Tag Archives: art

Lame Adventure 344: Visiting Christopher Columbus in His Penthouse

In August I heard that the Public Art Fund was presenting an exhibit called Discovering Columbus that would open in September.

Discover Columbus now through November 18th.

The artist Tatzu Nishi was designing a penthouse apartment around the Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle at Central Park West and Broadway here in Manhattan.  Admission price would be my second favorite four letter f-word, free.  Over beers, I told my pal, Milton, about the statue that was now encased in scaffolding:

Me:  We have to see this.

Milton:  Yeah, I’ve noticed that scaffolding.  Okay.

Penthouse on top of scaffolding ensconced statue pedestal base.

Positing this question to him over beverages was a key component of my strategy.  Milton is not a fan of climbing stairs. The downside of visiting the Christopher Columbus penthouse is that it happens to be in a six-floor walkup. Fortunately, due to the upside of the decision-impairing effects of a few pints, Milton was feeling game.

What drew me to this exhibit was the sheer novelty of really seeing a thirteen-foot statue that I have only known from afar for the twenty-eight years I have lived on the Upper West Side.  Whenever I walk past it I primarily glance at the sixty-foot pedestal base and the protrusions in the column representing the sailing ships, the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.  I, like my fellow New Yorkers, have been completely oblivious to the details of the marble statue on top. Apparently, it was sculpted by Gaetano Russo and completed in 1892 in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America.  Even though Columbus Circle is a vast transportation hub, I’m quite sure this is not the exact spot where the legendary explorer set anchor. Presented with the opportunity to see this monument up close and personal in a living room setting with spectacular views and full of furniture from Bloomingdale’s and Mitchell Gold, hey, count me in.

Fast-forward a month later. Milton is now stone cold sober, recovering from a cold and feeling much less game about this visit than me.  The fact that this exhibit is free is a huge plus with him, and I did the work with getting our timed tickets to attend.  All he had to do was show up and meet me there.  We arrive forty-five minutes early for our 7 pm viewing but we’re told to return a half hour later for they follow the schedule closely.  We kill time roaming the area.

Detail of sailing ships protruding from statue’s column in pedestal base.

Visitors on observation deck taking pictures.

Milton looks up at the outdoor staircase with sheer contempt.

Exit side staircase.

Milton: Do you know what I hate more than anything?  Stairs.

Then, he notices there’s an elevator.


That gives him hope.  A half hour passes and we join the line to enter.

Fast moving orderly line.

The line moves quickly and the wait is short, but Milton is feeling cranky.

Milton: I can’t believe we’re standing in line to climb six flights of stairs to see a statue.  This is proof that you can get people in New York to do anything.  They’ll climb enough stairs to see a sandwich.

Egg salad sandwich as never seen before with a spoon. This was not waiting for us six flights up.

A worker scans our timed tickets that grant us thirty minutes to view the exhibit.  Milton, looking longingly at the lift, awkwardly asks:

Milton:  Is it possible to take the elevator, or is it just for, you know, the handicapped?

When he says “the handicapped”, his voice drifts for he anticipates the answer that’s coming.

Exhibit worker:  It’s just for people that really need it.

Milton resists mentioning that he’s recovering from a cold.  He crabs at me:

Milton:  I’m walking slow.  We’ve got more than enough time to see four walls.

I figure that when we reach the top we’ll both be huffing and puffing like two steam engines. It’s possible that one or both of us will require a hit of oxygen from a tank.  The further we climb the more the gray steel utilitarian steps make creaking sounds.

Milton’s nervous feet standing on creaky steel platform.

Milton announces:

Milton:  Did you hear that?  Now my vertigo’s setting in. [light bulb] Oh!  Did I tell you that I just saw that film again when they screened it at Film Forum?

Me:  Really?  They screened Vertigo?

I chatter with Milton about Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece to distract him.  I take a picture of the view up Broadway.

Looking north up Broadway where car lights are bright.

Somehow we reach the top without collapsing.  In fact, neither of us is remotely winded.  It is an easy climb.

Carpet in entryway.

We walk down a narrow hallway, enter the 800 square foot living room with a sixteen-foot tall ceiling and see the centerpiece attraction, Christopher Columbus.

This guy is hard to miss.

That was surreal.

Yes, that’s the 120 year old Columbus Circle statue standing on a coffee table in the middle of a living room.

The statue is made to appear like it is perched on a coffee table.  Actually, the table has been built around the statue,  which is an imposing presence and showing its 120 year age.  I agree with Roberta Smith, the reviewer with The New York Times who observed that,  “… weather and pollution have reduced the marble to something that looks like cast concrete.”  After the exhibit ends the statue will undergo cleaning and repair.

“I need a bath and some work done.”

