Sunday, June 20, 2004

Another Set of Updates...part 2.

June 14th: Monday
Thanks to Alexandra Olson, whom I've mentioned before, I had the pleasure of discovering a museum I never knew even existed. Alex had invited me to the Community Resource Exchange’s 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Museum of the City of New York, honoring Hildy Simmons.

First off, I hadn’t been at a philanthropy-related event in quite some time, so it was refreshing to be around that energy. Second off, I’m always excited by the opportunity to discover new aspects of this city. I sincerely thought that I had been to every museum and established gallery (as opposed to the smaller galleries that seem to always be popping up) there is in the New York metro area, including the outlying suburbs, so when I saw the Museum of the City of New York on the invite, I was very much intrigued.

Admittedly, I hadn’t ventured that far north on the east side in a very long time -- I had gone to El Museo del Barrio when I was in high school, which is a block north of the Museum of the City of New York, at 104th Street. Although the city has become much safer now, I pretty much hadn’t ventured north of 86th Street on the east side, save for the few occasions I’d made it to the Guggenheim (89th) and Cooper Hewitt (91st).

With that said, I have since heard that the Museum of the City of New York is apparently considered one of the most elegant museums in the city, and I believe it. Although the Frick remains to be my favorite museum in the city, whose architecture I would describe more as being intimate, there are very few museums I would say that the architecture is as elegant as the Museum of the City of New York.

The Metropolitan, although elegant in its own right, I would describe as being grand. The Whitney, Guggenheim, and MoMA, although each unique in terms of modern architecture, are not necessarily graceful (I am, however, excited about the reopening of MoMA!) -- I mean no offense to Frank Lloyd Wright, but the Guggenheim, although a very unique piece of architecture, is a bit atrocious when it comes to its function as a museum -- its slanted floors are not conducive to appreciating art, in my humble opinion (although I’ve always been tempted to ride a sled down its entire length every time I’ve stepped foot in that museum). However, I will say that one of the most interesting exhibits I’ve seen in this city has to be the motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim.

In my opinion, I would have to rank the top ten New York City architecture in the following order, taking aesthetics, functional value, cultural value, and historic value into account:

1. Grand Central Terminal. Not only is it one of grandest piece of architecture, in my opinion, it still anchors the entire city. I’ve gone on and on about it in a former post.

2. Metropolitan Museum of Art. The palace of some of the greatest art, one of the best museums in the world, in a truly majestic, gigantic piece of architecture. I still have yet to have explored every bit of this building. I should mention here that their Cloisters extension is one of the most beautiful settings, and one of the best destinations in Manhattan that is peaceful and hardly ever crowded (because it is so far north, and so few people know of it).

3. American Museum of Natural History. One of the only saving graces of the Upper West Side, aside from Lincoln Center. Although, I have to say, Avery Fisher Hall itself is decidedly unimpressive considering the work that comes through it (the opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the ABT) -- during my most recent jaunt to there, for the opening night of Don Giovanni, I really felt again that the architecture, despite being an icon within American culture, is decidedly dated and lacking. Nevertheless, the Natural History is definitely one of the best destinations in the city, and I remember frequenting its Hayden Planetarium when I was younger. Then there was the diamonds exhibit I took a Velantine's date to one year, after a leisurely brunch at Isabella's across the street -- on display was the world's largest diamond...that would be three months' salary of, uh, Bill Gates, maybe.

4. Carnegie Hall. All of the fantastic music aside, it is one of the most beautiful, elegant surroundings to be in. I’m not sure if they still have them, but they used to have open rehearsals, and in my opinion, this is one of the best (cheap) entertainment you can get in this city. If the Capital Theater was still up, it likely would have shared this rank with Carnegie Hall...alas, instead of the Capital, we now have the Ziegfeld.

5. The New York Public Library, the Mid-Manhattan Central Library. Not only is the library itself one of the most extensive libraries in the city with wonderful architectural surroundings as featured in various films, Bryant Park at its rear is also one of the nicer small parks in the city, host to outdoor movies in the summer, and (groan) Fashion Week in the Spring and Fall. It was also here that, thanks to Robert Knapp, I got to briefly meet Stephanie Seymour, whom I've been infatuated with since my high school days, during a FORD Supermodel of the World Finals event this year. Also in attendance was Frederique, who sat at a table next to ours at the after party, at the Bryant Park Hotel right across the street.

6. (tie) St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. St. Patrick’s is the city’s most well-known cathedral and had to be mentioned. It is impressive architecturally, but what I like most is its location -- amidst all of the commercial frenzy of consumerism right on Fifth Avenue, right next door to Saks Fifth Avenue and across the street from Rockefeller Center. The contrast always made me laugh. However, St. Patrick’s has nothing on St. John the Divine, in terms of architectural immensity -- St. John is the nation’s (if not the world’s?) largest Gothic cathedral, and houses tapestries by my baptism namesake, the Italian artist, Raphael. The only problem is its accessibility -- it is located way up in Morningside Heights.

