As tempting as it is to hash incessantly on this site about the foibles, peccadilloes and images of winter, give it up for Milton who decided that it was time to go indoors now that it is once again mild outside. Last Friday, we headed to the Museum of Modern Art to view “Mystery of the Ordinary”, an exhibit of the work produced by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte in the years from 1926 to 1938.
We decided to go on Friday after we were cut loose from our respective grinds. From 4 pm until closing admission is my second favorite four-letter f-word.
In addition, Friday was our last chance to see this show for zero cents because it closed the following Sunday. It travels next to the Menil Collection in Houston, and after that to the Art Institute of Chicago.
MoMA allows visitors to view the exhibit, but whether you pay or not, signs announced that photography was forbidden. This makes sense because MoMA wants visitors to purchase the catalogue. There were guards hovering approximately every two feet bellowing reminders:
Guards: No photography!
These words of warning, that were repeated often, had little impact on the iPhone wielding masses. We did not see any guards asking violators to delete their images. We were certain that if either of us had tried to snap so much as a corner of a picture frame with our phones, not only would our phones be confiscated, but also our hands severed. For those of you curious to see a glimpse of the many iconic Magritte paintings in this show, the New York Times was granted permission to snap away. Click here to see their photos.
Milton could not believe how crowded it was to see a display of familiar paintings in person that everyone has seen reproduced a million times. There was the train coming out of the fireplace, the big eye and guys in bowler hats. What blew his mind even more was that there were two lines: one for fare beaters like us, and another, for members. MoMA membership allows free admission all year round. That prompted Milton to ask:
Milton: What kind of idiot would attend on a free night?
Members had since late September to see this exhibit six days a week before the final 4-8 pm Friday night free-for-all. Possibly, a member who would be unfazed about attending with the herd is This Woman who announced:
This Woman: A lot of the pipe-ones are famous.
Full confession: we walked through the entirety of the exhibit twice because I was obsessed with seeing The Son of Man, the painting of a guy in a bowler hat with an apple obscuring his face. You know the one. I insisted to Milton that it had to be there. We were baffled how we could have missed it. Milton suggested:
Milton: Maybe it’s very small.
We approached the human equivalent of the Jolly Green Giant, a guard so tall I addressed his belt buckle:
Me: Excuse me, but can you tell us where’s the painting of the guy wearing the bowler hat with the apple in front of his face?
Guard: I think I’ve seen it here. Look in the back, unless it’s not there.
Me: Okay. Thank you very much.
We proceeded to circle the exhibit again for that second time. Milton’s head was spinning:
Milton: That was a complete non-answer! It might be there, or it might not!
But, if it was, we missed it a second time.
Milton: Maybe it’s on loan or on another floor in the permanent collection?
Me: If it’s in this building, it has to be included in this exhibit. It would be idiocy to exclude it!
We left the exhibit and leafed through the entire catalogue. Son of Man was not there. When I returned home, I researched that painting online. Magritte painted it in 1964. Who’s the industrial-strength idiot now?
A post-script: after we completed our two visits to the Magritte exhibit, we wandered next door to the much less attended Isa Genzken retrospective that is running through March 10. MoMA calls Genzken, “arguably one of the most important and influential female artists of the past 30 years.” Milton’s initial impression of her work was a tad different:
Milton: This reminds me of bad houses in the 70s.
We were allowed to photograph her work at will. Here is a sampling of what’s on display.
As we left Isa’s retrospective Milton concluded:
Milton: This should be a lesson: if we haven’t made it it’s our fault.