Tatzu Nishi has covered the walls of the room with whimsical pink and gold wallpaper he designed featuring everything you need to know about American culture — Elvis, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, a hotdog, Martin Luther King, Jr. with Malcolm X, the Empire State Building, Coca Cola,  McDonalds, baseball and Mickey Mouse.

Cultural highlights of America Tatzu Nishi-style.

A 55-inch high definition TV plays CNN non-stop.

Obama’s in the house!

The sofa and chairs are plush and look very comfortable.

Have a seat.

The polished hardwood floors are covered with area rugs.  The bookcase is full of books by American authors encouraging visitors to sit back and leaf through the pages, but during our visit, no one read.

Bookcase with untouched selection of books.

Unread but probably very carefully selected books.

The primary focal points were the statue and the view.

Looking south down Eighth Avenue.

Visitors like to duplicate the Columbus pose in front of the statue. Milton and I resisted doing this.

Wall art.

Not wall art.

Being in such close proximity to the statue and observing this magnificent view from the same perch reminded us that this is usually only available to New Yorkers that were born as pigeons.

Nice hat.

This exhibit, which runs through November 18th, is a treat for anyone without wings.  Even Milton’s grousing came to an abrupt end as he took photographs with his iPhone.  Milton, his dour mood lifted, observed:

Milton:  His outfit is so fab!

The original “I see land” pose.

Lame Adventure 338: Kid Art

Last month, I noticed that one of my neighbors, a fit-looking woman in her early to mid-thirties that resides on the fifth floor in my building, had been walking with a significant limp.  Climbing up and down five flights of stairs appeared to be agony for her.  Curious and concerned, I asked her what had happened, anticipating a story about some terrible accident she suffered.

Upstairs Neighbor:  It’s so embarrassing.  I was sitting down, I got up,  and I somehow stood on it funny.   It’s been hurting me ever since.  I’m going to the doctor.

My initial thought was:

Me (thinking):  She’s about twenty years younger than me, she’s slender and in shape.  If something freak like that can happen to her, what might happen to me if I sit down and get up funny?  Could I break a leg?

I said:

Me:  I hope you get well soon.

She thanked me, we parted ways and I made a mental note:

Me: This is a warning sign that you absolutely, positively, no ifs, ands, or buts must start working out again.

Then, I resumed my sluggish ways.  A few days later, it felt like a sleeping squirrel had woken out of a sound slumber behind my right kneecap and was trying to make a break for it with its sharp teeth.  In other words, it was a strange sensation that hurt.  Since the weather was also pleasant I refused to let my discomfort force me to stay housebound.  I simply had to leave my hovel and take a walk; I had to make an effort to burn off some flab (famous last words).

There I was, dragging my hobbled right leg up West 84th Street toward Columbus Avenue, when I encountered a delightful display of outdoor art produced by children attending P.S. 9.

P.S. 9 entrance.

I was so intrigued with their witty and entertaining sculptures I completely forgot about whatever it was gnawing at me from behind my kneecap.

Atomic Hula

Who knew that just looking at imaginative kid art would be therapeutic?

Room for Art

I hope whatever was lurking behind my kneecap will continue to forget about me.

Pin Art

Yes, clothes pins.

If only looking at art could gift me with fitness, but I suppose I shouldn’t grouse, at least I didn’t need to ride an ambulance home.

Three Musicians

Three Musicians detail straight from the Bed Bath and Beyond kitchen accessories collection.

Meanwhile, check out more of the whimsical kid art that may or may not be packed with magical healing power.

Faces in the Crowd (made from plates)

Sock Monster (or where lost tube socks go).

Refuse to grow up and write a blog.

Lame Adventure 216: Savage Waiting

Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has closed.  This past Sunday was the exhibit’s final day.  According to The New York Times:

“The exhibition attracted more than 650,000 visitors since it opened on May 4, and 15,000 on Saturday [August 6] alone. It is among the 10 most visited shows in the museum’s history, and the most popular special exhibition ever at the Costume Institute, which is housed at the museum.”

Two of my closest friends, Coco the Fashionista, and Ling the Graphics Designer, had already seen it.  They both gave it solid rave reviews.  The previous Thursday I emailed Milton that I was thinking about doing the unthinkable, forego my usual Sunday power sleeping, and rise at 7 am to get to the Met by 9 am, “Are you interested in joining me?”  Milton emailed me back, “I’d do it.”

We were well aware that going on the last day of the final weekend was an act of guaranteed masochism bordering on the certifiably insane, but it would also be a very only-in-New-York-thing-to-do since New Yorkers are veteran line waiters.  At this stage in our lives, I am certain that Milton and I have invested the equivalent of at least an entire year of our lives doing nothing more than waiting to enter films, plays, restaurants, exhibits, and standing at box office windows (refer to Lame Adventure 1 for the story of another epic wait).  Yet, we did not anticipate when we both arrived early – he at 8:40 and I at 8:45 (the Met opened the doors at 9:30), that the lines leading down from the front of the museum on the 79th Street side as well as the 83rd Street side would both be so monumentally long, reaching so deep inside Central Park, they nearly snaked through the Upper West Side and into the Hudson River.  Thousands upon thousands of other people had the same idea as Milton and me.  The lines continually grew longer as we inched forward.

