Today marks fifty years of the Gugenheim museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to house the collection formerly known as ‘The Museum of Non-Objective Painting’ and shown in rented rooms on 24th street.

After three years of renovations leading up to the anniversary, the building, a landmark since 2008, looks largely the same as when it was built–a feat which, when you read about it, turns out to come from an incredible amount of work, both highly technical and pure stick-with-it manual labor. Laser surveys, sampling, testing.

photo via nytimes

photo via nytimes

Photos of the museum from ’07, early in the process show a grey exterior, stripped of twelve layers of paint, cracked and mottled.

Later on, when it came time to repaint last year, all of the paint samples underwent analysis. Wright’s thoughts on the matter were consulted posthumously, including his suggestion that the museum be painted his favorite Cherokee Red. Proponents off-white came up against supporters of Wright’s original light yellow, until decided by a 7-2 vote from New York’s Landmarks Commission. A member noted: “This debate has been watched by the entire world.

Unfortunately no Cherokee Red. The commission decided on off-white.

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The New Yorker books blog reported that, going against  national trends , the New York Public Library has extended operating hours at ten branches.

Alfred Kazin wrote about working away at his first book in the central library’s main reading room during the Great Depression years (alongside Richard Hofstadter) in his memoir, A Jew in New York. “Street philosophers, fanatics, advertising agents, the homeless—passing faces in the crowd.”

Room 315 was Kazin’s regular haunt, now in all the tourist guidebooks. It actually prompts one of the most incredible descriptions of the act of writing in print.

I liked reading and working out my ideas in the midst of that endless crowd walking in and out of 315 looking for something; that Depression crowd so pent up, searching for puzzle contests, beauty contests, clues to buried treasure off Sandy Hook; seeking lost and dead and rich relatives in old New York  books of genealogy and Pittsburgh telephone books.  Reading in the midst of this jumpy Depression crowd, I, too, was seeking fame and fortune by sitting at the end of a long golden table next to the sets of American authors on the open shelves.  I could feel on my skin the worry of all those people; I could hear day and evening those restless hungry footsteps; I was entangled in the hunger of all those aimless, bewildered, panicky seekers for “opportunity.” I must have looked as mad to them as they did to me: jumping up with excitement and walking about the great halls as I discovered that just for the asking I could obtain all the books anyone would ever want to read by William Dean Howells, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Joseph Kirkland, Robert Herrick, Ed Howe, Henry Blake Fuller, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London. I could read the mind behind each book. I felt connected with the text. There was some telepathy working between me and the invisible person, the omnipresent mind, that had put down these words.  I was hungry for it, hungry all the time. I was made so restless by the many minds within mmy reach that no matter how often I rushed across to the Automat for another bun an coffee, to fuel up at those stand-up tables for New Yorkers too harried to eat their food sitting down, I could never get back to my books and notes, “BACK SOON, DO NOT DISTURB,” without the same number pains tearing me inside.  There was something about the vibrating empty rooms early in the morning—light falling through the great tall windows, the sun burning the smooth tops of the golden tables as if they had been freshly painted—that made me restless with the need to grab up every book, press into every single mind right there on the open shelves.  My book was building itself. The age was with me. “ON THE DIFFUSION OF EDUCATION AMONG THE PEOPLE REST THE PRESERVATION AND PERPETUATION OF OUR FREE INSTITUTIONS.”

Better than yesterday

August 31, 2009

It has finally started cooling down in New York City, but to contribute some perspective on the past few weeks, you can look to the New York Times of July 1, 1901.

city a furnaceAfter exhaustively listing the hour by hour temperature changes and breezes throughout the day, the reporter notes that at least some improvement had been marked over the day before.noticeable

For other cheerful reading, I suggest perusing “The Streets of Midsummer” from July of 1852.

img via nytimes.com

I was at the Museum of Modern Art this week. A rainy day expedition.

Martin Kippenberger’s massive installation, The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika,’ on display a floor above the atrium (re?)imagines the ending of Kafka’s first and unfinished novel. It “depicts the job interview as spectator sport.”

I imagine MoMA curators huddled in a circle in discussion of how the museum’s exhibitions can respond to the times.

This is exactly what they feel like.

For more on the Kippenberger installation, read the NYtimes article on the exhibition.

Photo via nytimes

More from the archives:

December 6, 1929

“Co-operators in general, and particularly those who live in Building 7 in particular, are urgently requested to warn their children not to use the elevators unnecessarily.

Our good women are also asked not to hold the doors open while they have the final word with hubby or one of the neighbors. It ‘gums up the works,’ so to speak, and is not a true display of the spirit of co-operation which we are all expected to display.”

Letter to the editor, October 10, 1930

Dear Editor,

In a recent article in The Cooperator, the question of some suitable method of controlling the too-exuberant outbursts of the seemingly millions of children that make life miserable, uproarious and noisy, is broached and not settled.

Despite the Birth Control League and its propaganda, accidents will happen. Once they have happened only two things can be done with children: either drown them or educate them as intelligent individuals and social beings.

Herman Charles Schware

….

November 28, 2008

The opening lines of Walt Whitman’s New York

“A New York journal, a few days ago, made the remark in the course of one of its articles that the whole spirit of a floating and changing population like our is antagonistic to the recording and preserving of what traditions as have of the American past.  This is probably too true.”