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.
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.
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!
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