on this museum and its stash

Howard Hodgkin In Bed in Venice oil on wood in artist's frame 38.5" x 49"
[not promised]

Susan Rothenberg Dogs killing Rabbit oil on canvas 87" x 141"

Anselm Kiefer dem unbekannten Maler (To the Unknown Painter) watercolor & graphite on paper, three sheets 25" x 52.25"

I went to the Museum of Modern Art yesterday for a preview of the temporary exhibition of works from the UBS/PaineWebber/Donald Marron collection. It was only my second visit to the museum's new quarters; the first was also under the circumstances of a preview, that of the new building itself, but in the end I hadn't made it to the two floors which housed the core of the prmanent collection before having to leave to make way for a reception being laid for serious patrons.

I think I wasn't expecting any epiphany this time, and I found none, but I did find at least some of the same excitement which a visit had always promised before, and rewarded, during the years when the artists represented in this collection were first being adopted by the Modern.

It only took a few minutes in the first of the rooms partitioning the enormous spaces of the top floor temporary-exhibition galleries before I had to stop, step back and just wonder at the quality of the art which had just taken my breath away.

There was a Rauschenberg, two Oldenburgs (one a delightful proposal for replacing the Nelson Monument in busy trafalgar Square with an enormous gearshift), one each for Richter, Lichtenstein (a perfectly-simple round bevelled mirror) and Ruscha, two Johns, a Warhol and a large Artschwager which should make almost anyone a worshipper - of Artschwager. Oh, and behind the first partition, the most magnificent Howard Hodgkin I had ever seen. (and then the artist went one step further and titled it "In Bed in Venice" - forever guaranteeing its beauty as far as I'm concerned)

Where had these paintings and drawings been all my life? (well, at least much of my life) Everything was new to me. Where will they be next year? Some of these works are promised corporate gifts to MoMA, but not all.

In my circumstances at least, their individual quality (I leave the discussion of the collection as a whole, how it got to 53rd Street and the fundamental subject of corporate art to Roberta Smith) was the perfect introduction to my descent downstairs to the fifth and fourth floors not yet visited. By this time however the reality of the museum's scheduled closing time forced me to do something like a run-through. It was still just enough to remind me how much had been missed during the five years the museum had been closed.

I still think the building is a disappointment for anyone who has survived into the 21st century, but I'll admit I was certainly able to enjoy the stash from the last century hanging on its walls. Some of the views were pretty neat too (see the images below).

Even a museum of modern art is still a museum, a place where we go to see things that have already been done, or things that are already known, but maybe that's okay. If we're really interested, we'll always head for the smaller, sometimes less clean and less well-lighted spaces (see most of this blog's other posts) to see the things that are happening now, the things that aren't really known yet.

the less grand staircase

Cisitalia in the garden

layers of art

[the three images at the top from UBS]

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Hodgkin from t s mcclellan on February 7, 2005 9:40 PM

Howard Hodgkin None But the Brave Deserves the Fair Oil on wood I had forgotten about my early love for the paintings of Howard Hodgkin and his amazing sense of color. I appreciate James Wagner for reminding of it.... Read More

That is a beautiful Hodgkins! There was nothing that nice at the last Gagosian show. Thanks.