New Museum of Contemporary Art [source]
Kristen Morgin, Lion, 2006 [source]
The New Museum of Contemporary Art’s new building and location opened a couple weeks ago in NYC and I’ve been looking forward to seeing it and their inaugural exhibition, Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century, which runs until March 23, 2008.
My expectations were high: with a four word, to-the-point mission statement–new art, new ideas–and an mysterious exterior designed by Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA [with Gensler, New York, serving as Executive Architect], I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. However, as is the case just about every time I enter an experience with high expectations, I was disappointed with both their new building and their first exhibition.
What’s impossible to ignore about the building is that it’s designed for one person to use at a time. Stairwells–which are unavoidable due to the sole elevator’s small size and slow speed–and hallways are only wide enough for one person. Museum visitors awkwardly negotiate paths with each other while grumbling. On top of that, the details betray a too-small budget: stair railings seem residentially-rated and the lobby ceiling seems borrowed from a mall.
Unmonumental has its gems like Kristen Morgin’s Lion and Elliot “I can do no wrong” Hundley’s fragile paper sculptures, however much of the work does not seem new or contain new ideas. To anyone who experienced the Hammer Museum’s Thing sculpture exhibition in Los Angeles a couple years ago, Unmonumental might seem conventional and, well, trendy.
That said, it’s not everyday that a new museum opens and in particular it’s not everyday a museum opens with such a forward vision. They will receive a lot of criticism because their audience is loud and has unreasonable expectations, but they will survive and I can’t wait to see what they do next.