Playin’ it Zany v Safe

While standing in line

While standing in line

The new Whitney Museum building.  I visited today and glad I didn’t go on a weekend.  The lines were long, the galleries were crowded.  Is it worth it?  Here’s my assessment.

I wish the architect/Whitney decision-makers had the courage to do something other than the contemporary art museum factory.  In the mold of MoMA, this place has no personality, with its concrete floors, color-coded walls, and standard museum installation and lighting
Is the work well served?  Yes, I would say so, but its greatest hits mentality doesn’t distinguish itself as did the vision of its wealthy and visionary artist/founder–Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.  Even less than at the Breur  Building, there doesn’t seem to be room for the quirky, the discovery.

Robert Henri, Gertrude Whitney, 1916

Yes, there’s lots of room to show more work, which is wonderful.  An artist new to me is placed next to a well known work.  It all feels very carefully…curated.  Charming, it is not.  Fresh, it is not.  Bland?  Yes, even with the great works, that’s how I would describe my experience.  Not bad.  No, far from bad.  Just very safe.
Joseph Stella, Brooklyn Bridge, 1939

Joseph Stella, Brooklyn Bridge, 1939

Agnes Pelton, Untitled, 1931 she is new to me, and we are invited to view the work in light of Stella's masterwork

Agnes Pelton, Untitled, 1931
She is new to me, and we are invited to view the work in light of Stella’s masterwork

George Tooker, The Subway, 1950

George Tooker, The Subway, 1950

Louis Guglielmi, Terror in Brooklyn, 1941 Earlier than Tooker's stunning work

Louis Guglielmi, Terror in Brooklyn, 1941
Earlier than Tooker’s stunning work

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The architecture itself has some fun elements, like the terraces on each upper floor, with their good views.  I particularly like the view of this terrace.
The stairwell gives you an interesting industrial view.
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And I had a fun meal at the Studio Cafe on the 8th floor.  The toasts are the quirkiest thing in the building.  I had the brocollini, glazed carrots, and smashed beans with shaved provolone in toast.  Delish.
Definitely not anything rotten there, like at the theater.  “Something Rotten” is as self-consciously zany as the Whitney is tame.  If you love Shakespeare or American musicals, or better yet both, you will definitely get a supreme kick out of the clever silliness and silly cleverness of the word smithing and musical numbers in this new show.

Brian d’Arcy James and Heidi Blickenstaff in “Something Rotten!” Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

What fun to see Brian D’Arcy James do comedy and be so at ease and charming with it.  Christian Borle’s ticks, which I normally can’t stand, work fine here as the rock star, egotistical Shakespeare.
Definite shades of “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Producers” don’t get in the way at all.  After all, wasn’t Shakespeare the ultimate thief?  The more references you catch, the more fun you’ll have.
We, in the audience, wondered which Tony voters would choose as the best–“Something Rotten” or the gorgeous “American in Paris“–apples and oranges if there ever were.  Fortunately, you don’t have to choose.  Get thee to the theater!

One thought on “Playin’ it Zany v Safe

  1. Well, I think you interested me in going to the new Whitney….later. Glad to hear an honest opinion. The building exterior had turned away my interest. Thanks again Do you ever sit still?

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