Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Vacation5000: More Than Just Counties

I fly into Newark airport a little before six in the morning, claim my suitcase, and head toward the rental car claim area, several stops down the "SkyTrain." There I discover that my off-brand car rental company isn't located in the rental car area, but rather operates out of a hotel way the hell over yonder. So, it's all the way across the airport again on the SkyTrain, and then a wait for the airport shuttle, and then several minutes of careening through what seems like a completely random series of loopy roads, and then I arrive at the sketchy rental car company, which has a big sign in its entrance explaining that you can't take their cars any of the places that I plan on going. Sooo, it's back to the shuttle, back to the now very familiar SkyTrain, and back across the airport megaplex to where the real rental car companies are.

Finally blessed with wheels, I drove under the water to a city I had long heard of, a mystical, magical place called Manhattan. Then I drove around for a while, enjoying the general vibe and the density of landmarks. Without too much ado, though, I made my way north to

The Cloisters

In a park near the northern tip of Manhattan, The Cloisters is the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annex medieval collection. It is housed in an absurd and wonderful faux monastery into which various chunks of actual real European monasteries have been lovingly reassembled and inset.

There, I saw stuff like this:

and this:

...and of course this:

A few days later, I met up with the Monday Quiz at


I was really impressed with the art inside of Fallingwater, but it turns out not to be especially well known, and there aren't good images available. The main deal, in any event, is the building itself:

So then, a few days go by, I visit some cherished friends and blow by others as if intentionally setting out to insult them, yadda yadda yadda, and I end up at:

Dia: Beacon

This museum of modern and contemporary art is the most striking exhibition space I've yet seen. It's a converted factory with lots of natural light and truly immense gallary space, the perfect place for larger-than-life exhibits. Regretably, much of the collection focuses on particularly arid strands of contemporary art, the schools that are forever questioning what exactly art is anyway. It was almost embarassing to enter a room filled with carefully prepared blank white canvases; that sort of gambit was fresh and interesting when Duchamps scrawled his signature on the toilet, but that was 92 years ago.

One of the highlights were some Sol Lewitt line drawings, which were not (in this case anyway) a big aesthetic thrill but always intellectually interesting.

For my money, though, nothing could compare to Zoe Leonard's You see I am here after all, a collage of about six zillion historical postcards of Nigara Falls sorted by perspective and arranged in a great horizontal series of rectangles. I was enchanted.

But none of this museum-goin' -- none of my life up to this point, really -- could prepare me for:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Don't try to see it all at once," Mrs.5000 quipped in an Email to my Yonkers base camp. Indeed. Let me put it this way: the Met could give a priceless, important work of art to every man, woman, and child of Hometown5000 -- indeed, probably of Homecounty5000 -- and still be able to put on a damn fine show. It is so vast and filled with wonders that I have been sad ever since, and I suspect will forever after be a little sad, that I am here and not there.

I mean, there's a medieval statue in there called "Virgin and Child with Bird," and it was just so beautiful that I thought I was going to start crying right there. It was sublime. And I took careful notes on it, took its accession number and everything, but it's not even significant enough to make the website. The fairly comprehensive website. See what I'm saying? The place is so ridiculously abundant that its afterthoughts would be the reason to build a museum in another town.

It was not unlike, but yet more sublime, than this one.

Anyway, I saw... everything. Like this:

And this:

And this:

And so on. I recommend it highly, the next time you want to look at art in New York City.


Rebel said...

Looks like a good time was had. I know how you feel about the museum. I felt similarly in the Louvre. Initially I wasn't going to visit it (I'm not really into 'old' art) but once there I couldn't get enough. I stayed late the first day and went again another morning. I could spend weeks there. As dear as the Portland Art Museum is to my heart, I wouldn't mind living in a city with a world-class musuem.

Nichim said...

When I was a young thing, one of the things that my friends and I would do when we weren't hanging out at Waterfront Park in Beacon was take the train in to the city and go to museums. One time there was a special Rodin exhibit at the Met and I just stood in there and cried for what seemed like hours while my friend Erik Torch went to look at the Chinese stuff. Did you run into Erik Torch? I miss that guy.

Dug said...

Having just returned from Pennsylvania myself and as a previous resident and frequent visitor there I must point out an inconsistency. Your Monday quiz shows a lovely photo of Pittsburgh gleaming in the late day sunshine. Howev - your map has Allegheny County white. Did you miss a county? Did you not really go to Pittsburgh? Can you add yet another county to your total? I hope so! I'd be happy for you even though you've now surpassed me in counties and states!

Michael5000 said...

@Reb: I wouldn't mind if the PMA became a world-class museum. But I guess Papa Phil can't be into both football AND art. The two are pretty much contradictory.

@Nichim: When ~I~ was a young thing, I tried to talk friends with cars to drive me to the next town over, where there was a movie theater. And sorry, Mr. Torch was out sick that day.

@Dug: The Monday Quiz and I did not actually travel together. It went to Pittsburgh, Gettysburg, Philly, and Valley Forge, and I didn't go any of those places. We did, however, meet up at Fallingwater and had a beer in Uniontown afterward before going our separate ways.

mrs.5000 said...

You're giving up football, then? As Phil Knight has (allegedly) sworn off artlovin'?

Gonna be a quiet Saturday afternoon around here, I guess.

Jenners said...

So you drove in Manhattan? Are you nuts?????

And Fallingwater looks so cool .. I hope to visit there someday.

And you were on vacation without Mrs5000?

So many questions I have for you!

Michael5000 said...

@Jenners: I only count three, the answers to which are "sure," "not for that reason anyway," and "yes."

Dug said...

So I guess I'm not the only one who's driven to Uniontown just to get a county. I didn't stop for a beer though-should I have?

mhwitt said...

Makes me remember my day at the Met.

Back when I lived in New Jersey, I went to Manhattan to spend a long day with a friend who had recently moved to Connecticut.

We spent about seven hours in the Met. We saw the Egyptian exhibits, the North American Indians exhibit, lots of dioramas of wild landscapes from around the world, and a whole lot of 19th and 20th century painting from all over the Western World. I too was entirely in awe.

With aching feet, we sat down for dinner in a nearby restaurant. I remember getting out the museum map as we talked about our favorite parts and ate hungrily. After a while I realized that in those seven hours we had walked a bit less than 10% of the exhibit space.

And now I'm just sad that I have not managed to get back to the Met since then.

I always wanted to see The Cloisters too. In summary, I'm jealous. Except for the Newark Airport rental car part.

Unknown said...

M5K-- I suspect you were at Newark airport, and if so I had the exact same experience with probably the same off-brand rental car company while trying to get to a conference at Princeton. Except in my case they wouldn't let me have the car I reserved because they didn't want me to use a credit card unless I had a NJ driver's license? Which makes no sense? Anyhoo, I'm glad to hear that you loved the MMA. I love them for their art, but also because they paid me to live in Spain for a year and look at more art!

Michael5000 said...

@mhwitt: Great Met story! And very understandable! Even looking at the map while I explored, I had to keep revising upward my comprehension of the sheer extent of the place.

@Becky: Yes, Newark, and yes -- what a strange little rental car company it was. And, Thanks MMA! for your year in Spain, which I got to enjoy vicariously!

Aviatrix said...

There's a rental car in Newark that does not permit you to drive to Manhattan? Are their cars on a track, next to a sign showing how tall you have to be to go on the ride?

Michael5000 said...

@Aviatrix: Ha! Actually, it was faraway places like Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia that would have been the problem.