I visited Guggenheim in New York today for the first time (every time I’ve meant to visit in the past, I’ve been caught by their early weekday closing time of 5:45pm). Designed by US architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, the building looks kind of like a fanciful parking garage from the outside (my fellow Houstonians will know what I mean) and inside, you get from floor to floor via a continuous ramp that spirals upwards. What a cool building!
The exhibit I enjoyed the most was the “Contemplating the Void” exhibit (NYTimes review), where 200 artists and creative types came up with concepts on how to use the central “void” space of the Guggenheim museum… the open area at the center of the building that the inside ramp swirls up around. There were all kinds of wacky ideas in this exhibit. One of my favorites was the idea of an “art trap” where people would be able to climb into the walls surrounding the inside ramp of the building. There, they’d be held in openings in the wall that resembled medieval stocks, becoming part of the building, an art spectacle (a bunch of people in the walls, flailing their arms and legs!).
I wish Monty Python had been invited to submit a design. I’m thinking of the architect sketch.
The exhibit signage/copy (which I admit, I actually read) opened the exhibit describing the central void space of the building as original, bold and “threatening”. I felt like this was all a bit much. A building constructed around a large open space? They’ve been doing those in India* for a very long time — they’re called aangans.
The other exhibit that I enjoyed was Anish Kapoor’s Memory (Guggenheim museum website link). It’s an installation piece from the guy who did the shiny, mirrory silver you’re-not-allowed-to-photograph-it object in Chicago. The piece basically tries to say, “Think of memory like the story of the blind men and the elephant**.” At least that’s what I took away from it. Yeah, just go see it.
* Note: while this statement makes me sound like the archetypal everything-was-invented-in-India Uncle (“Beta, do you know where algebra was invented? That’s right…”), I assure you that I have not become that Uncle. Not yet anyways.
** Come to think of it, didn’t the story of the blind men and the elephant originate in India?