Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Architechtural Masterpiece

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, at 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street, overlooking Central Park, is best known for its unique shape designed by celebrated architect, designer, and writer Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright died just six months before the completion of his controversial masterpiece (it took about 16 years to finish).

The building design is truly a welcoming breath of fresh air in stark contrast to some of the stuffy buildings surrounding the museum. In one sense, we found the building itself more interesting than some of the artwork.

The building's focal skylight. Looking up into the sky from the ground floor reminds you of a fancy (it is 5th ave) spiraling parking garage.

The artwork is displayed along the walls of the spiral from top to bottom. There are a few side annexes attached to the sides of certain floors that house rotating permanent pieces and new showings.

The building design, as visually pleasing as it is, created a weird space for art placement. It's not the kind of museum you can pace yourself nicely. We found ourselves competing with other people at every piece of artwork and maneuvering between crowds, especially the classics, to view the art. It was just that congested. At the Met, because of the large open spaces, we never had this problem. At the Guggenheim, you felt like you had almost a 15 second window to view each artwork, like we were on a conveyor belt.

Another disappointment was that the top three levels were under renovation so we definitely did not get our money’s worth ($15 adult admission). Sorry folks, we have no photos of the artwork to share with you, because absolutely no photos, even without flash, are allowed.

Currently on display is the work of American photographer Catherin Opie, featuring a mass of her work devoted to transgender portraits. She also has self-portraits of herself, one which included a bleeding child-like stick drawing of a family razor cut into her body. We recommend not to bring the kids to this part of the museum due to the strong content.

I have waited for over 20 years to visit the Guggenheim. The art on display was marginal, the definite highlight for me was the building itself. Wright's dream to display art in a contemporary masterpiece itself was a futuristic vision much needed at the time. Today the building has stood the test of time of integrating art into our every day surroundings.

A word to the wise, take the elevator to the top floor (if all floors are open) and work your way downward with gravity, your legs will thank you doing so.