Home » Manhattan: Museum Marathon Part One

Manhattan: Museum Marathon Part One

I’m just back from a ‘Museum Marathon’ weekend in New York. We saw lots, but my favorites were the Claes Oldenburg: The Street & The Store at MoMA, Ken Price at the Metropolitan and James Turrell’s Aten Reign at the Guggenheim.

Claes Oldenburg, at MoMA.

A sandwich soft sculpture, with ‘pleather’ olive.

A shop window selling women’s undergarments.

I’ve long been a fan of Oldenburg’s work for how incredibly prescient he was. His early work dealt with the value of art, art & the commodity, and the market, which is hugely relevant today. His papier mache sculptures also strick me as a kind of anti-pop pop art; they look sad (the soft sculptures–literally deflated), like they’ve been crying, in contrast to the highly polished look of Warhol’s Pop at the time and Jeff Koons & Damien Hirst today. The exhibit left out Oldenburg’s brilliant large-scale public art works, but it was smart to focus on the early pieces. Check out THIS great video from the MoMA on Oldenburg’s exhibition.

A poster advertising the Store.

The Metropolitan Museum had a show of works by the late California ceramicist Ken Price, which was phenomenal. I hadn’t been familiar with his work, but thought I’d check it out and I was pleasantly surprised. They were perfectly made and quite architectural, really innovative and well conceived mini-sculptures.

A ceramic sculpture by Ken Price. Image: franklloyd.com

Another stunning Price sculpture. Image: culturespectator.com

The critics haven’t been especially kind to James Turrell’s installation at the Guggenheim. But I thought it was pretty great. Sure it might not compare to Turrell’s open sky works, but the choreography of the light inside the rotunda was excellent. The bright colours were certainly crowd-pleasing, and I loved when at one point the colour red came on and stayed, and stayed…and stayed…You could feel the crowd become restless. The tyranny of the artist! By far the best part was when the lights stopped and natural daylight flooded the space. I can’t say it took me into some kind of spiritual zone, but then not much contemporary art does these days.

The colours were stunning, no doubt about it….

James Turrell
…but it was best when the colours stopped and natural daylight flooded in.

We also wisked through the Costume Institute’s Punk show at the Metropolitan, where I was struck by some pieces by Belgian conceptualist fashion designer Martin Margiela. About 15 years ago I bought a book by Margiela that invovled him burying his clothing and creating patterns with mold. I knew then that he was an artist, but what I found interesting in this show was how closely his garments followed art trends. Note the smashed plates vests 1989-90 (Julian Schnabel c. 1980s) and torn and folded paper outfits 2008-09 (collage, a big trend in the 2000s).
Martin Margiela, from 1989-90. Image: VoCA

Julian Schanbel, Divan, 1978 Oil and crockery on wood. Image: saatchigallery.com

Martin Margiela, from 2008-09. Image: VoCA

One of Canadian artist Paul Butler’s amazing Collage Parties. Image: theotherpaulbutler.com

More to come in my next post: Bar Oppenheimer at the Hotel Americano, and Paul McCarthy’s deranged mega-inastallation WS at the Park Avenue Armory.

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