New York City Art Museums and Art Galleries

Yesterday I made my 50th day trip to New York City. On this trip I managed to visit three art museums and six art galleries. Unfortunately the weather was pretty bad with strong wind and rain throughout the day. But I actually had this art museum itinerary prepared as an alternative itinerary for a rainy day. I only took 76 photos on this trip since the rain made me reluctant to take out my camera.

The Susquehanna Trailways bus that took me to New York City was advertising the Penn College Wildcats sports team. I took several photos of the bus with this design.  I arrived in New York City at 10:00 a.m. and immediately walked to the nearest Times Square 42nd Street subway entrance. The Times Square station is truly immense. I must have walked several blocks to find the 7 train. Unfortunately, the 7 train was not running over the weekend due to scheduled maintenance. My first goal was to go the MoMA PS1 art museum in Queens and I not know how to get there except by taking the 7 train. I had to take an N train to Queensboro Plaza in Queens instead. But that placed me one station beyond the Court Square Station and the 7 train was not running between these stations. I had to take a free shuttle bus to get to Court Square Station. This was the first time I’ve taken a MTA bus on these day trips. I did not have to swipe my MetroCard or provide any proof that I was transferring from the subway.

MoMA PS1

MoMA PS1

I arrived at MoMA PS1 around 11:00 a.m. but discovered they did not open until Noon. I also thought the ticket price was $25.00 and not $10.00. My confusion on this score was probably caused by the MoMA web site which shows you the opening time and ticket price for the main museum in Manhattan. I was also confused about where the front entrance is located. It is actually along Jackson Avenue in what appears to be a gift shop. After buying your ticket in the gift shop you walk outside through an open courtyard to  the actual entrance of the museum. It was all very confusing. I had to spend an hour in Queens in the rain waiting for the museum to open. Ordinarily I would have walked around a few blocks exploring the neighborhood but the fierce wind prevented that. I found my way to the nearby John F. Murray Playground and stood under some trees for about a half hour before returning to the museum which had a few tourists waiting for it to open.

The main exhibit at MoMA PS1 was Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts. Bruce Nauman is perhaps best known for his neon sign artwork “The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths” in which that phrase appears in a spiral. I saw a copy of that in the exhibit. The rest of the exhibit was like a fun house of bad art and bizarre experiences. For example one room featured television sets playing videos of a clown screaming “No” repeatedly. That would be Bruce Nauman’s Clown Torture (1987) piece. I saw Learned Helplessness in Rats (Rock and Roll Drummer) (1988). Pacing Upside Down(1969) 60 minutes with his arms held over his head, hands crossed, Nauman is moving jerkily around a perimeter defined by a square drawn on the studio floor, filmed by a fixed camera, placed upside down. There seemed to be more recent versions of this work including one in 3D which you had to watch wearing 3D glasses. I also saw his Black Balls video which appeared to be Bruce Nauman massaging black makeup onto his testicles.  Gross! An audio piece Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of This Room 1968 was actually kind of creepy. So basically this exhibit was a lot of conceptual art which makes you wonder at what can pass for art.

I had lunch at the M. Wells Dinette within MoMA PS1 since I did not want to go back out into the elements. This cafeteria-style restaurant is designed like a school cafeteria since the museum is located within a deserted Romanesque Revival public school building. I entered the cafeteria and took a seat but it did not look as if a waiter was going to come take my order so I got up and took one of the clipboard menus and placed my order at the counter. I ordered the skirt steak and a cappuccino. The skirt steak came with scalloped potatoes (aka Potato Gratin) and some greens (Beurre Rouge). Beurre Rouge must have been the dressing on the greens. It was really good and definitely gourmet quality for under $25.00.

Before leaving the museum I visited the Artbook book store which is something separate from the gift shop at the entrance to the museum. They had a vast selection of art books with maybe too many on politics but after browsing I eventually settled on Goodbye World! Looking at Art in the Digital Age by Omar Kholeif. This book cost me $30.00 even though it is a small paperback book. The art world has been slowly embracing the Internet and digital technology. At this point it is really hard to deny that online culture is a big part of everyone’s life and our art can hardly fail to reflect that. I’ve been a bit too conservative in feeling that anything online isn’t real art but digital art now appears in art galleries.

I think I left MoMA PS1 at around 2:00 p.m. and my next goal was to return to Manhattan to visit the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Once again I could not follow my trip directions. I was going to take a F train from Court Square Station but this did not appear to even be an option. The F line does not go to the Court Square Station. I wound up taking an E train towards the World Trade Center. This train didn’t really take me anywhere near the New Museum of Contemporary Art so at the West 4th Street Station I got off and transferred to the F train to go to the Second Avenue Station. That was a pretty expect navigation of the subway system so I was mighty pleased with myself.

New Museum of Contemporary Art

New Museum of Contemporary Art

I arrived at the New Museum of Contemporary Art at around 2:30 p.m. They gave me a plastic bag for my umbrella. I tried to leave my umbrella at the coat check counter but they would not accept it. I did eventually talk them into accepting my book and hat. The major exhibit at the New Museum of Contemporary Art was Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Sarah Lucas is a controversial British artist, part of the generation of Young British Artists who emerged during the 1990s. Much of her work was obscene and angry but in a way that I liked since it was more outrageous than transgressive. I watched two of her videos. One video was Sarah Lucas reading some poetry and the other video was Sarah Lucas giving a nude man an egg massage. This video really bordered on being straight pornography.

