The Met Breuer Review - #MuseumLove in New York City

 

Full disclosure. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is my favorite. My number one. My temple. A respite of all that is glorious in the world of art. I can breathe in these chambers. Form and content compliment. The building is quintessentially one with the glorious banquet of paintings, colors, photographs, artifacts feeding viewers daily. Nourishment. Inspiration. An international destination. Right here in NYC.

 

The Met Breuer opened to the public on March 18, 2016. In planning for the integration of its third location, The Met rebranded with new logos and a focus on the three locations under the umbrella of The Met – The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, The Met Cloisters. Maps. Podiums. Signage. Love the orange

 

The exterior of this historic building designed by architect Marcel Breuer seems to have “caught up” to the time. The buzz among the press at the opening was that everyone had (secretly) disliked it as The Whitney, but in 2016 the vibe is so chic and bold and now. The building fits inside the glass slipper of The Met

Love the low angle view as approaching the entrance to The Met Breuer. Powerful. Important. Daring. Iconic - the favorite word of choice a la The Met

 

A sneak peak at the architect’s guide. Seems to keep the retro vibe as a reference point for the restoration via Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners LLC

 

And now there is a new apple falling not too far from The Met Museum tree of art. Expansion. Space. Vision. Moving forward. Into the contemporary. The now. Yes - I am ready to take a climb. Upward. Onto this new branch called The Met Breuer.

 

The front desk staff stands ready to assist in front of the modern and contemporary display cross-referencing exhibits and events at The Met’s three locations. Note solid color wardrobe selections to highlight orange neckbands for look tie-in

 

The redesigned lobby is it. An immediate recognition that what felt unfinished as The Whitney is now finished as The Met Breuer. Bravo

 

An exterior shot of the press preview. Love the reflections of the New York City Madison Avenue neighborhood overlaid on the interior lighting of The Met Breuer. The landscape architect Günther Vogt was commissioned to enliven the sunken garden area

 

Full disclosure. The former Whitney was my least favorite. A concrete slab. I would fight inside the suffocating walls to experience the art. The new location of the Whitney is the ideal match for its collection. Officially, the Whitney Museum of American Art still owns the building and has worked out an arrangement with The Met Museum, which presents programming in the building for the next eight years. So now to experience this structure as The Met Breuer.

  

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pauses to absorb and appreciate the atmosphere of the packed press preview before addressing attendees and welcoming in this new era of The Met Breuer

 

I am a real fan of Sheena Wagstaff, the Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of the Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, and thrilled that she is overseeing the curatorial vision of The Met Breuer to embrace the modern and contemporary within the global and historical context of The Met

 

What a lovely person Kerry James Marshall is! In addition to being an inspiring artist, he is very well spoken. His enthusiasm is contagious for The Met Breuer’s initiative to include his first major survey in the U.S. during its inaugural season. Come October 2016, Kerry James Marshall can finally say, “I have been in an exhibition with Leonardo Da Vinci.” And one day someone will say that about him too with equal fervor

 

The location being the former Whitney fits in with the finished/unfinished theme of The Met Breuer’s opening thematic survey, “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.” Maybe Marcel Breuer’s building being part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is its truly finished form. The content better matching the structure. Is it? Now finished?

  

Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Enticing title

 

As an artist myself, I struggle with “finishing” work. Yes my “finished” films have screened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And MoMA, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Smithsonian Hirshhorn, The Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, etc. I have an affinity to museums. Of course as an artist, I have an “unfinished” dream project (doesn’t everyone?). This one burned in my heart. For the past decade. I envisioned an installation in one of the trapped rooms at the former Whitney. A prison-ish art experience. In that structure. Transformed into a boxing ring. A never-ending fight. After life. Into death. Knowing it will never be “finished” as a Whitney installation in that location feels thematic.

  

I opted to start in the contemporary second part of the exhibit – viewers can use their own discretion as to where to begin. Impressive positioning of “Definitely Unfinished Sculpture.” The aesthetic of “unfinished” is embodied here by the “contrasting of the rough and the smooth, the inchoate and the realized, and leaving traces of their own labor within the material”

 

My favorite sculpture in this section, Auguste Rodin’s portrait of the poet Countess Anna-Elisabeth de Noailles initiated a new “trend” for the artist. Although the Countess rejected this sculpture and asked Rodin not to exhibit it, the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired it and ironically this lead to the popularity of Rodin in getting commissions by American patrons for similar “unfinished” styles of portraits

 

A beautiful depiction of the hand of G-d – is creation ever “finished”?

 

Now that the (former) Whitney has “died” and is reborn as The Met Breuer, the art world stands poised, holding its breath. Ready to witness. The reveal. On the opening weekend of March 18th, there was such an influx of support with the hashtag #MuseumLove flooding social media from every major museum in NYC and expanding rapidly across the country and world, that the @MetMuseum’s retweets and tweets circled around and around…virtually forming a “Museum Love” heart. So much #MuseumLove directed at The Met Breuer! Unified support. In about a twitter minute, congrats notices poured in from fellow NYC art icons such as the Guggenheim, MoMA, Rubin…and of course the Whitney.

