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Brooklyn Museum of Art -- no longer "elitist"


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#1 kfw

kfw

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 01:03 PM

I wonder if any Ballet Alerter's have been to the Brooklyn Museum since it opened its new addition to the entrance. I haven't seen it, but I'm curious about whether a circular glass and steel structure works in front of a Beaux-Arts grande dame. Writing in New York Magazine, architectural critic Joseph Giovannini condescends towards the old building and 19th attitudes towards art.

http://www.newyorkme...eviews/n_10278/

"Cinderella transformations can rejuvenate and even redefine buildings grown rigid and opaque with age and which, in the case of cultural institutions, have come between the dancer and the dance." The problem, of course, is that "a generation of patrons . . . have largely ignored these institutions, having found them elitist and, worse, forbidding."

Naturally this is in part the fault of the Brooklyn's original architects, McKim and Mead, who made "the unsuspecting visitor . . .climb a penitential 28-foot-high flight of stairs to an entrance colonnade in a Sisyphean, all-too-symbolic attempt at rising to high art: The permanent dominance of culture over the individual was cast into the building's posture."

To which I want to ask, do the Supreme Court's steps cast those who argue cases there in the role of penitents? What about visitors to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? And since when is a challenge to better one's taste -- or, to please Mr. Giovannini, to expand them -- by definition "Sissyphean"? If recognizing high artistic achievement for high artistic achievement is elitist, run right up those stairs, Mr. Giovannini, and start studying to join the elite.

And as for the dominance of culture over the individual, in Giovannini's confused phraseology, we can argue about the canon all day, but what's wrong with aspiration spurred by humility, by the consideration that one's forbears might have something to teach us through the artists they considered great?

Anyhow, the old grand staircase is too intimidating, so a new "boardwalk invites visitors into the inner rings of the steel-and-glass superstructure, offering 360-degree views inside and back to the street, as though the museum and city were theatrical happenings to be observed alongside the exhibitions within." Why focus on art when you can watch the women?

Heck, why go to the expense of turning museums into culture malls anyhow? Why doesn't the Brooklyn just lend the paintings to Starbucks, or email an image a day to "the young and hip" on their Palms Pilots?

But as I say, I haven't seen the new addition, so I'm withholding judgment. I'm not really opposed to livening up the streetscape, either. It's Giovannini's egalitarianism run amok that I'm irked with. So has anyone been to the Brooklyn?

#2 kfw

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 06:50 PM

Well, I always wanted to have an online conversation with myself, so now I am! Writing in The New Republic, Jed Perl doesn't much care for the Brooklyn's "hipper than thou" approach either.

Museum director "Arnold Lehman may talk incessantly about his populist ambitions--about making the museum more people-friendly--but the Brooklyn Museum was always the people's museum."

http://www.tnr.com/d...ye&s=perl041604


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