8. The Brooklyn Bridge. As one observer quipped when its construction was completed, (I forget the exact words): “all that effort into building such a majestic bridge to get to nowhere.” I would tend to agree -- the beauty and historic importance of this bridge, in conjunction with its engineering feat, is truly majestic, albeit all in an effort to get to...Brooklyn. A tip when walking across Brooklyn Bridge: if you keep your eyes focused at the top of its moorings, you get a sense that you are going downhill because of its cable patterns.

9. The Woolworth Building. The world’s first “skyscraper,” that began the frenzy of competition in the rest of the world. It was the world’s tallest building until it was outdone by the Chrysler Building, but as far as architectural touches go, hands down, it is still the best skyscraper in the city. I used to work in this building, and it was a pleasure to walk into this building every day, with its lofty foyer and classic, brass and leather elevators.

10. (tie) The General Post Office, James A. Farley Building at 8th Avenue, and the Federal Reserve Building. To bring up the rear of this list are two impressive, majestic buildings with very specific purposes. The immense General Post Office has the inscription on its façade that many consider to be the motto of U.S. postal couriers: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” (it is derived from a 3rd or so century B.C. Greek poem/novel in regard to its messengers during a war, I believe?). The building itself is impressive, and I also am partial to it because this is where all of New York’s children’s Christmas letters to Santa are collected -- volunteers can pick these up to grant those children their wishes. As for the Federal Reserve Building, although adorned with intricate ironwork, I will admit, it is not the prettiest building. However, it is a building whose purpose is immediately clear: “Do not enter.” It is an immense fortress of limestone and sandstone firmly planted in Manhattan’s bedrock, shunning anyone who dares enter it without proper credentials.

With that said, I should mention the Honorable Mentions -- there are so many great pieces of architecture in this city, especially in the old city around Wall Street and around City Hall. However, I will specifically mention the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, since these are buildings that make the New York City skyline immediately recognizable. I also must mention the Flatiron, since it is my favorite, general purpose building -- every time I stand in front of it, I feel as though I am looking at a massive concrete ship coming directly at me. Finally, I should mention the building that shares Madison Square Park with the Flatiron -- it is the building on Park/Madison Avenue, between 24th and 25th Streets (I don’t know its's where Credit Suisse First Boston has offices, so perhaps the CSFB building? On this note, I will say that it took me a long time to get used to calling the Pan Am building the MetLife building). It was intended to be the world’s tallest building, eclipsing the Empire State Building, only to have its construction halted by the Great Depression. Its construction never continued, and if you look at the building, it looks as though it was simply chopped.

Nevertheless, enough of that tangent -- after the CRE event at the Museum of the City of New York, we grabbed a light meal and headed home.

June 15th: Tuesday
The following night, I met up with Alexandra Olson yet again, this time at Sotheby's. The centerpiece of the night was Frank Lloyd Wright's studio that was being auctioned -- although Sotheby's has many properties in its stable, this proved to be an interesting challenge and an exciting piece. With that said, although there were also many other items on display, most interesting being a pseudo Art-Deco clock, I must admit I rediscovered my strong preference for natural wood finishes. I don’t have much more to say about that night, aside that it was good to actually talk and catch up with Alex, since we didn’t get the chance to really talk the prior night.

June 16th: Wednesday
It’s funny how a small world it can truly be at times. I was recently talking with Christy Spitzer (Wilson when we were at Tufts -- married Doug Spitzer, a great guy that works for the NFL) about her recent transition into production, and asked her where exactly she was. She’s at MTV Productions, and as soon as she mentioned that, I knew she might be working with my other friend from Tufts who works there, Ethan Goldman. Sure enough, she works for him!

Nevertheless, Ethan Goldman’s band, Astronaut, was playing at Luna Lounge in the Lower East Side, so we made plans to head down there. Because Christy had just returned from Paris, she was jet-lagged and decided not to go, but I was gung-ho to go, since I hadn’t seen live rock in a long long time. So, for the occasion, I donned my good ol’ ripped jeans, faded t-shirt, and headed down to Luna Lounge.

I had some beers, caught up with Ethan, met some of his colleagues, and had a great time overall -- I was very much impressed by Astronaut, at how tight as a band they were despite the relatively short time they have been together, which is testimony to each of the band members’ innate talent. It was also refreshing to hear actual talent, as opposed to the immense amount of crap that has saturated the “music industry” -- I really am often incensed by the state of the modern music industry...there is just so much crap being produced and distributed, true talent is harder and harder to find these days. When Norah Jones gained recognition in the past few years, some industry experts seemed sincerely surprised, but anyone that knows music will attest that it was about time when talent got some recognition in the modern music industry. I can go on and on about this, so I will stop here, and leave it for another post.

Although, I will say in closing that it is shows like American Idol that truly do disservice to the talented and pump up the egos of the untalented, that reflect just how tasteless Americans in general are when it comes to culture (don't get me started on its selection of its President). Furthermore, I was infuriated that Ronald Reagan’s passing, though as decent a man as he may have been and no matter what my political belief in regards to his achievements may be, by no means deserved the amount of press coverage, especially when Ray Charles passed away during the same week -- Ray Charles left an indelible, positive mark on people’s lives world over for over 70 years, and was one of the most talented musicians this planet has known. Again, this prioritization only reflected on how uncultured and unlearned the American public can be.


Post a Comment

<< Home

[Newer Posts] [Older Posts]