Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Completely Impartial Review of the New Museum

I got to check out the New Museum — and let's not start a slapstick routine here, that's the museum's name, okay? — yesterday, about a week after its re-opening and re-imagining. I never had very nice things to say about the old New Museum... er, the previous New Museum, except that admission was only three bucks. The art was nothing memorable, save for one animatronic sculpture on temporary display of a boy fucking a goat, and a piece by Tom Friedman that was a six-inch sphere of cursed space, which is totally cheating. Some of Friedman's other work was less dickish, which is why I can't remember any of it.

I guess they tore the old museum down, quietly: I spend a good deal of time in Soho and blissfully unaware of the move. The new New Museum is, according to the pompous jackass art critic in the Village Voice (and having a last name that's both hyphenated and has an acuté accent ain't helping, Christian), "an instant classic." This dude so wants to sleep with the New Museum. The museum is, from the outside, a stack of precariously-balanced gleaming white boxes, kind of cool and inviting on its own... but the hyper-modern structure lives on the Bowery, a street most notable for its many grunge punk rock clubs and restaurant supply stores, and to say it doesn't fit in is an understatement. Not that I'm particularly fond of the Lower East Side ex-tenement architectural vibe, but the new glass and fiberglass buildings popping up like zits feel like Tim Gunn walking into the Bowery's homeless shelter in his thousand-dollar suit and shiny tie and making fun of what the residents are wearing.

Speaking of which, all the staff at the new New Museum has to wear these black uniforms with, like, leather shoulder patches, and they totally made me think of rebel storm troopers on casual Friday.

The show, "Unmonumental," is the same tired, lazy, pointless sculpture and installations we've come to expect from modern artists, and I guarantee that everybody on display is friends of a friend of a curator. Admission is twelve dollars, which goes to support performance artists walking up and down the street, screaming love poetry "a reflection on the difference between speaking and listening—a kind of confession combining the idiom of politics, the transmission of secrets, and the language of love." Do what I do and bring along a friend who works at one of the city's art museums, is totally into art, and is therefore obligated to go to the New Museum and think deeply about "the Object in the 21st century" anyway. They get an art community free pass plus a guest pass, so it's like I get to be an incomprehensible douche for a day, too!

Like I really need an art museum to do that. ;)

Briefly, the exhibition includes — and I'm not sure that I didn't hallucinate this whole thing — a bike, on top of a pile of fuschia bricks, with bags of rocks hanging off the handlebars, a pole sticking out of its back, a fur drape hanging off the pole and a picture of Mel Gibson taped to the fur.

Normally, there's this moment where I challenge the artists to justify themselves, taking up my time and energy and potential for a MacArthur Genius Grant, but not anymore. The justification is damn futile; the artwork, like the museum itself, is self-absorbed and solipsistic, unaware of anything beyond its own boundaries — like the idea that just maybe, there's some poor guy walking to work on the Bowery, he just wants to sell his restaurant supplies and now this indifferent behemoth is suddenly blinding his eyes and not purchasing a pizza oven. Nothing in the New Museum is the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, for example, celebrating the resplendence of God and beauty and salvation. The pieces here have no context, no story, and they rarely even serve as examples of whatever abstract, abstruse philosophical psychobabble the artist's trying to reflect.

I did, however, like the bathrooms. They had this high-speed hand dryer thing, and it was like all whoooooosh!