A Haunted Afternoon at the Guggenheim

The Guggenheim

I’m convinced there isn’t a much better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than brunching and going to a museum.  On Sunday I set out to do just that.  We dined at the quintessential NYC brunch spot, Sarabeth’s, and after aptly stuffing ourselves with Sarahbeth’s finest omelettes, pumpkin muffins and homemade jams (one of Oprah’s favorite things!) we strolled a few blocks to the Guggenheim. The Guggenheim has hosted quite a hot exhibition, The Haunted, since late March and it was due time we looked into the buzz.

The Guggenheim itself is an impressive structure. It’s one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces and some architect once told me when he was commissioned to design the museum that he made sure all the walls were curved so that no picture would hang perfectly straight, thus keeping the primary emphasis on the building itself.  This might just be some old folklore, but I keep perpetuating it because it further portrays Wright as awesomely pompous. The Guggenheim is appropriately designed for wanderers (like me) as it is one big spiral downward, which makes it harder to get distracted and lost from room to room.

As with a lot of modern art, The Haunted exhibit delicately treads the line between cool and creepy (and possibly confusing?). The name itself implies that it is not one of those exhibits designed to capture beauty in the natural world, and its description confirms such a thought:  “Much of contemporary photography and video seems haunted by the past, by the history of art, by apparitions that are re­animated in reproductive mediums, live performance, and the virtual world. By using dated, passé, or quasi-extinct stylis­tic devices, subject matter, and technolo­gies, such art embodies a melancholic longing for an otherwise unrecuperable past.”

Part of the Herald Tribune series

The exhibit begins on the top floor with Tacita Dean’s Stillness.  Basically, this installation is six 16mm color films with old-school-movie-reel sound and films Merce Cunningham from different vantage points while sitting in a room.  I’m going to assume this one falls into James Franco’s category of “The best art is understood by only a few.”…and I am not one of them!  From there, there are many impressive things to see. I particularly enjoyed  Sarah Charlesworth’s Herald Tribune, which is an installation of the front-page of the Herald Tribune from November 1977, with all the text removed, just leaving pictures and the masthead. This series reveals trends in straightforward newspaper layout, but it was also odd to realize many of the people photographed, of varying importance, are now dead or no longer Page A1 newsworthy. Also notable were Walead Beshty’s chromogenic prints, which began after his film was overexposed by airport X-Rays and managed to turn them into some compelling, vibrant documentation of his European travels.

Really, the entire Haunted exhibit makes for quite a compelling visit to the Gugg. If for some unforeseeable reason you should find it disappointing, there are also the museum’s staples with Kandinsky, Malevich, and the entire Thannhauser Collection is worth the trip alone (Picasso, Cezanne, Monet, VanGogh, etc.)!  And if you aren’t in NYC, you can enjoy the online exhibit here.  Number 10—CHECK IT!

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2 Responses to “A Haunted Afternoon at the Guggenheim”

  1. …”some architect once told me”…

    nice citing of sources there Nic! 🙂

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