Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The shock of The New

When the New York dealer galleries moved to SoHo in the sixties and later to Chelsea and the meatpacking district, no one would have fingered the Bowery as potential real estate for a major art museum. Looking back there were some signs of course. The Bowery had been home, even through its roughest times, for a number of artist studios. Cheap rents weighed up against a wide and sometimes hostile avenue of broken glass, ominous shadows, fires burning in 40 gallon drums and constant requests for handouts. One artist who stayed the distance with a Bowery address was new Zealand-born Max Gimblett. His studio now butts up against the New Museum, the smart SANNA-designed building that will no doubt accelerate change on the Bowery and its neighbourhood. The New Museum has already purchased the building that houses Gimblett’s studio and home. Gimblett appears to have responded with one of his signature quatrefoil shapes marking his patch in the dark of his studio window.

The New Museum has come for some criticism that its galleries are overly understated, too small and lack finish. To us they are close to perfect with the subtle touch of the building’s screened facades expressed deep into its interiors. Marcia Tucker, the founding director of the New Museum, never confused the importance of flash and finish with the showing of art. Her legacy is a museum where form, quietly, elegantly and intelligently, follows function.

Images: Left the New Museum. Right Max Gimblett’s studio with quatrefoil.