Met was founded in 1870 by a group of businessmen, financiers and leading artists and thinkers of the day, who wanted to open a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. As of 2007, the Met measures almost 400 metres in length and occupies around 190,000 square metres. I was told that it would take me four full days to walk through the entire collection. I had to do it in two.
The next aesthetic wonder that calls New York home is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum or The Guggenheim for short. The building was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is considered to be one of the 20th Century’s most important architectural landmarks. The Guggenheim opened on 21 October 1959 and was the second museum opened by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. It is the permanent home to a renowned collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. I was lucky enough to catch an exhibition entitled, Haunted: Contemporary Photography/ Video/Performance. It chilled me to the bone.
As I walked through the three museums I had a bit of time to consider the various collections I’d seen; the modern art resonating the most. After extensive thought I decided it was because modern art is not only a visceral feast but also an intellectual exercise. The artist has an ideology, a message and a unique channel that conveys it. It is not just a way to reproduce form but also a way of representing the meaning thereof. The beauty of modern art is that it is yours and mine; we interpret it in our own ways and thereby become a part of the process of the art rather than just spectators to it.
The MoMA is located in Midtown Manhattan, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and is currently hosting a Picasso exhibit that will run until the end of August, 2010. A Picasso exhibit running concurrently with that of the MoMA can be found at the Met, located on the eastern edge of Central Park, along what is known as the Museum Mile. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located at 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street).