As I mentioned in the previous post, two “must-do” items on my itinerary were strolling through Dover Street Market and experiencing Summer Streets. Well, to check off the rest of my list, I headed uptown to see the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney and came back to midtown to visit the Morgan Library. Having never been to either museum, I was in for a major treat.
Here’s the second half of my stream-of-consciousness photo journal:
In the early ’80s, Jeff Koons did a series called “The New.” New York Times’ art critic Roberta Smith writes that “the name signals [his]…interest in isolating an essential pleasure of consumerism: newness itself.”
In vivid color: works from the “Easyfun – Ethereal” series.
Moo, I see you. From the “Easyfun” collection. The catalog explains: “the colorful mirrors suggest a joyous menagerie of cartoon animal silhouettes, yet their blank faces and exaggerated scale also evoke a darker sense of foreboding.”
Rendered larger than life in gilded porcelain, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” (1988) from Koons’ “Banality” series.
With “Banality,” Koons “ventured further into the realm of kitsch…[where] cute becomes monstrous and the banal turns subversive and menacing.”
Reflections and gaze in a “pseudo-Baroque” mirror. (“Saint John the Baptist” in the background.)
“Play-Doh” (1994-2014). One of the most complex sculptures Koons has ever created, it “required two decades to fabricate…[It] was ultimately fashioned from twenty-seven individual interlocking pieces of painted aluminum, unveiled for the first time in this retrospective.” The texture was remarkable.
Panoramic view of the “Celebration” series which represents the milestones in a year and the cycle of life.
Aside from the Koons exhibition, I wandered through the Whitney’s other galleries. This is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s visually-arresting “Hollywood Africans.”
Balancing act: Alexander Calder’s whimsical and elegant “The Brass Family.” (The lighting and shadows enhanced it even more.)
I love the detail of his signature integrated into the design.
After leaving the Whitney, I happily walked almost twenty blocks before catching the subway. At the J.Crew Collection store at 66th and Madison, I spotted these fun Sophia Webster heels. (Editor’s note: look how their color palette and pattern are echoed in the next three photos.)
The stare and stripes at 59th Street station.
Before returning to the Strand Hotel for a short break, I discovered that Mood fabric store was only a couple of blocks away. If you’re a diehard “Project Runway” fan like I am, you can just hear Tim Gunn announcing “OK designers, we’re heading off to Mood!”
I rested for a little while at the hotel and then stepped out to the Morgan Library and Museum. In the newer building that was part of the Renzo Piano-designed expansion and renovation, artist Spencer Finch created the temporary installation “A Certain Slant of Light.”
A soaring kaleidoscope of colors in the sunlight.
Wealth beyond words: the collection of legendary financier Pierpont Morgan. He acquired on “an astonishing scale…rare books, manuscripts, drawings, prints, and ancient artifacts.”
The ornate and intricately-carved ceiling.
Crosses, stars, and marbled veins.
Goosebumps-giver: Carter Burden “assembled the greatest collection of modern American literature in private hands.” It features one hundred works including first editions, manuscripts, letters, and revised galley proofs from the likes of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Henry James, and Gertrude Stein.
For an early dinner following the Morgan, I went to a nearby vegetarian Korean restaurant called Hangawi. You had to take your shoes off before entering the main dining area. And as you can see in the photo, the floor underneath each table is cut out so your feet can dangle and you don’t have to kneel or sit cross-legged.
On my last morning, I took the elevator all the way up to the Top of the Strand lounge at my hotel. It had rained the night before so the retractable glass roof was closed. Standing on a chair, I took this shot of the surrounding buildings.
Final farewell. Till next time, New York!
Some parting thoughts:
- Jeff Koons provokes strong opinions. He “plays with ideas of taste, pleasure, celebrity, and commerce.” He’s either a brilliant visionary or an over-hyped marketer. I was mostly in the latter camp—until I saw this exhibition where his technical virtuosity was on full display. As the New York Times points out, “Part of Mr. Koons’ magic is the perfection and seemingly effortless appearance of his objects…[they] are as delicate as Fabergé eggs.” In fact, the production standards for his art in some cases now exceed those found in the aerospace industry or the military. He has pushed craftsmen in Germany to invent a new alloy with special reflective qualities for his stainless steel sculptures. He has worked with fabricators to develop custom hardware and software for 3D models. With America’s blossoming maker movement, Jeff Koons, in my nerdy mind, has a powerful new relevance and resonance.
- Interesting bit of trivia: did you know that both Jeff Koons and Alexander Calder were born in south-central Pennsylvania near Harrisburg? (Koons in York and Calder in Lawnton.)
- The weather was outrageously superb. For a weekend in mid-August, it was mostly sunny in the high 70s with no humidity. No kidding.
- The city was relatively uncrowded. I mean, midtown Manhattan was still congested with tourists (yours truly included). But overall, it felt like a lot of New Yorkers were out of town, savoring their last days in the Hamptons.
- If you want to learn more about the city’s rooftop water tanks, Apartment Therapy has this primer. It ain’t pretty.
- Have you read the recent articles about how snapping a bunch of photos (to rush and post on social media, for example) reduces your enjoyment of living in the moment and can affect how you remember experiences? Well, I tried to avoid that problem—at least at the museums—by going through the galleries once and taking pictures to my heart’s content. And then repeating the tour, this time with my iPhone buried in the bottom of my bag. Worked like a charm.
The Whitney Museum of American Art | 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street | 212.570.3600 | whitney.org
The Morgan Library and Museum | 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street | 212.685.0008 | themorgan.org
Mood Fabrics | 225 W. 37th Street (b/t 7th and 8th) | 212.730.5003 | moodfabrics.com
Hangawi | 12 E. 32nd Street (b/t 5th and Madison) | 212.213.0077 | hangawirestaurant.com | Yelp reviews