30 Museums in 28 Weeks: The Guggenheim Museum

This is the first in a brand new blog series: 30 Museums in 28 Weeks. Through CUarts’ Passport to New York program, Columbia students get in free to 30 museums in the city. We will attempt to visit every single one of these museums before the end of this academic year and share the experience here with you. 30 museums. 28 weeks. That’s a lot of culture.

I am ashamed to admit that I had never been to the Guggenheim before this weekend. Oh sure, I’d passed its distinctive exterior a few times on rare sojourns to the East Side, but I’d never actually set foot inside. Until yesterday. As a last hurrah of Fall Break before hunkering down for the winter, I walked across Central Park through the beautiful changing leaves and finally crossed into the museum.

The building itself, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a substantial part of the experience. As I entered into the lobby, the winding ramps above me provided glimpses of artwork on the walls but it was the patrons themselves who seemed to be on display as they looked over the endless wall, seeing and being seen.

The main exhibition currently is a extensive collection of paintings by Vasily Kandinsky, an abstract artist whose paintings feature bright, bold colors in exuberant brushstrokes and geometric patterns. Each work is a bit like a Rorschach test; what you see in it says more about you than about Kandinsky himself. I particularly liked his later work which tames his early effervescence into more focused, deliberate shapes that still retain the colorful mystery of his abstract ideas.

Another one of my favorite pieces was in a separate exhibit entitled Paired: Gold. The work, by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, was a ceiling-to-floor curtain of plastic golden beads, like Mardi Gras necklaces. They shimmered as they caught the light in different ways when people passed through. I must confess though that my attraction to the work was mainly my magpie instinct for sparkly things and my short attention span that was getting a little weary of endless abstraction. I enjoyed it, but I find it difficult to call it “art.” Even more difficult was the second work in the exhibit, Roni Horn’s Forms from the Gold Field. It was a rectangle of solid gold, lying on the floor. Huh? It was pretty, I suppose, and shiny, but it had no apparent statement or point of view, which I think are essential to successful art (in my humble, untrained opinion). I prefer Kandinsky who challenged the function of painting while also being pretty and shiny.

A little dizzy, I winded back down the spiral ramps, through the hordes of schoolchildren, and out into the sun. Not a bad afternoon at all.

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Darcy Zacharias, CC ’10

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One Response to 30 Museums in 28 Weeks: The Guggenheim Museum

  1. sd says:

    Kandinsky would probably disagree with you about his works being Rorschach tests. And Gonzalez-Torres isn’t art? I thought this was the CU arts blog… C’mon. Look up relational aesthetics. Or even just skim over the Guggenheim’s statement on the piece if you want “statement or point of view.”

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