Museum of Modern Art

Architecture | Urban Design

MoMA mia!

Disqualification: I haven’t been to MoMA in at least fifteen years and after this week hesitate to ever go again. If this disqualifies me from commenting on the museum’s latest expansion plans then adieu, dear reader and happy days. The planned demolition of the former American Folk Art Museum is scandalous and, after MoMA seemed ready to reconsider earlier in the year, surprising as news rarely is. It is one of those demolitions, not on the order of the old Penn Station, but similar to the extent that thought of a wrecking ball piercing that facade, the actual moment of impact which now seems so likely to happen, makes one wince. Absent ideas and evocations, architecture can fall into this particular etiolation of the imagination, a kind of dime store minimalism whose effects are indistinguishable from the property developer’s philistinism. It is also self-punitive; if the former AFAM needs MoMA as an earthworm washed up onto the sidewalk needs a kind rescuer with a leaf, MoMA needs AFAM just as much, for a child needs to eat more than white bread and margarine for dinner. You can't just dress up in glass and call yourself modern.

James Ensor at MoMA

Funny peculiar. If you are a devoted reader of ID tags in museums, you may have spotted one or two attached to James Ensor's exquisitely repellent works. He's an eccentric choice for a big bow-wow retrospective. Even more so when you consider that several of New York's regular critics seem to prefer the current Ensor show at MoMA to the powerful Francis Bacon show uptown at the Met. Was this really credible? I wandered in mostly to satisfy my curiosity, and curious turned out to be the operative word. Despite his British-sounding name, Ensor lived his entire life in Belgium, mostly secluded in an upstairs apartment above his parents' old curiosity shop, which sold trinkets to tourists but also carnival masks of the kind that their hermetic son would use to morbid effect in his art.
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