A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Monday, December 3

The New Museum

My daughters and I had a blast yesterday touring the spanking New Museum with Debbie, who had snagged us four tickets for a prime slot during the Target-sponsored, free-admission, grand-opening weekend. And while we all agreed that the art inside was a bit of a bust (with a few notable exceptions), the museum itself is a huge success, we thought: cleverly designed, filled with small surprises, nice wide-open galleries, an excellent addition to the neighborhood in particular, and to the City as a whole.

The building makes for a dramatic, dynamic terminus to Prince Street, and is best seen by that approach (rather than coming up or down Bowery). And its shape—all precarious, piled-up-rectangles—also, as Nicolai Ouroussoff helpfully articulated in the Times, fits neatly in with the ramshackle tenements of different heights and stones that flank it on either side. The LED signage above the doorway is bright and welcoming, and though we wished they hadn't put the aluminum mesh that covers the entire exterior over the windows as well (a bit penitentiarial, no?), we all agreed that this truly is a beautiful building. Thankfully, the "Hell, Yes!" piece is temporary (a rainbow? really?), and will be replaced by something hopefully fresher soon. Anyway, here's some more thoughts and pictures from our visit...

By far our favorite art work inside was Black-on-White, Grey Ascending by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, seven video screens relating a story I couldn't catch (apparently it involves a kidnapping), all told in typography and a bossa-nova soundtrack, overlaid at times with a voice reading from one of the screens. This resides within a sound-proof glass enclosure at the lobby's eastern end, and will be there through March 23.

The main exhibition, Unmonumental, is a group show of recent work "exploring the reinvention of sculptural assemblage." Many of these pieces, spread out across all three floors of the museum's primary exhibit space, were fun to look at, and some were undeniably creative and engaging, but it also all felt a bit silly to me. The sculptural medium did show the museum's wide-open galleries to their full advantage, however (we liked the concrete floors, skylights, and lack of support columns; according to Debbie, however, the ceilings felt "a little too Macy's"). On January 16, a series of giant collages will be placed on the walls, surrounding the current pieces, and the whole thing will run through March 23.

We loved the museum's huge, surprisingly bright green elevator, and its skinny little neighbor next door.

The snack bar toward the back of the lobby, sadly, wasn't yet open, so we couldn't sample the unbelievably intriguing-sounding Cheese Puffs.

This narrow back staircase separating the third and second floors features a serendipitous little nook about halfway down, home on this day to an audio work.

The undulating gift shop, right smack in the lobby, is enclosed by the same aluminum mesh as the building itself.

Downstairs there's a terrific theater, now showing an hilarious (and insanely irritating) POV film of an artist being barked at—and, eventually, attacked—by a pack of dogs.

Also downstairs: the extravagantly tiled bathroom, complete with recessed high-blast hand dryer. The women's is a much less fabulous blue.

On the seventh floor on opening weekend (and presumably not beyond, but you never know): FREE CANDY! Target knows how to throw a logo-heavy party, and this island of free M&Ms, gumballs, jelly bellies, fireballs and other treats provoked giddy grins and shrieks of delight in just about everyone... not an easy feat with this downtown, art-going crowd.

The candy may not be there anymore, but the spectacular three-sided view of the Lower East Side makes an elevator ride to the top a must.

The New Museum is located on the Bowery between Rivington and Stanton Streets, at the easternmost end of Prince Street. The museum is open from Noon until 6:00 on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and until an excellently late 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday; it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is $12, students $6, 18-and-under free.

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