Yesterday, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, my husband and I decided to interrupt our usual Lower Manhattan walk with a visit to the New Museum. Located at on the Bowery at a point that becomes visible as we approach from Prince Street, the museum is an attractive if not always useful addition to the neighborhood--by which I mean that of the five or six shows I've seen there since it opened a few years ago, only one or two have seemed worth the admission price to me. But, ever undaunted, I decided to try again.
The current big show is of the German artist Rosemarie Trockel, and it takes up floors 2 through 4. A lot of this stuff looks like warmed-over Quay material: freakish and meant to shock, but not so much as to make anyone feel really uncomfortable. (The Quay Brothers, it seems to me, have stronger obsessions--perhaps more powerfully believed in by the artists themselves--and that makes their freakishness considerably more effective.) The best things in the show, by far, are Trockel's woven artifacts on Floor 3: I hesitate to call these pieces sculptures, since they are mainly two-dimensional rectangles, but since they are made of yarn, they have a more noticeable texture than paintings, and some of them are very beautiful indeed.
Enough of this, though. The real reason to go to the New Museum, this time and every time, is the seventh-floor terrace. The room it abuts is sometimes used for parties, but otherwise you come out of the elevator onto a large, empty space glassed in on two sides. Beyond the glass is a terrace that wraps continuously around two whole sides of the building and provides stunning views of New York. In one direction lie the Chrysler Building and its environs; in the other, you can see the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and even a bit of the Brooklyn Bridge. In yesterday's golden afternoon light, the downtown looked beautiful and serene; from the seventh floor, we were far enough above the Soho crowds that their noise didn't reach us, so the experience of the city was largely visual, not aural. One could hardly imagine that a mere ten days earlier, if one could have visited this spot, the whole southern prospect would have been dark and empty.