MOMA Dearest | New York, NY

Posted by on May 28, 2005
We are very lucky to live so close to New York City.  I think we have the best of both worlds.  We are near the city, but not “of” the city – meaning that we are far enough into exurbia, or the boondocks, that we are not so terribly influenced by what goes on in the Big Apple. Unless, of course, we WANT to be influenced – which is what WE wanted to do last week when we went to see the new Museum of Modern Art.  Called MOMA by all, this New York City treasure has been re-created, enlarged and made new again after being closed for a three-year building project.You may recall that the museum moved to Queens for those three years, where there was temporary exhibition space.  I made a trip there just once, and wrote here in this column about the experience of an exciting journey to the hinterlands of the city.Since I happen to be a fan of “modern” art – even though there are some contemporary artists who confuse me utterly, I was anxious to see the new space.  Even if you’re not a big fan, as my husband is not, you could really enjoy a day spent here.  Jim IS a fan of Danny Meyer, the New York restaurateur (of Union Square and Gramercy Tavern fame) who has the restaurants at the museum, so he agreed to go on one of our Sunday jaunts, as long as we could have lunch there.  It may be that the thing he liked the best in the whole museum was a bright green Bell-47D1 vintage helicopter that hangs by a bridge “like a dragonfly, (and) is a masterpiece of functional beauty.”Modern design is well represented in the new incarnation of the museum.  I saw several guys getting their picture taken next to a sleek red vintage Italian sports car from 1946. It’s fun to see that lots of men never grow up.  It makes it easier for us women to be childlike when we want to.My favorite paintings in the museum remain the same.  They are the called the “European Icons” and they are mostly up on the fifth floor, and include works by Cézanne, van gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, all well known names to most of us.

There is also a fascinating special exhibit on the plans for the High Line, a new project to turn a defunct elevated railway bed on Manhattan’s far west side into a series of gardens and paths.

There were lots of families at the museum, and it was very clear to me that the children were having a very good time.  There is enough variety here to capture folks of all ages.

At one and the same time, this museum captures our imagination and stretches our limits of understanding, creating pleasure to the eye, and tension in the mind.  Not a bad thing for a Sunday afternoon.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that there is a lot to learn at the museum. There is an extensive collection of photographs, including a beauty from 1921, by Eugene Atget, called “Saint-Cloud.”  This was the photographer who, according to Walker Evans, “had mastered photography’s capacity to transform what it describes – to turn fact into metaphor.”

The new sculpture garden is gorgeous, and especially fun filled as it was with happy New Yorkers on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  Crowds of sun-starved visitors re-positioned their chairs in smaller and smaller spaces as the sun moved and finally disappeared.

While it is true that MOMA is the single most expensive museum in NYC, and it is also true that David Rockefeller just gave the museum several hundred million dollars, and that they probably don’t need my money at all, it was worth the price of admission.

The museum shop is chockablock with all sorts of goodies – but we managed to get out with only a couple of postcards – and a couple of cleverly designed gift objects.

There are three different restaurants in the museum.  Café 2 is a casual one, with no reservations, but in which the line moves fast, so I was told.  Terrace 5 is a café with a view of the sculpture garden. It was in the restaurant called “The Modern” where we had lunch, a special treat for our anniversary. It is at the same level as the sculpture garden which we could view while we ate. It was difficult to stop people watching, however, and checking out what others were eating.  At lunch, the menu is of small portions, a bow to the “grazing” habits of restaurant-goers these days.  I had an herb salad with bacon-wrapped goat cheese, followed by tagliatelle with morels, spring peas and onions, and pancetta.  As a special anniversary treat I allowed myself a chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream.  The saving grace was that all the portions were small.  Jim enjoyed his wild mushroom soup and diver scallops, but most men might like larger portions.  He made up for any short fall with some beignets topped with maple ice cream, caramel and citrus-mango marmalade.

We like to drive in to New York City on a Sunday morning, when the traffic is usually very light, and the city is much more user-friendly.  I remember when I lived in the city after I graduated from college, that we used to walk down the middle of the streets on the Upper East Side on Sundays.  It’s not quite that quiet now, but still easy to get around.  Even parking was better, what with the discount you get if you park in one of the nearby garages.

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