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The New Museum’s Architectural Rough Spots

(My previous posts on the new New Museum are here, here and here.)
I’m not bothered as much as critic James Russell is that the interior architecture of the New Museum “almost vanishes entirely” (as he states in his Bloomberg review). I think there’s something appropriate about a stark industrial loft aesthetic for just-created art.
But I do agree with him that the unlovely battalion of fluorescent bulbs casts an “antiseptic glare.” I wasn’t expecting Renzo Piano‘s symphonic orchestration of illumination, but this lighting seemed overly harsh and institutional—more suited to a prison or hospital than a museum. Chief curator Richard Flood believes, however, that traditional museum lighting would have been too “sentimental” and “theatrical.” Those adjectives will never be used to describe this:
NMLights.jpg
Also prison-like is the so-called “mesh”—more like a grate—that not only covers the building’s exterior, but also blocks the view from some windows. To me this unpleasantly conjured up the gates that have to be lowered to protect the security of neighborhood stores at night:
NMMeshW.jpg
The view through one of the few unobstructed windows brought to mind Robert Frost‘s “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Maybe they can get permission to commission a mural here:
NMWall.jpg
The view from the lounge at the top, the Sky Room with outdoor terrace, was more like it:
NMtop.jpg
Several of the other reviewers got excited by this staircase…I guess because it’s one of the few aspects of the unexceptional interior that was offbeat. But the older I get, the less enamored I am of long ascents in tight spaces:
NMStair.jpg
Here’s another up-close view of the “mesh” that swathes the exterior:
NMMesh.jpg
And here (barely perceptible, on the left) is senior curator Laura Hoptman in the eerie glow of the only work from the New Museum’s small permanent collection that is currently on display—the AIDS activist piece, “Neon Sign (Silence=Death)” from “Let the Record Show,” 1987, by Act Up (Gran Fury):
NMAids.jpg
It’s easy to miss this: It’s not on the gallery floors but tucked away on the landing of a stairway going down to the lower level.
All quibbles aside, the new New Museum is, overall, a great success, giving New Yorkers an exhilarating new vantage point from which to view the ever-changing cutting edge.

an ArtsJournal blog