CALL ME A PHILISTINE, but I have trouble seeing banged-up gym lockers and plaster utility sinks mounted on a wall as art, much less masterpieces. That’s what one of the Whitney Museum’s curators called Robert Gober’s Ascending Sink, below, at a press preview late last month to launch a 550-work gift to the Whitney by collectors Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner. (The exhibition of new works runs through March 6, 2016.)
I’ve heard of Cindy Sherman, the photographer who made a fetish of selfies long before the rest of us, and Jeff Koons, my least favorite artist of all time, and a few others, but most of the names were new to me, and most of the art, said to address such issues as advertising, technology, identity, celebrity and capitalism, inscrutable.
The Whitney’s mission is to collect, present and interpret the art of our time, and this is the art of our time, so who am I to say? I’m glad the Hoppers and Calder’s wire circus are still there in the permanent collection, though the latter has lost the prominent lobby placement it had in the uptown building.
And I was glad to move on to the Frank Stella retrospective, up through February 7, 2016, where I enjoyed the graphic works of his 1960s Pop phase, below, though he lost me with the busier compositions and Day-Glo colors of more recent times.
Mainly, I had come to see the museum’s new home, by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The building didn’t impress me, or seem much less brutal than the museum’s previous location in Marcel Breuer’s reviled Madison Avenue building, but I love the easy access to outdoor terraces and the views in all directions, notably over the river and the mile-and-a-half-long High Line, top.
The trip brought me to the Meatpacking District for the first time in a while. I miss Florent, the bar/diner that for many years was the only late-night place to go on Gansevoort Street, though not the metal cans full of cowhide and bloody animal parts.
I lament the fact that, because hole-in-the-wall Paradou was closed at lunchtime and Pastis being renovated and the Chelsea Market claustrophobic, I ended up having lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, the suddenly ubiquitous chain about which the best I can say is that it’s handy when you need a kale salad.
Not being a tourist, or, I suppose, a young person, I felt unhappy with the changes I saw in the neighborhood where once I was young (I lived in the far West Village in the early ’70s), particularly the blocks full of fashion emporia I have no use for. Why must it be all about shopping?
There’s no charm to the new Meatpacking District, no soul, none of that New York grit.
Walking back along 14th Street toward the subway restored my mood somewhat. The city hasn’t all turned into shiny metal and glass. Graffiti lives.