2016 NYC Trip Photos #17: Art Museum as Art Itself


The Guggenheim’s original design concept was “inverted ziggurat”. As a Midwesterner I look at it and think “fat tornado”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

Two blocks south of the Cooper Hewitt, New York’s famed “Museum Mile” continues with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, one of the most distinctive-looking cultural centers around. Credit goes to architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who passed away six months before his last groundbreaking creation opened its doors in 1959. You’re supposed to look at the works of early Modernist masters when you enter, but the building itself is fascinating to the point of distraction.

The Guggenheim differed from the Cooper Hewitt on a number of fronts — outer architecture, contents, height, and, oddly, security levels. Cooper Hewitt lets you walk right in, but the Guggenheim has security checkpoints at the front doors. I’d be curious to know what sparked the escalation.

Guggenheim skylight!

Once you’re cleared and inside, you walk into the hollow center leading upward to the skylight six stories overhead.

Guggenheim floors!

Your view of the other sides of the spiral as you ascend the ramps upward into more and more galleries.

Guggenheim from above!

Your view from the sixth floor, looking down upon the fellow visitors resting at the base.

At the time of our trip, the fourth and fifth floors held a temporary exhibit spotlighting works from the Middle East and North Africa, which just concluded October 5th. A small exhibit of several black-‘n’-white photos and one wooden model of Wright’s “Usonian House” occupy a near-secret basement that’s tricky to access unless you can locate its special elevator. But our primary interest was their permanent collection on the lower levels, containing dozens of works from the past 100+ years — a few by relative unknowns by plebeian standards, many by actual famous names I recall from my long-ago art classes. Renoir, Chagall, Cezanne, Gauguin, et al. are right there in front of you — not replicas, not prints, not photos of replicas of prints, but the real paintings. You can examine them closely, take in the context, scrutinize the brushstrokes and color interactions and contemplate potential insights into their working processes. None of them are under glass like the versions you see in some TV/movie museums, but be certain security is watching you.

Medrano II!

Ukrainian artist Aleksandr Archpenko’s “Medrano II” (1913) was among the more unusual sculpted items that caught my eye.


The Guggenheim is one of the more crowded art museums we’ve visited, I thought to myself while waiting in line for a closeup of Picasso’s “Woman with Yellow Hair” (1931).


The halls twist a bit, but the rooms themselves are pure in their featurelessness, all the better than stand back and let the paintings dominate the consciousness, as is the case with Kandinsky’s abstract “Painting with White Border” (1913).


As a guy who once dreamed of a career in art during his teenage years, I found myself more intrigued and staring harder at the little details than my wife and son were. To their credit, they waited patiently for me to finish enjoying such bits as Monet’s exaggerated signature, seen here in the corner of “The Palazzo Ducale, Seen from San Giorgio Maggiore” (1908).


Photos are permitted in the permanent collection, albeit without flash. Many of us were madly adding to our private scrapbook collections, including this competitor capturing Picasso’s “Cat and Crab on the Beach” (1965).


Or you can pocket your gizmos and bask in the patterns and colors and evocations of canvases such as Piet Mondrian’s “Composition” (1916). This is me showing the Kids These Days how it’s done.

We took many more photos of the paintings themselves than I plan to post. If you’re interested in viewing these and other works at a more head-on vantage without the consumer peripheries, much (possibly all) of the Guggenheim’s permanent collection is online as a deep, wondrous rabbit hole for art lovers to dive into and plumb to their hearts’ content. Technically this way is cheaper, but the downside is you’ll soon realize your house makes a pretty boring art museum without those exotic Guggenheim’s curvatures surrounding you.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

2 responses

    • I’m glad you liked! Most of what’s left in our collection are just pics of paintings. They’re neat to have, but I’ll have to double-check the museum’s guidelines and make sure that posting too many of them wouldn’t earn MCC its first cease-and-desist letter…


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