The New Museum of Contemporary Art does not have any permanent exhibits so if you are not interested in the current exhibit then you should not go there. In the South Galleries I saw Marguerite Humeau’s “Birth Canal” which was a sculpture and sound installation. The sculptures where in the shapes of prehistoric Venus figurines that you encountered in a dark gallery. I also saw a bit of a film Marianna Simnett’s Blood In My Milk which was being shown on multiple walls of a gallery filled with people lounging on the floor. There were a lot of people sitting on the floor so I had to stand. I didn’t watch much of this film because it looked stupid and I felt a little uncomfortable. I would say my visit to the New Museum of Contemporary Art was a bit of a bust except for the opportunity to see the work of Sarah Lucas. I checked out the gift shop but I could not find a small, reasonably priced book.

After leaving the New Museum my goal was to visit some art galleries because there are actually many art galleries along the Bowery. First I entered the Soho Contemporary Art gallery which wasn’t even on my list. Since it was dark and stormy out every establishment had its light on and you could easily spot the art galleries and see people inside. After crossing Houston Street I visited the Hole gallery next. This is an art gallery which I must have walked past on my way to see the Blondie mural without even noticing it. The Hole gallery had some interesting geometric art and some rather crude but colorful art. Naturally I took another photo of the Blondie mural since it was just around the corner and I took a few photos of the Bowery Electric, a rock music venue.

The Hole Gallery

The Hole Gallery

The next art gallery I visited was Pop International Galleries which is south of the New Museum on the Bowery. Pop International Galleries had lots of interesting artwork including New York City street scenes done in a graphic arts design and art made out of pushpins with glittery heads. From Pop International Galleries I walked west on Spring Street even though I had intended on walking along Broome Street. Spring Street was probably better since I came across more interesting stores like Amazon 4-Star and the MoMA design store. My goal was to walk to the Drawing Center on Wooster Street.

The Drawing Center on Wooster Street was an art museum I attempted to visit of my last trip to NYC. Unfortunately they were closed for an installation back then but I found them to be open on this trip. Inside I saw an exhibit entitled For Opacity featuring the art work of Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn. I was expecting to see drawings arranged on tables but I saw large works of art hanging on the walls. I bought the book Drawing Papers 138 which was a publication featuring photos of the artwork in the exhibit.

AFA Gallery

AFA Gallery

The AFA Gallery is not far from the Drawing Center so I went there next. I saw fantasy paintings by Nicoletta Ceccoli and Bill Carman which looked very surreal. Bill Carman’s art in particular had a steam punk aesthetic and struck me as being very imaginative. While walking back towards Canal Street I came across yet another art galley, the Jeffrey Deitch gallery, which was not on my itinerary but I entered this art gallery as well. The Jeffrey Deitch gallery had a variety of art work in a large space which included a second level.

To get back uptown I walked to the Canal Street Station in the Tribeca neighborhood which I remembered from my previous trip. Only an E train was available to take me uptown so I got off at the 42nd Street Station but around the 44th West Street area. From there I walked to the Drama Book Shop. I wasn’t planning on going to the Drama Book Shop but it is on my list of secondary things to do on my itinerary. I didn’t really want to buy any more plays so I looked for books on playwriting which I might not have. I found Jon Klein’s Life as a Playwright: A Survival Guide which seemed right up my alley. I’m definitely interested in any book which covers the career side of playwriting. Most books only tell you how to write a play. This book was kind of expensive at $29.95 so I paid for it with my credit card. The truth is that I’m getting a little discouraged with playwriting since the theater is being invaded by social justice warriors. That is why I made art the focus of this trip.

The final art gallery I visited was Last Rites Gallery on West 38th Street. The Last Rites Gallery is my favorite art gallery in New York City and for a long time it was the only one I ever went to, but it is still the best. The Last Rites Gallery features morbid art that appeals to the Goth in me. You can always expect to see at least one corpse portrait at the Last Rites Gallery. They were preparing the 10th Annual 13th Hour show which appears to be some kind of competition. I saw a variety of work by various artists but everything seemed to be the artist’s strongest work so everything was amazing.

I left the Last Rites Gallery around 6:00 p.m. and still had two hours to kill before catching the bus home so I decided to look for a place to eat. Eventually I decided to give the Playwright Celtic Pub on 8th Avenue a try since I’ve walked past this place many times. I don’t think the Playwright Celtic Pub has anything to do with playwrights. It is more of an Irish bar kind of place but they do serve food like a restaurant. I ordered the Celtic Pub Burger and an Irish Coffee followed by raspberry sorbet for dessert. The Celtic Pub Burger was pretty large and I could not finish it. This meal cost me $40.00 with tip. I would have left a smaller tip if I had smaller bills but I only had two twenties.

For the rest of the evening I briefly walked around Times Square and took a few photos as the rain had died down a lot. On the ride home they played the Back To The Future movie which I ought to buy on DVD. I couldn’t really hear the movie well enough to watch it on the bus. We did make a comfort stop at McDonalds where I bought a small milk shake.

This was another inspiring trip to New York City even though theater was not part of this trip. I still found the art museums and art galleries inspiring. I managed to meet every objective on my itinerary and even squeezed in a little more. I’m not sure if there is anything left for me to see in New York City, except for art galleries in Chelsea. Maybe I just need to be more adventurous and consider going to establishments that I’ve never considered before like the Playwright Celtic Pub.

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