Saturday, July 31, 2021

See the Sculpture Garden Blooming in Mid-Manhattan

In this summer of a zombie virus that doesn't die, the streets of mid-Manhattan can offer a bit of inspiration and beauty and hope.

I commute into New York City a few days a week, and here are some images of the unique sculpture garden I've found in walking to the office and at lunch.

Beginning at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where "The Commuters" by George Segal depicts three people waiting for the same bus since 1980, and it's perpetually 3 o'clock...

Outside the terminal, an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of Jackie Gleason, clad in his Honeymooners bus driver's uniform, looks out over Eighth Avenue, in a statue by Larry Nowlan, "Presented by the People of TV Land."

Heading east, past The New York Times building, I'm reminded of Dad. He spent many years working in the building behind the statue here. The aptly-for-Dad named "Guardian Superhero" is one of a pair of 13-foot statues by Antonio Pio Saracino at the entrances on either side of the plaza behind 3 Bryant Park.

Wandering north to Seventh and 53rd, there's a sign of hope, literally, courtesy of Robert Indiana. We're not in Philadelphia anymore... 

And then back down to Rockefeller Center, where Tom Friedman encourages everyone to "Look Up."

Head south to Grand Central Terminal (one of my favorite places in the city) to see the new kid in town: the towering One Vanderbilt skyscraper. Its soaring lobby, still locked and opposite the terminal, houses this twisting, reflective, untitled 2020 sculpture by Tony Cragg.

Nearby, along Park Avenue, I'm happy to see dog and rabbit still having coffee together at “The Table of Love,” a private commission at 237 Park by Gillie and Marc Schattner, perhaps the city's most prolific creators of public art. Two empty seats invite others to join them.

Further up along the avenue are two whimsical giants by Kaws, the artist Brian Donnelly. The pink one (my favorite) is called "BFF" (at 280 Park), and just a few blocks north "WHAT PARTY" stalks the entrance to the Seagram Building.

I do eventually arrive at work. Here's "Contrappunto," an older sculpture (1963) by Beverly Pepper, outside my office building at 777 Third Ave.

But then, at lunchtime, I'm back on the streets heading further east, toward the United Nations sculpture garden. It's still locked, but you can stick your cell phone between the bars of the gates to get a clear view of "Good Defeats Evil" by Zurab Tsereteli, with a dragon depicting a nuclear warhead.

Then I wander back, past Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, where three works by Jim Rennert are on temporary display until late August: "Timing," "Inner Dialog" and "Commute."

No sculpture garden is complete without a water feature... like the waterfall tucked between buildings on East 51st Street, between Second and Third, a beautiful place called Green Acre Park.

Here are related posts about sculpture gardens in New Jersey: Grounds for Sculpture and a vest-pocket park in Teaneck.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Van Gogh, the Brand: Pictures at an Exhibition

I love technology; I love New York; I love art museums; I love taking photos; I love date night.

So I eagerly purchased tickets to attend one of the various “immersive Van Gogh” experiences now popping up everywhere following the wildly successful Atelier des Lumières installation in Paris in 2018.

People I admire whose opinion I respect have also wholeheartedly recommended a visit.

Since I find it hard to be wholehearted about anything, I wanted to post these thoughts about my visit last night. Most of the images speak for themselves.

Yes, I’d go again: It’s great for date night. I imagine, earlier in the day, lots of loud, happy children running around, but that’s OK too. I would have loved the opportunity to have taken my daughters to something like this when they were young.

Bottom line: It’s an Instagram and people-watching paradise.

Entrance, left; gift shop, right.

I’d temper expectations, though, with these half-dozen observations:
  • It’s essentially a high-tech slideshow (reminding me of the highly choreographed July 4 fireworks displays).
  • It’s not totally “immersive” (with all the pedestrian activity and curtains and pipes and scaffolding and neon Exit signs).
  • Mind all the wandering people holding up cell phones (including me!).
  • Mind all the restless people on never-ending searches for the best seat in the house (it’s all pretty much the same, but I admire their motivation).
  • There’s an app for all this (and it’s quite good, too).
  • There’s a gift shop about the size of half a football field (peppered with AR app-enabled activations), and prix-fixe $36 parking at the Pier 36 site.
That last is the point that disheartened me: all the commercialism, all the Van Gogh-branded merchandise.

Van Gogh’s work is now in the public domain — unlike all the Instagram photos taken at the exhibit that Mark Zuckerberg probably now owns.

A half dozen promoters of expensive, immersive Van Gogh exhibits are now profiting off the work of an artist who only sold one painting during his lifetime.

I went to the “original” exhibit at Pier 36 near South Street Seaport. I won’t risk copyright infringement by mentioning the exact name. Rest assured, there’s another similar immersive Van Gogh exhibit on the other side of Manhattan on Vesey Street, or coming soon to a town near you.

Juxtapose this commercialization of the artist with this sentimental, often-viewed video clip from a 2010 BBC episode of “Doctor Who”:

I get — and applaud — that immersive art exhibits are tantalizing glimpses of the quality of the entertainment and educational experiences made possible by technology.

I just don’t get the same connection to the source.

Not everything is a show, and Vincent Van Gogh wasn’t a brand. His painting of crows over a cornfield in Arles has long had deep personal meaning.

To me, it had always been a suicide note somehow translated to canvas.

Until last night, when it was just another Instagram post:
PS- Sometimes the view outside the exhibit is just as lovely.