Monday, February 2, 2009

Why I hate the new Modern

With every renovation and addition the Museum of Modern Art has gotten worse and worse. Philip Johnson’s expansions of the 1950’s and 60’s was sterile and noisy, but compared to Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi’s new space, Johnson’s building seemed like a chapel. At least the proportions were comfortable and you could look at the art without too many distractions. What we have today is more like a busy shopping mall with arty and wasteful architectural conceits.

Here are a few of my main gripes:
  • Most of the exhibition spaces are clamorously noisy. It’s not only because the Museum is popular -- the Met has a lot of people too but it rarely feels unpleasantly crowded. 
  • The MOMA rooms are too large, too brightly painted and lit; and they feel more like corridors than intimate self contained spaces. 
  • I admit the galleries for the permanent collection are nice. The wood floors and human proportions create an intimate environment allowing peaceful concentration of the work. But even there you can easily get lost and feel you’ve missed some rooms. 
  • The entry lobby is unwelcoming and more chaotic and confusing than the streets it connects. 
  • The Sculpture Garden is too geometric and formal and lost the intimacy of the old garden even though it is isolated from the street by a two-story blank wall on 54th street. 
  • And the nerve of that! Yes it’s nice to have a peaceful garden removed from the bustle of the street (although it’s not exactly a quiet space anyway) but to put a high blank wall on a public street? Why not place the garden in the middle of the museum or at least put something of interest along 54th street? 
  • Very little art can succeed in that ridiculously high (110 feet!) atrium. They actually put Monet’s Water-lilies in there when it opened and people were so outraged they quickly returned it to a quieter space (but still not as good as the old building where it had it’s own room). The Martin Puryear show worked well, and the current Pipilotti Rist video projections are okay, but it’s a really tough space -- and such a waste. 
  • Someone is going to get hurt, if they haven’t already, on those escalators. There’s no clear direction to go when you get off so some people just stop at the bottom trying to decide whether to go left or right. I’ve seen some pretty unpleasant pile-ups. 

They have such a great collection, it’s too bad it’s now necessary to work so hard to appreciate it.

No comments: