New Museum New

Just back from the last of the New Museum opening events, which our pals Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries were kind enough to get us into.

That’s their gorgeous installation “Black on White, Gray Ascending” you can see from the street at night, and if we’re far from the most objective observers, I’d have to say it’s just about the only interesting piece of work you’re going to see at this inaugural show. I confess that I really do not like what’s happening in art right now, aesthetically or intellectually, and for the most part that’s what you’re going to see at the New Museum during the run of “Unmonumental.”

In fact, you could argue that the show actually does a fantastic job curatorially, in that it surely does reflect what’s going on in the galleries, the collections and the schools. Even that, though, is probably letting someone off the hook too easily; it’s not like there aren’t any museum shows (e.g. the one we saw last summer at Helsinki’s Kiasma), galleries (Chelsea’s own Yossi Milo springs to mind) or curators able to gather a large corpus of contemporary, engaged, intellectually curious work. I guess I’ll wait to see the next show in the space before drawing any lines under my conclusions, but I’m not happy that the augurs are what they are.

About the building itself, I’m honestly not entirely sure what to think just yet. I’m acutely aware that I blundered pretty badly the last time I considered a New York museum by a Japanese architect on the day of its opening – in that case erring on the side of generosity, and utterly missing the profound structural weakness latent in Taniguchi’s design. So I’m going to refrain from saying most all of what I felt on experiencing the space, and will confine myself, for the time being, to simply giving props for the very elegant way in which the lobby confounds any sense of transition between inside and outside.

I will say this: sometime in the last two or three years, I began to number SANAA first among those architectural practices to keep an eye on, and then among those that I consider my favorites. And it’s a sobering thing, not only to realize that this judgment was made solely on the strength of representation, but to recognize that it might not survive an actual encounter with their built work.

Finally, I admit to being a little saddened at the date the New Museum chose for its grand launch. The first of December is, of course, World AIDS Day, and since the late 1980s it’s been marked by an annual Day Without Art. Unless I’m missing something, it strikes me as being in questionable taste, at best, to schedule a museum opening for that particular leaf of the calendar, Gran Fury or no. (UPDATE: Some interesting commentary here.)

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