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My New York Public Radio Commentary on the Museum of Arts and Design This Morning

Edward Durell Stone’s 1964 Gallery of Modern Art, aka “The Lollipop Building”

In the same spot on Columbus Circle, Brad Cloepfil’s Museum of Arts and Design, aka “The ‘H’ Building,” with CNN’s offices behind it and Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower beside it

If all goes according to plan, you can hear my impressions of the new Museum of Arts and Design this morning at about 6:46 a.m. on New York Public Radio, WNYC, 93.9 FM. Or you can listen to me live on the web here, by clicking the red arrow in the lefthand column.

Architect Brad Cloepfil has completely reclad the exterior and reconfigured the interior of the white elephant on Columbus Circle that was famously called “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollypops [sic]” by architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in her mostly favorable review of the new building in the NY Times on Feb. 25, 1964.

I don’t get to say much about the architecture of the building in my soundbite, so let me say that Cloepfil did not use the front view of the building, above, in the promotional materials that his architectural firm handed out to the press. I assume that’s because he is still steaming about the big horizontal glass gash cut across the ninth floor, which forms the letter “H” that you see in the above photo. This window was added because the museum wanted diners at its new restaurant (opening in March) to enjoy sweeping views.

When I asked him about this window after the recent press preview, Cloepfil fumed through grit teeth:

It was against my intention and it is not my architecture.

But let’s move on to the important stuff: What about those lollipops?

Cloepfil declared:

They’re neutralized. I gessoed them out.

And so he has: They’re mere ghosts of the formerly colorful lozenges that you can see in the top photo. Now they’ve been brought indoors and coated white, and they function more like borders for the distinctively shaped lobby windows than as the attention-getting architectural elements they once were.

Here they are, as seen from the lobby:


And here, behind glass windows and photos of objects from the collection, as seen from the street:


But what we REALLY all can’t wait to find out is what Ada Louise thinks of this transformation. Her appraisal is to appear on the “Leisure & Arts” page of the Wall Street Journal, but I don’t know when.

Although the official ribbon-cutting by Mayor Bloomberg will occur this morning, the museum doesn’t open to the public until Saturday. But MAD’s shop, with unique or limited edition personal and home adornments by artisans and designers, opens today. I don’t buy much except books in most museum shops (in fact, I’m not much of a shopper at all), but I must confess that I’ve picked up some appealing gifts at the museum’s former 53rd Street location.

I will post on CultureGrrl the podcast for my WNYC musings, if and when that’s available online.

an ArtsJournal blog