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December 10, 2007


Andrew O

I was in New york in early November and caught a traffic-prolonged view of the New Musuem as my friend drove me to the airport. I'd argue, now after reading many of the reviews, that its most provocative meme is its ironic play on the contentious "museum as white box" idea. Not an insignificant number of art world mandarins have criticized contemporary museum architecture for it's unwillingness to take a back seat to the art it must contain. The claim is in many ways valid, but in doing so neglects the reality of our current "starchitecture" society. I would never have experienced the spatial dislocation of a Serra exhibit had I not first been drawn to the electric tension of Gehry's Guggenheim within which the Serra featured. My point: the art world asked for its big white boxes, and the architects gave it to them. Not surprisingly, the building's delicate, diaphonous composition and outward-looking interior will undoubtedly draw more tourists than hard-core art buffs. My feeling though is that I'd rather have people visit a musuem than regress in front of their tv, so in that sense the design is a resounding success.

Richard Prouty

Tyler Cohen makes an interesting observation about art museums: they exist primarily for their well-heeled donors, not the art-seeking public. Gate receipts are a small part of an art museum's revenue. The donor lists displayed prominently on the walls of the new museums are the most important displays in the museum--more so than the art itself. Hence the need for snazzy new museums. Many times the new museums devote a lot of space to donor care. I don't know if the New Museum does (I'll bet it does). Calatrava's addition to the Milwaukee Museum of Modern Art is dedicated almost exclusively to donors' use. So you're right: the architecture stands next to the art as works of aesthetic value, but the architecture is also about the realities of modern museum management.

area rugs

I actually like the design of the building. I don't think it looks that bad. My first impression was that it does look like blocks stacked on top of each other. I think it looks playful and fun. I would love to see some interior shots of it. Perhaps I would think differently if I saw this building in person.

Richard Prouty

I like the building, too. It's very elegant, and the playfulness is appropriate to the mission of the museum. In some ways I like it better than the Spertus Institute in Chicago, which was completed around the same time. I wonder, though, how all that white cladding will weather.


Several visits to the New Museum have each only served to convince me of its drabness. Sure, it takes a backseat in order to allow the art to stand out, but there is almost NOTHING to suggest the hand of an architect, or of a design that makes moving within the spaces memorable. I fear that too many critics are bypassing their intuitive reactions, in the rush to seem 'au courant', apparently falling over themselves to love what is really unlovable.

On the plus side, the simple interior spaces are a welcome relief from the sort of pretentious bullshit that that Libeskind jackass has been getting away with for too long. He's a different breed of asshole.

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What Is One-Way Street?

One-Way Street [Einbahnstrasse, 1928] was Walter Benjamin's first effort to break out of the narrow confines of the academy and apply the techniques of literary studies to life as it is currently lived. For Benjamin criticism encompasses the ordinary objects of life, the literary texts of the time, films in current release, and the fleeting concerns of the public sphere. Following Benjamin's lead, this blog is concerned with the political content of the aesthetic and representations of the political in the media. As Benjamin writes in One-Way Street, "He who cannot take sides should keep silent."