  

The Twin by Rebecca Warren references Edgar Degas’s “The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” in her clay figures. Warren considers The Twin “finished” in its “unfinished”- looking state

 

Here is the original Edgar Degas sculpture, brought to “real life” by my niece at the Art Institute of Chicago where it “lives”

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art did it right. The opening of The Met Breuer instigated the rebranding of their location collection into: The Met Museum Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters. Check out their new website look and logo – with my favorite color orange leading the way. And very smart to focus on the connection of The Met Museum Fifth Avenue to The Met Breuer by emphasizing the (approximate) 9 minute and 9 second walk (ish) between the two locations. And did you know that walking 9 minutes and 9 seconds from 5th Avenue and 81st Street to Madison Avenue and 75th Street is now deemed an artistic experience? You can download composer John Luther Adams’ Soundwalk 9:09, commissioned for the occasion. Do it.

  

The next “section” of the exhibit deals with the “in between” state of finished and unfinished. Here Jasper Johns juxtaposes the process and the result in “Voice” – a work that he returned to and altered over the years

 

I am a major fan of Piet Mondrian. And it is with delight that I could see the process of his creations in “Composition with Double Lines and Yellow” (ca. 1934) – a work, among many, left “unfinished” because of Mondrian’s chronic illness. This “behind-the-scenes” look at the layers of charcoal lines and color squares show his thinking. Such a treat

 

Robert Rauschenberg’s “White Painting” from 1951. It was deemed “never complete” and periodically has been painted over by the artist and others including Cy Twombly. John Cage’s musical composition 4’33” was inspired by this work

 

Taking it a step further, The Met Museum is offering 9-minute talks at all three locations. Performances – unfinished or not – at 9 minutes – also abound. Example: dance by David Dorfman in the “sunken garden” of The Met Breuer integrated the choreography within the space seen in 9-minute increments. Let’s face it – The Met Breuer single-handedly launched 9 as the new 20, rivaling TED talks with this chic number of art minutes.

  

Beautifully displayed in this room at The Met Breuer, Robert Smithson’s “Mirrors and Shelly Sand” has the perfect home. For now. Showing the process of entropy, or loss of stability, the viewers directly affect the work as they contribute towards its “decay” and loss of shape. Quantum art

 

How beautiful is this work seen from a different angle? The mirrors are transformative. And the light streaming from the window connects the art with its inherent nature

 

Congrats again to The Met Museum on the successful launch of its new location at The Met Breuer. Museums really are about the viewer experience…within a building…highlighting the art…so that the spectator “finishes the work” in their seeing of it. And The Met Breuer provides a perfect platform of receiving. The intention of the artist. By viewers. Completing the cycle. Of #MuseumLove.

  

A different kind of decay and erosion are depicted here in Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ portrait of his late partner Ross Laycock who died of AIDS in 1991. The pile of candy weighs 175 pounds, corresponding to Laycock’s ideal weight. As visitors are invited to take pieces of the candy, the form shrinks in mass and weight, disappearing….like what happened from his illness…

 

This “Box with the Sound of its Own Making” from 1961 has its own soundtrack – and yes it is the sounds of the artist Robert Morris creating it as per the title

 

Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings seem to continue outward off the canvas with no “ending”

 

If I had to choose a favorite, it would be Cy Twombly’s series of six Green Paintings from 1986. The paint drips over the frame, which illicits an unusually visceral quality. He never exhibited them during his lifetime so it “remains unclear if he considered them finished or unfinished”

 

Cy Twombly’s paintings are featured in the book on sale for the “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible”

 

Willem de Kooning proclaimed, “I was never interested…(in) how to make a good painting…I didn’t want to pin it down at all.” Thus his trademark fluidity combined with erratic brushstrokes that go out of the contour lines creates an “unfinished” quality that pervades this portrait of Woman, I from 1950-52. It feels alive. Magnificent colors

 

Now we enter the more “classic” section

 

Majestic display of Titians and Rembrandts and Cézannes and all the classics in a modern setting. Works. Very well

 

This gem of a room features J. M. W. Turner’s more abstract paintings in a stunning display of beauty. Yes – I love them as they are

 

The “art” of the city viewed through this lovely window at The Met Breuer – location, location, location

 

The intimacy of space is a luxury in this sitting room at The Met Breuer – inviting viewers to pause and absorb

 

A peak at the Nasreen Mohamedi exhibit on view from March 18-June 5, 2016. Love the use of space, walls, and lighting here

 

There is a performance residency by Vijay Iyer taking place in the beautifully renovated Tony and Amie James Gallery in the lobby from March 18-31, 2016. The sound system is perfection

 

Concepts and quotes pepper the exhibit “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible”

 

Just like people

 

Even the cups at the “apple cider table” have the look of an art installation. And unfinished in their constant changing form

 

The first poster of the first major exhibition at The Met Breuer features Alice Neel’s “James Hunter Black Draftee” from 1965. A week before his departure for Vietnam, James Hunter posed for this portrait. However, he did not return for a scheduled second sitting so Alice Neel declared the portrait finished. Bold

 

#MuseumLove

#MetLiveArts

#MetBreuer

#MetUnfinished

 

Visit The Met Breuer website page

Visit The Met website

Download John Luther Adams’ Soundwalk 9:09

 

Jodi Kaplan’s Film Website

Jodi Kaplan’s Booking Dance Website

Photos and Feature by Jodi Kaplan - Copyright 2016 by Jodi Kaplan

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