New York/The New Museum

The New Museum — © Brian Rose

Hell Yes!–or–Don’t Worry Be Happy

I have to agree with Fred Bernstein in the Architects Newspaper Blog about the New Museum and its garish Hell Yes! — a multi-hued text piece by Ugo Rondinone. To Bernstein, hanging the kitschy lettering on the shimmering scrim of SANAA’s facade is “like wearing a campaign button on a wedding veil.” My studio is around the corner from the museum, and the Hell Yes! has become a daily irritant. There are worse public sculptures in the city, but none that I can think of that so insistently imprint themselves on one’s brain.

SANAA’s design manages to be both elegant and playful, and the off kilter box effect abstractly mimics the hodgepodge of buildings of the Bowery, evoking, perhaps, the boxes and steel refrigerator units and other restaurant appliances being manhandled on and off of trucks on the street nearby. The architectural joke, however, is good natured and feels right. But Rondinone’s goofball element spoils the slightly tipsy balance. While the passing artist proletariat, glancing up at the museum tower, grumbles under their breaths, Hell No!

The current show, Skin Fruit, curated by Jeff Koons from the collection of New Museum board member Dakis Joannou certainly does nothing to dissipate the grumbling. Peter Schejldahl of the New Yorker commenting on the incestuous nature of the exhibition in a narrated slideshow says:

What makes the occasion a real lightening rod to my mind is  a growing populist resentment of the impunity of wealth in the recent era symbolized by the art market. Younger generations coming up can no longer count on the promise of ascension to the starry feeding trough of the market as it has pertained until the current recession. Full article here.

I have enjoyed a number of the exhibitions at the New Museum, and was pleased to see the retrospective of David Goldblatt there, as well as photographs by William Christenberry in an earlier show. But the collusion between commercial galleries, collectors, and museum curators has gotten completely out of hand, and this exhibition takes the cake–or to flog the metaphor–declaims, Let them eat cake!