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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Additional MoMA Notes

I’m wrestling a bit to get the piece I want from my MoMA visit earlier this week. It’s going to be another day or so before it’s ready to publish, if other commitments allow.

In the interim, I thought I would share some random notes that I now know won’t make it into the longer piece I’ll run.

It would be really easy for someone to do a classic deconstructive critique of the opening comments at the press preview, reading what was said against the backdrop used. Because I’ve shown my critical hand already, I can’t let myself do it.

In his opening remarks director Glenn Lowry said that this new addition has “exploded the museum open to the city and made it an integral part of the city in which we exist.” Sure it’s a great building, but (sorry) I don’t see it the way he does.

I heard Chief Curator John Elderfield describe the concept used for the atrium installation. Once Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk was selected for the space (it’s a great choice, by the way), he wanted to highlight late works by other artists that show the range of the museum’s collection. Paintings hung in the space include Monet’s Water Lilies (given a much longer title on the wall text) c. 1920, a de Kooning from 1981, a 1992-95 Jasper Johns, and a Brice Marden from 1992-93. Elderfield said the concept was working well until he realized that he wanted to hang the Marden with the other works. That’s when he decided to break his own rule. He added that he’s not totally happy with the Monet hanging yet. Expect to see it get raised a couple inches in the near future.

The contemporary galleries feel like they have been installed with a hodge podge of work—almost all of it large. Other than the Cy Twombly, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the work or with the installation. But I’ll cut MoMA some slack here. They have never had a space like that to install, and Elderfield admits that it will take them some time to get the feel for how to use it. I will be interested to see what they do in the future so that small, intimate works don’t get lost in the space like a few do now. Lowry mentioned separately that they plan to reinstall these galleries every year.

Benches. Yeah, yeah, everyone is carping about it, but MoMA really needs to put two in the video gallery. They are currently screening Eve Sussman’s 12 minute looped video 89 Seconds at Alcázar and Rodney Graham’s nine minute looped video Vexation Island. No one, and I mean no one, is going to stand through both those pieces. And that’s a shame because the Sussman is great. I don’t know about the Graham. I couldn’t stand there long enough to watch it.

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