Another activity on the NYC Pass that we wouldn’t usually choose to do was a boat cruise around Manhattan Island, exploring the East River up to and underneath the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge then around the south end of the Island passed the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan and the Financial District, up the Hudson River to Pier 83 and Hell’s Kitchen. It was a fantastic boat trip, which also provided close-up views of the Statue of Liberty, which was closed for repairs after it copped a beating from Hurricane Sandy back in October 2012. The tourists packed onto the boat like sardines awaiting a glimpse of the lady in green unleashed their demonic side as it was every man for himself tackling each other to get a photo with the statue. I’m surprised the boat didn’t topple over as everyone ran to one side for that ‘winning’ shot and then back to the other side as the captain turned the boat around.
Most despairing for us was the change over of exhibitions at the big art galleries. The Guggenheim Museum designed by famous Architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959 was one of our most anticipated visits. We arrived on day one ready to stimulate our eyes and spatial senses only to be turned away because a new exhibition was being installed. We returned two days later with the opening of the new exhibition by artist James Turrell who had taken over the entire gallery and turned it into a light show. His core installation Aten Reign wrapped its way the whole way up the inside of the famous rotunda completely veiling the structure of the building in fabric and alternating lights. The effect was quite remarkable as the light changed between soft hues of white, the surreal glow making you forget where you are. But we didn’t want to forget where we are! We wanted to see the Guggenheim! We didn’t want “a new experience of the building”! What made this exhibition even more disappointing was that they had removed all of the ‘permanent’ artwork from the ramp, with only one small area dedicated to the classic modernist painters like Picasso, Kandinsky and Cézanne. Making our way up the empty, hollow ramp, blank walls on one wall, while the other was shrouded in James Turrell’s cloth, we felt like we were walking through the subway, dark, dingy, lifeless. It was upsetting particularly for Iain being his first visit. At least Treeny could get a sense of the building underneath all that fabric having visited in 2011.
Even the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was undergoing a changeover. With a permanent area dedicated to architecture we were most excited to see the drawings and models of some of the world’s most respectable architects. “Nope, sorry, that’s under construction and won’t be open until the end of the month”. Even the exhibitions in the art galleries were uninspiring collections of monotonous colour block paintings predominantly by the same artist. This trend of painting a canvas red or just black and calling it art has gone too far. This is not art. How is this thought-provoking? We were beginning to think we had brought no luck with us to New York. Then MoMA was saved after we discovered a fantastic Le Corbusier Exhibition with extensive displays outlining his life’s work. We spent hours pondering and dreaming of a talent so extraordinary. Thankfully, after being booted out for closing time, we learnt you can visit for free on Friday afternoons, so along with the rest of New York we returned to continue our contemplation of this illustrious man and his career.
No matter where you walk in New York an exciting new project is waiting around the corner. Despite our ragged accommodation, the grungy Bowery district is actually one of the most interesting areas of the city undergoing a complete transformation gentrifying the streets from its shabby industrial past to a modern precinct of art and design. What is most inspiring is that the innovative buildings that are being developed here have been designed to fit in contextually with their surroundings without forgetting the important historical significance of the area. In particular we loved Sanaa’s New Museum with its play on the traditional shape of a building using an expanded aluminium façade system inspired by the gritty industrial materials of the area. While Norman Foster’s Sperone Westwater Gallery a few doors down illuminates the street so beautifully at night and provides a subtle silhouetted screen by day. With so many wonderful new projects in development this city is going to be a fantastic and different place to explore in the near future when they are all complete. Watch this space!
Next stop we take you to the land of volcanoes and vikings, Iceland…
Click here to view our photo gallery of New York.