Huddled masses not exactly enjoying a day in the park.

Inching closer to entry more than an hour later.

As we approached the home stretch of the line in the sweltering heat around 10 am, I noticed two young women toss water bottles into the trash and confer with each other.  Mind-reader me knew what they were thinking since I could smell the acrid stench of line crashers.  I gave them the hairy eyeball.  They got the message and did not attempt to weasel their way in front of us.  Instead, they cut right behind us in front of a clueless guy whose head was absorbed in his iPad.  I said loudly:

Me:  Great, future tax cheats of America right here.

Milton the Wise reasoned:  Pretty young girls can get away with this sort of thing, but if we or anyone we know tried to do it we’d all get killed.

Cheating duo up front.

Soaked in sweat, we finally entered the museum around 10:40 and purchased our tickets at 10:48 while staring at a sign declaring that the next phase in the wait would be 2 ½ hours.  We stared at that sign expressionless until Milton, who was now starving and getting cranky, groused:

Milton:  These fuckin’ clothes had better get up and spin.

For interim viewing pleasure the Met had us wait in long lines that snaked through galleries displaying ancient artifacts.  We were particularly fond of the Chinese sculptures from the 5th through 8th Centuries.  A guard told us that it was okay to photograph the permanent collection.  To help Milton take his mind off of his hunger, I handed him my camera and he snapped away.

In predominantly good company.

Crowd waiting patiently.

Impressive mural.

Appreciating sculpture while waiting.

I occupied my time working on solving the US debt crisis so we can regain our AAA rating.  I suggested to Milton:

Me: Maybe if we returned these artifacts to China, they’ll forgive some of our debt?

A tourist standing behind us asked Milton:

Tourist:  Are you from out of town?  You’re taking so many pictures.

Milton:  No.  We like taking pictures.

Milton relaxing.

Milton’s dream pasta bowl.

Next leg of epic journey.

Ha! Suckers that just got in!

Ha ha! Sucks to be us!

Ancient artifact conversation piece.

Ancient artifact conversation piece 2, or part of an ancient trend with who-knows-what function, possibly a kinda/sorta inspiration for the bong.

Just as we approached the sign that said we had 30 minutes to go before reaching the McQueen exhibit, we saw a sign warning us that there was no photography beyond that point.  Therefore, we did not photograph any of the impressive Auguste Rodin sculptures.  Our Tourist-friend bleated:

Tourist: Did you see that sign?  Put your camera away!

Milton:  We saw the sign.  We’ve put the camera away.

Milton’s stomach:  ROAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After enduring nearly four hours of waiting, we gained entry into the McQueen exhibit around 12:35 that afternoon.  The galleries were so densely packed with visitors it was impossible to see everything.  We did notice people taking photographs with their iPhones, and as much as we wanted to follow their lead, we didn’t.  Every so often a McQueen-weary guard would erupt:

Guard: No photography, please!  Put your camera away!

A number of visitors brought their youngsters.  How much can you see in a crowded gallery when you stand barely four feet tall?  A little girl tried to grab one of McQueen’s trademark Armadillo shaped shoes and Milton had to control his knee-jerk desire to lunge at her.

Look. Don’t touch!

He gasped:

Milton: Don’t!

The kid’s mom seemed indifferent to her daughter’s antics.  This exhibit should have been off-limits to small fry under age ten, but at least strollers were banned.   Overall, it was impressively assembled and what we did see of the clothes was in a word, brilliant.  Milton and I may be the two least stylish people we know, but we both recognized McQueen’s amazing artistry or as Milton observed, McQueen not only had the daring to go further than other designers, but he had the ability to do so and do it brilliantly.  I will never look at a feather* the same way again.

*Exception: stray pigeon feather littering the sidewalk.

He told stories with each of his collections and his imagination struck me as so vast.  How tragic that he was compelled to commit suicide at only 40.

Since we played by the Met’s rules and controlled our impulse to sneak photographs, click this link to see a video that the Met has online of the exhibit.

When we exited the Met an hour later, we saw that the lines were still miles long.

Missing sound effect: cash register clanging.

The museum extended their hours to midnight both days of this past weekend.  We were glad that we were able to see this show before it closed.  It was certainly unlike any other exhibit we’ve ever seen, and one truly worthy of a four hour wait and 5+ hours of standing.  Andrew Bolton, the exhibit’s curator, deserves a shout out; he did a great job putting it together.

