We spent our anniversary visiting the Museum of Modern Art.
The subway trip to MOMA was more involved than all the previous subway trips we had undertaken by ourselves. We had to change trains twice, I think, to get to the right stop. And then we nearly walked right by the museum because the exterior didn’t look anything like what we expected.
First stop was the Degas exhibit, A Strange New Beauty. Be advised that link will probably only be good through the end of the exhibit on July 24, 2016, so I’m going to steal the website copy that describes the exhibit:
Edgar Degas is best known as a painter and chronicler of the ballet, yet his work as a printmaker reveals the true extent of his restless experimentation. In the mid-1870s, Degas was introduced to the monotype process—drawing in ink on a metal plate that was then run through a press, typically resulting in a single print. Captivated by the monotype’s potential, he immersed in the technique with enormous enthusiasm, taking the medium to radical ends. He expanded the possibilities of drawing, created surfaces with a heightened sense of tactility, and invented new means for new subjects, from dancers in motion to the radiance of electric light, from women in intimate settings to meteorological effects in nature. The monotype also sparked a host of experiments for Degas, who often used the medium as a starting point from which an image could be reworked and revised. This process of repetition and transformation, mirroring and reversal, allowed Degas to extend his approach to the study of form. The profound impact of his work with monotype can be seen in his variations in different mediums of key motifs, revealing a new kind of artwork that was less about progress or completion than endless innovation.
The exhibition includes approximately 120 rarely seen monotypes—along with some 60 related paintings, drawings, pastels, sketchbooks, and prints—that show Degas at his most modern, capturing the spirit of urban life; depicting the body in new and daring ways; liberating mark-making from tradition; and boldly engaging the possibilities of abstraction.
I loved this exhibit’s insight into Degas’s process, working out his art in multiple forms and media before committing to paint and canvas.
We then wandered through most of the permanent collection. I had my eye out for The Starry Night, and when I finally saw it, hanging on a feature wall all by itself, I squealed: “There it is, there it is!” and ran, I mean literally ran, to stand in front of it. And I cried. Of course, I knew I would because this has been my favorite painting for nearly 40 years; seeing it in person was an intensely emotional experience.
True confession: I got all misty again, just looking at the photo I took. Reproductions don’t do it justice. The actual painting is incredible: vibrant, glowing, pulsing with color. It’s alive. It positively sparkles.
Spouse had nearly the same reaction to his favorite painting, The Persistence of Memory. It’s behind glass: you can just barely see spouse framing the photograph in the reflection, with the rest of the gallery behind him. “Persistence”‘s reputation looms so large, I was surprised at how tiny the actual painting is: barely larger than a standard sheet of typing paper.
Spouse also fell in love with the 1961 Jaguar displayed in the sculpture gallery.
Yeah. That’s an awfully pretty piece of machinery. And it had its own guard making sure no one stepped over that perimeter line marked on the floor.
I could have spent all day here, because there’s so much to see, but spouse can tolerate paintings and sculpture and modern design and multi-media exhibits for only just so long. After three or four hours, he was done. So we made our way back to Times Square because we had noticed a couple of other exhibits at the Discovery Museum down there that spouse wanted to see and to which our GoPass granted entry.
The first was Body Worlds, a fascinating display of anatomy, functionality, and the sheer beauty of the human form, stripped down, literally, to its barest essence. I don’t recommend this exhibit if you’re squeamish about body parts or nudity, but if that doesn’t bother you and you’re at all curious in how all our moving parts work together, this is absolutely a must-see. I’m posting only one photograph in case there are some squeamish readers. Just scroll past quickly. Or not.
The second exhibit we saw, at the same museum, was Vikings. Wow. The first thing to greet you when you walk through the door is a replica of a Viking longboat. It’s spectacular. The rest of the exhibit is equally gorgeous: tools, clothing, jewelry, weapons — most of them the actual items, with just a few replicas because the originals are so precious or rare that they can’t be risked on public display — along with some interactive displays, like handling a replica sword, and lots of dioramas (I believe they were stills from The Vikings TV show on Discovery‘s sister channel, History) and information stations discussing religion, village life, exploration, all manner of cultural and sociological background. It’s a niche exhibit, just right for a history and archaeology nerd like me. Highly recommended.
As can be expected, we were exhausted by the end of the day and didn’t manage to go out for our fancy anniversary dinner that evening. But we and the dinosaurs tried out several eating spots throughout the day. Just a couple more pictures and we’ll call this one done.
There’s one more full day to tell you about. Stay tuned.