Tuesday, September 18, 2007

With a building that good . . .

Blogging about that dreadful new MFA addition got me to pondering the building that got the whole structure-as-cultural-destination movement started: Frank Gehry's epoch-making Guggenheim (above) in Bilbao, Spain. I recall Philip Johnson once responded to criticism of the building's limits as a venue for art with a characteristic bit of pith: "When a building's that good, fuck the art!"

Well, Johnson may not have been much of an architect, but he was always prescient - one could easily argue that since Bilbao, museum buildings have been fucking the art inside them rather regularly. My favorite example is the dreadful MOMA addition in New York, which by now I regard as a malevolent presence bent on keeping me from enjoying some of my favorite paintings. And here's a smart piece from New York magazine about the current Guggenheim search for a director under the shadow of the globe-trotting Thomas Krens (apparently the latest, and wackiest, Krens project is "GuggAbu," a Guggenheim franchise in the United Arab Emirates, where Jews - like the Guggenheims! - are pretty much persona non grata). Money quote: the Krens vision "was a ruse masquerading as a wow." I'm really not sure what the MFA addition is masquerading as.

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