I don’t consider myself an arts or even museum buff. But when I travel, it seems like museums are a common place that I’d visit, usually when I’m travelling with friends. However, having said that, there are some places where I have not visited a single museum, e.g. Hong Kong, Taipei, Malaysia, etc. Mostly, the ones I’ve been to are in Europe because somehow the museusm there are among the must-visit places. Who can resist going to the Louvre in Paris even if just to admire the building and the inverted glass pyramid outside? I was there just once and the grounds of the grand dame were so massive I spent about 4 hours and covered only a miniscule section, catching a travelling exhibit of some of Da Vinci’s works and of course, the famed Mona Lisa, which kind of disappointed me because I’d expected it to be larger. It’s still mysterious in its own way but when the size of the portrait is reduced it seems too that the grandeur of it is pared down accordingly as well. Or it is just because I am superficial like that.
So in New York, even when I did not do one of the must-do things like watch a Broadway musical, I visited some museusm, three in total. I missed the Museum of Natural History, which was supposed to be really good but we didn’t have enough time for a fourth museum and like I mentioned in some of my previous posts we didn’t want a harried itinerary. Keeping it relaxing and simple was our key to this vacation.
We went to the Met on a Sunday, the day after that freak snowfall day where temperatures dipped greatly and it snowed/rained the entire day. The sun came out again and it was indeed a glorious day, even if it was still rather cold but the sunshine made up for it. If only we could enjoy the sunshine equally here in Singapore…
Being a Sunday, the Met was brimming with people, tourists and I suspect, locals as well. Perhaps I have never noticed before since I typically holiday during the warmer months (for some odd reasons perhaps to make use of the longer daylight hours), but these museums all come with coat-check counters, so you can leave your bulky winter clothing and paraphernalia with them and tour the museum in ease without having to lug so much around.
We were advised by friends to purchase the New York City Pass, which costs USD79 per person, and it covers complimentary entry to 4 museums. The one we missed was the Natural History museum, but if you are planning to hit all these 4, I’d say USD79 to pay for it is extremely worthwhile because with this you can skip the queue! It also includes other things, one of which is a ticket up to the Empire State Building, and some other ferry rides (which I cannot remember). The city pass can be bought over the counter at the museums (which we did at the Met), so you don’t have to make another separate trip to a tourist information counter for it. 🙂
Nice sunlight filtering through into the museum.
This was an interesting exhibit in the museum, which was made of reflective stones so that when light falls onto them, from different angles you can see different colours as you walk about it. We were shown this during a short free tour that we took of the museum. Since the Met is also an extremely large museum, we decided to join a tour that took us on the highlights of the place according to the guide who brought us around of course. There are various tours available to cater to different interests; ours took about an hour after which we continued to walk about on our own for another hour or so, visiting the various galleries with paintings by famed artists that I wanted to see, then left when we felt that we had about enough.
This was an interesting sculpture that was shown to us too, Ugolino and His Sons. There is a rather sad story behind this statue which depicts Ugolino imprisoned with his two sons and two grandsons, where they were left to starve. From what the guide said and also what I read briefly online, there was some doubt surrounding whether he consumed the flesh of his children when they starved to death but all in all the expressions on their faces looked rather disturbing.
Now this was a much nicer view to behold. Looking at this picture now makes me miss being on vacation. Ah… all that withdrawal symptoms never seem to abate.
On a separate day, we decided to pop into the Museum of Modern Art, more popularly known as MoMa. It’s a much smaller museum as compared to the Metropolitan Museum, and here they also have things that piqued my interest. I’m not really keen on seeing too many artefacts or sculptures or abstract stuff; usually what draws me to museums are galleries, which MoMa has, different from the Tate Modern in London which after a while, I realised wasn’t really for me.
I liked this part of the glass-windowed wall that looks out to the city of brown buildings, with a rare yard of sparse greenery next to it, and the facing building with similar glass walls is I think an office. Looks like a pretty cool place to be working in, but maybe not when it’s summer. Hehe.
Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” hung in one of its galleries, and recently I saw another version of this at the travelling Musee d’Orsay exhibit at our National Museum. Love the colours used here, the darkish blue of the sky with yellow spots that I would presume are the stars but look more like suns to me.
Another of his works also displayed in the MoMa is “The Olive Trees”, but this didn’t get as much attention from visitors as the former.
The MoMa was considerably crowded for a weekday late morning when we went, but with the City pass, again we got to skip the queue and went straight into the museum after checking our coats. One thing about the coat check counters was that they tend to be a little slow sometimes, and the people at the counters don’t seem too enthusiastic about their work. I know work is never really enjoyable but if you work in the service line, I guess it’s fundamental that you like to smile at people, whether you like it or not.
“Repose” by Picasso, another painting that drew me to it.
The MoMa also had a coupled of Monet’s Water Lilies and they were rather large drawings. More like panels, since they took up an entire wall. Although I just said I think paintings look nicer when they are bigger but bigger isn’t always better because honestly (art critics will probably blanche to hear me say this but hey I’m no connoisseur) I can’t really appreciate the Water Lilies.
We spent about an hour plus at the MoMa before heading out again into the streets. What I love about museums here are that they are all located right smack in town, so you don’t have to spend too much time commuting to/fro the museums.
The last one that we visited was the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, with its very unique shape designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Indoors, this circular part is actually a spiral ramp wherein the centre of it could be displayed exhibits. On our first visit the ramp was closed as they were in the midst of putting up a new display that began on November 4, 2011. So that was the day we returned, and boy was the queue long! But we skipped it of course.
The museum is even smaller as compared to the MoMa, but while they have an exhibit in the centre of the spiralling ramp, they also have other galleries with permanent collections, which I didn’t really see. I was only interested in this display.
These were actually works of Maurizio Cattelan, and I won’t pretend to know who he is or what he did. But I just marvelled at the way his various works were displayed in such an interesting manner, suspended by cables and harnesses to create such an epic installation. As I walked upwards on the ramp, I could get a closer glimpse of each of the hung exhibits, and some of them were rather odd-looking and disturbing. I guess that’s the thing with artists, they express themselves through their works and it’s not always a bed of roses so what emerges in art forms can also be with dark and unsettling results.
Overall, I felt that these were three really great museums and I was glad that we managed to pay them a visit. Perhaps if I were to visit New York again, I’ll return to check out what’s new at the Guggenheim, and I’ll also be sure to visit the Natural History museum then!