What Happens When One Flies In From Tokyo To New York And Visits A Museum By A Japanese Architect
A week after coming back from Japan, I was invited by a friend to visit MOMA. It was the Wednesday of the week of opening parties, invitation only. I strode onto 53rd Street it as if I knew where I was going. Once I turned the corner, and approached the building, I realized that I did not know where the entrance was. The entire block had been transformed. Even the original Durrell Stone building had been transformed: it was glowing with its original translucent facade. Everywhere on the block were black cars, women in furs, men in furs, and security guards directing people to their respective lines. It was a big, New York block party.
There were people on the street. Some had tickets. Some were watching. Some did not need tickets. Some were protesting the cost of admission. Everyone wanted in. I did not have a ticket, but Greg did. We didn't need them: we were let in by some friends of some friends. A Rockefeller. The entry cuts through the block, traversing 53rd street to 54th street. One turns off this axis to enter the museum, views the sculpture garden, and then ascends the stair. In short, the sculpture garden has become linked to the public space of the city.
There is always someone in the world who knows the location of the place you're seeking. (I remind you that "place" includes state-of-being.) You may not be close to these people at all. Yet if you find them, an incredibly intimate thing happens when they point you in the direction you wanted. In a way, they show you the future you asked for. It is a succinct demonstration of the situational power people have in each other's lives.
Once the museum, I met the director. A curator. Collectors. Artists. Friends. The interior, filled with artists, and their works, is unlike any place in Manhattan. Vertical. Large. Art. Museum. There are multiple routes. There are diagonal views that cross the vertical axis. There are interesting curatorial ideas. There is Rosenquist's F111. Except for the older donors, and an exuberant, if uneven, contemporary art gallery, there is nothing which suggests old-MOMA, or, the MOMA of Cesar Pelli. The people there were young, and interested in MOMA as something new and transformative. Even the sculpture garden, nominally there after Pelli's renovation, but weirdly encroached upon by that work, has been restored in such a way as to suggest that it has been newly unearthed, that no one knew that they didn't know it was there.
There are also places that no one knows about. Which means, of course, that no one knows that no one knows about them. They are perfectly concealed from our lives and by our ignorance. Greg made a small film about one such place, except it was imperfectly concealed from us. Arriving at these places is a breakthrough, a discovery, a miracle, a gift, a big bang, an expedition that expands the boundaries of human knowledge, and therefore an expansion of the possibilities for all of us.
Assuming, of course, that you bother to tell the rest of humanity about where you've been.
I was in a corner of the sculpture gallery on this night, watching the power elite of the city float around on the various levels, and the workmen finish other parts of the museum. I was breathing in the cool night air, relaxed and uncrowded: an experience of luxury for this frantic and dense city. New York itself began to unfold and revolve around this glass and stone museum. Even the protesters dressed as twenty dollar bills could not resist being in orbit. I felt like we had all discovered this place again, MOMA, New York, NY, 10019. In that moment I imagined the building as a charged house for art long after everyone at that party is dead, and our names forgotten, in 2104.
You have told me all about the places you've been. I never knew their names. I never cared. But as I search for them myself, I am grateful, on this little thursday, that there's a beautiful, generous, and powerful man next to me who knows where I might venture.
Yoshio Taniguchi invites us to enter this new place. We've begun to ask where it is, and had no clue it even existed. Yet unlike other architects, and other current important projects in this city, he is willing to accept that we may not care, and has nothing at all to proclaim about his work. This may be why some found the building dry. Yet the architect is not going to force us to appreciate it, and this maturity gives him an immense freedom: free of form, detail, space, and sequence that must service a declaration, or a text. Despite the attempt at public relations, the building has no story to support, no cast of characters, no denoument, no finale. For once in New York, no one needs to explain it to us. It is new, yet occurs as already part of New York. It seems to only draw one further into it, as if the discovery of its true nature is always hidden beyond the next turn. What occurs after several of these turns is the discovery that there is no future discovery: we are simply in it, looking at art, and telling each other about it.
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