Guggenheim Free Saturdays 8/8/2009

19 Oct

While New York City is one of the most expensive places on Earth to live, it is also one of the best places to find free things to do.  Art shows, musical performances, and outdoor festivals abound in NYC, especially in the summer months, when it seems like the entire city has decided to ignore the stifling heat and party like it’s 1999.  CityBoy and I decided to check out one of these freebies, the Guggenheim’s Free Saturdays, on a late August afternoon.  In particular, CityBoy wanted to see the exhibit on Frank Lloyd Wright, who actually designed the museum.

Apparently several hundred other New Yorkers had the same idea.

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I’d only been to the Guggenheim once before in the nineties and wasn’t much impressed with the museum’s exhibits.  The main criticism of the museum is that its design, a spiraling ribbon of concrete quite unlike its more sedate boxy neighbors on Fifth Avenue, overshadows any works housed within it.  I have to agree with them.  The galleries are low-ceilinged and dark, with most of the museum’s interior space given over to the curling center walkway.

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It was a treat to see all of Wright’s architectural drawings and mock-ups gathered in one place, but we had to scrabble over and dodge past everyone else to see anything.  What struck me most was that most of Wright’s designs were never built.  Granted, they are pretty oddball and most likely would have been a nightmare to construct, but there’s something so sad to me about a man’s life work never rising from the crisp outlines of his blueprints to give real shelter to others.

CityBoy and I got the chance to see another of Wright’s buildings, the Marin County Civic Center, last year, and it is quite spectacular, at least from the outside–low-slung dome and piercing minaret, supposedly inspiration for Star Wars’ planet Naboo.

The Guggenheim has just finished a massive renovation that had left the building encased in plastic for what seemed like years, and I’m happy to report that it is now a gleaming monolith, retaining all of its otherworldly glory, iconic even in tiny glimpses.

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Keep your eyes open, always.



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