Lame Adventure 188: Back by Popular Demand

This is Carl the Helpful.

Carl the Helpful

He is currently working as a security guard this wet and rainy week in Duarte Square located on Avenue of the Americas at Canal Street in lower Manhattan.  He’s one of the guards making sure that nothing stupid happens to an installation by designer and architect, Fabio Novembre, that was originally called “Per fare un albero” (“To make a tree”) when it was first displayed in Milan in 2009.  This installation has also visited Rome, Paris and Madrid.

Fabio Novembre and friends; just another day at the office.

When I walked past it with Coco on a recent Tuesday night, I nearly threw out my neck when I saw it.

Me: Hey Coco, look at that!  It’s the new little Fiats!

Coco: Trees are growing out of them!

Cars as pear tree planters.  Very cool.

A tree grows in Fiat.

When we got up front and personal with the fiberglass replicas of this whimsical little car, the Fiat 500C, I experienced a Proustian-style sense memory of the white almond wedding favors my mother and grandmother would spend days of their lives wrapping in tulle.  My only participation in this ritual was to taste-test a few of the almonds.  Since this installation was guarded, I resisted the urge to take a bite out of a fender.  That would surely classify as “something stupid” requiring Carl the Helpful to spring into action.

Carl told me that this installation is back for a second time.  As he said:

Carl the Helpful:  It’s back by popular demand.

Canal Street angle.

Apparently, it was first displayed in Duarte Square in April during the New York Auto Show.  I noticed that there was an empty space where another car could have fit.

Sixth Avenue side car-size hole.

Me:  Shouldn’t there be another car there?

Carl the Helpful:  Yeah.  Last month, there were eight.  Now there’re seven.

Me:  What happened to the eighth one?

Carl the Helpful:  I don’t know. When they came back, they only had seven of them.

Maybe some fat cat New Yorker like Donald Trump ate it.

Looking down 6th Avenue.

Carl told me that this installation is going to be removed after this Friday, but he would not mind if the run is extended yet again.   Even though he’s been standing in the rain, he likes this gig.

Carl the Helpful on guard duty.

Once the cars go, the trees will stay.  They’re part of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and New York Restoration Project’s Million Trees NYC campaign.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Carl will be tagged to guard the trees.

Fiat has posted a music video featuring Vivaldi on YouTube promoting the relaunch of the 2012 version of this classic compact car.  The beautiful people gracing it are sold separately.

Lame Adventure 103: Head Moves

Earlier this month, on a Friday when I was on my way to work, I saw a large construction crane outside the 73rd Street entrance of the 72nd Street 1, 2, 3 subway station.  A worker, with the thankless job of directing foot traffic, was shouting repeatedly to everyone trying to enter the station, “Stay to your left away from the monument!”  A defiant elderly woman shouted back at him, “Why should I?”  The worker gave this (likely) native New Yorker a weary look.  Grumbling about how her tax dollars are wasted, she stayed to her left.

To people exiting the station he just shouted at them to stay away from the monument.  It occurred to me that he should have shouted at them to stay to their right, but surely someone who should have stayed left, would have moved right, and someone who should have stayed right, would have moved left, chaos and confusion would have reigned, and suddenly the crane operator would have been hoisting a few dumbshits along with the sculpture.

I stayed to my left and took this image:

Everyone, just get the hell out of the way!

The monument the worker was referring to is the Manolo Valdés sculpture Odalisca (2006), which has been on display as part of a public arts project up and down Broadway since May that lasts through January.  For more details about her installation see Lame Adventure 46: Free Art on Broadway.

At first, I was concerned that Odalisca was being removed early.  Up close she does look a tad weathered for a four year old, but she’s cast out of bronze and I know she is supposed to be out in the elements all day.  I am certain she is not a wimp.

I arrived at work still thinking deeply about the fate of Odalisca.  Then, I entered my department’s bathroom, and was distracted by the toilet paper.  Someone, not amongst my colleagues, was pulling this idiocy for about a week.

Balancing act.

It seems possible to me that whoever was doing this was also a member of the dim bulb club that would move left when needed to move right.

That evening, after work, when I exited the 72nd Street station on the 73rd Street side, I had the sick feeling that Odalisca had left the premises, but much to my delight I found her now perched near a newsstand.  Possibly it was decided that she was hogging too much space in the area where music is performed on weekends so she was moved a little lower and to the left of the station’s entrance.

Odalisca from behind.

Odalisca in her new location a little lower and to the left.

Considering that music was often played in that space outside the station on weekends all summer, and Odalisca was relocated at summer’s close struck me as rather post-mature timing.  Maybe it took three months to cut through 4627 miles of bureaucratic red tape to get clearance to move her, or maybe it took three months before someone saw daylight and realized she had been positioned in the wrong place all along.