Thursday, January 21, 2010
I never really liked finger painting, but between K-12 in the public school system where I grew up, that was my first and only exposure to art. At the time I entered university in New York City, I had neither seen even one work of art nor was exposed to any form of classical music or opera. Music class in grade school consisted of mass embarrassment and faces buried in songbooks, with a handful singing and the rest lip-syncing.
There were some art electives in high school, but not many boys are going to take an art class when the sciences are championed above all else and defended on the basis of utility. Of course, preparing for the future is sensible, but somewhere in the education of an American student, shouldn't there be some exposure to the fine arts, if only that it is part of what makes an educated person in a civilized world?
My first exposures to art in galleries and museums of New York City were not good. I did not understand what I was seeing or what art was. The explanations, interpretations, and definitions were more vexing than my initial frustration, so I became defensive, seeing the world of fine art as one of impostors and charlatans. The fact that many artists are iconoclastic made matters worse - the lack of definitions and ways to measure art made it seem all the more whimsical and arbitrary to anyone inclined to numbers.
New York City has been a mecca for art and artists of every type for eons, and in time, a reasonable person begins to look at art seriously. Only the most obstinate can live in this city and maintain a militant anti-art posture for long.
In the last decade, over 250 galleries have moved to Chelsea. Only vestiges remain in neighborhoods such as SoHo. The more recent exodus has been out of Manhattan entirely to areas such as Willamsburg and Red Hook in Brooklyn.
The gallery in the photo is located at 501 West 23rd Street at Tenth Avenue and was the work of architects G. Phillip Smith and Douglas Thompson. The building was a work in progress over ten years, starting with a vacant lot. The design was inspired by the projecting balconies and walled courtyards Cairo houses of the 17th century. The exterior of the structure was built from sheets of cold-rolled steel and glass - the interior uses timber framing, stucco and fiberglass. See the New York Times article here.
The building houses Jim Kempner Fine Art, which specializes in contemporary art in all media and has shown world renowned artists since its opening in 1997. The courtyard currently features the sculptural work The Survival of Sirena (seen in the photo) by Carole Feuerman, part of her exhibition Swimmers, Bathers, Nudes. I'm just really happy I can enjoy art in New York City and no longer have to do finger painting :)