New York is a city for art lovers as it boasts numerous world-renowned art museums and galleries for patrons to enjoy. The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum is just one of these famed institutions and if you’re visiting the fine city of New York, you must add making a visit here to your itinerary. Located at 1071 5th Avenue between 88th and 89th Street, the Guggenheim Museum is a stone’s throw from Central Park. With its unique and stylish inverted ziggurat design, the museum is very easy to spot.
The architecture of the building itself is remarkable. A continuous sloping walkway spirals up to the top of the building allowing visitors to weave in and out of the galleries on each level with ease. The walkway makes accessing the galleries fully accessible to all patrons. There are also elevators leading to each level for those who would rather get to their desired exhibit quickly. This design not only allows guests to experience every part of the museum but does so in a fluid manner that only becomes apparent after the fact.
If you are visiting the Guggenheim Museum for the holidays, you’ll be visiting in time to see the works of their currently featured artist, Canadian Agnes Martin (1912-2004), whose incredibly minimalist works predominantly consisting of grids and stripes is a study in meditation and nuance. Her work lines the hallways leading into the various galleries, placed deliberately so to act as almost a palette cleanser between the galleries.
In the first gallery coming off the sloping walkway is a series of Martin’s work, a series of canvases that appear white and blank to the naked eye. Upon further inspection, you notice that there are grids and lines of detailed texture and shades of white in various patterns that create a meditative focus as you study one canvas to another. Spiraling up the walkway, you see Martin’s work throughout her life and the progression of her artistic style. The minimalist style remains but her tones, shapes, and color palette changes reflecting rise and fall of her life and inspiring introspective and contemplative emotions of happiness, sorrow, innocence, beauty, love. This is indeed a wonderful way to study an artist’s work.
Another featured exhibit at the Guggenheim, on now until March 10th, 2017, is Tales of Our Time, a focus on Chinese artists Chia-En Jao, Kan Xuan, Sun Xun, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Tsang Kin-Wah, Yangjiang Group, and Zhou Tao to explore concepts of geography. Their work addresses specifics of location such as their hometowns, uninhabited islands, remote borderlands, as well as ideas of territory, boundaries, and utopia to explore sides of China very foreign and alien to the Western mind. This exhibit utilizes various media to engage the viewer, including painting, sculpture, tapestry, and digital/audio media resulting in a cacophonous storm on the senses.
Wandering through the various levels of the exhibit, what you witness is equal parts beautiful, thought provoking, alarming and uncomfortable. In one room, dining tables are set with various placements for a lovely tea. On Wednesdays, tea ceremonies are held in the afternoon, which I was sad to miss as I was visiting on the weekend. In another section, a glass room held a large robotic arm with a big paintbrush attached that swirled in the pools of dark red blood colored paint on the floor to splatter all over the surrounding glass. The resulting effect was rather crime-scene like and people watched on with confused intrigue. I noticed a few children become rather disturbed with what they saw and soon wanted to leave as their mom commented ‘it’s not easy taking kids to a modern art exhibit’.
Video viewing rooms are dotted throughout the exhibit showing various installments that seem rather odd and strange when you happen to walk in midway through, which I inevitably did. One video featured cutaway scenes of a farmer at dusk and of cattle. Another video featured battleships at sea resulting in an explosion of various words and phrases that spilled out onto the floor, walls, and ceiling of the viewing room – words that were seen lining the corridors throughout the museum. This is certainly a bizarre exhibit but definitely worth seeing.
Also featured at the Guggenheim is their signature collection now in its newly renovated gallery space. It showcases the works of artists such as Constantin Brancusi, Marc Chagall, Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Joan Miró, and Piet Mondrian – artists that have radicalized abstract and nonobjective techniques across Russia and Europe throughout the early 20th Century. Wandering through this gallery was a delight to behold, especially for my review partner who has been a fan of Mondrian’s work for years.
The Thannhauser Gallery – for Justin K Thannhauser (1892-1976), son of art dealer Heinrich Thannhauser and founder of the Moderne Gallery in Munich in 1909 – is my personal favorite spot in the Guggenheim. Housing Thannhauser’s collection of French Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and Italian Futurists, the collection is rich, awe-inspiring and inviting. The collection features works from Claude Monet, and over 30 pieces by Pablo Picasso. In this collection, I discovered my new favorite piece by Picasso, one called Lobster and Cat which features an animated blue lobster attacking a petrified brown cat.
The Guggenheim Museum is one of the most impressive art spaces I’ve been to in recent memory, from the architecture and design of the space itself to the diverse range of artwork featured in its galleries and on its walls.
This is a space I can see myself visiting over and over with each visit to New York City and I highly suggest you spend an afternoon exploring its gallery spaces as often as you can.
Review and Photos by Samantha Wu