Category Archives: MoMA

Connecticut

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My MoMA internship ended on Friday. Three months have flown by, and I have no idea what I am going to do next. I have a return ticket booked for Europe in January, but I’m actually hoping don’t have to use it. Anyway, I’m not the only one in that predicament, and in an attempt to celebrate our time at MoMA Sefra invited a group of the now-former interns to her home in Connecticut for the weekend.

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So after work on Friday we boarded a train at Grand Central Station on the Metro-North New Haven line and bound for Greens Farms, near Westport, CT. A giant painted mural of Jerry Garcia greets you at the front door of Sefra’s family home, giving only a glimpse as to the decorative eccentricities which await inside. If this house has not yet featured in Architectural Digest I can’t think why. The place is a beautiful example of New England artsy-liberalism befitting its quirky baby-boomer owners. The rustic kitchen gives way to a comfortable living area into which sofas and chaise-longues seem to have been dropped almost liberally. A giant clock face acts as a coffee table, while original artwork hangs on every wall. Sefra’s mother’s home office is like a little piece of South Beach with its pink-stripey floors and Venetian blinds.

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Sefra took us on a tour of the garden, from where she pointed out another house closer to the beach. This is owned by Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein, who had erected a huge white marquee for the reception of his impending wedding to fashion designer Georgina Chapman. After a long evening of lounging, we went to bed (I slept on the couch), and in the morning we drove into town to buy ingredients for breakfast, which we cooked back at the house to the sound of Bob Dylan’s Modern Times. Cat made scrambled eggs, or uova alla Rossi as they soon became dubbed, while Sefra initially refused to eat my “raw” bacon, something I put down to Americans’ habit of overcooking it to the point of brittleness. After breakfast everyone went for a walk on the beach, but I stayed behind so I could wash the dishes and give Bob another listen.

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On the train back to New York, I realised I will miss MoMA, but definitely not as much as some of the people I met there. Together we formed a fast and quite unexpected bond, simply through shared experience I suppose, plus a conscious effort by most of us to get to know one another. Even Larissa said it was the first time this had happened amongst her interns, which made it feel like some kind of special achievement. I guess now all that’s left is figure out what to do with the rest of our lives…

PERFORMA 07

Through a colleague at MoMA, I’d become aware of something called PERFORMA, a performing arts foundation founded by Roselee Goldberg. I was offered the chance to volunteer for this year’s month-long biennial, PERFORMA 07, and without a real job and lots of extra time on my hands I said yes. At a meeting at the PERFORMA office I was gifted a red PERFORMA (you’ll have noticed by now that PERFORMA is always written in capitals) tote bag and assigned to assist with various projects, performances and what I guess they used to call “happenings”.

Allan Kaprow invented the term in the 1960s with his 18 Happenings in Six Parts, a redoing of which I went all the way to the Deitch Gallery in Queens to witness, though frankly I wish I hadn’t bothered. I’m sure it’s a lot more enjoyable if you’re high out of your mind (or if it’s 1966), but to a 21st century audience the whole thing felt very dated and silly.

The next day I went to Washington Square Park to help set up a giant game of mahjong — you know, that sort of Chinese version of dominoes. This piece was conceived by He Yunchang, China’s most renowned performance artist. Of course, as China’s most renowned performance artist, He insisted performing completely naked. So after we’d spent all afternoon lugging a thousand painted breeze-blocks from the Judson Memorial Church into the park, the artist appeared wrapped in a sheet, which he soon abandoned in order to play the game. I became roped into playing since we were short in numbers, but since I’m not a renowned performance artist I was allowed to remain fully clothed. After about twenty minutes a somewhat amused NYPD showed up and He Yunchang was asked to put his jeans back on.

The next day I joined a group of students (and artist Zack Rockhill) in Cooper Square to construct an open-top rectangular igloo using enormous blocks of ice. This was a challenge which was overcome by teamwork and an overwhelming desire to go get some coffee. Everyone agreed the end result was quite beautiful.

The next day I was back at MoMA to assist a backwards march through the museum lobby, as a hundred or so pensioners, children and other people with nothing better to do on a Sunday made their way from East 68th Street to Times Square. Miraculously no-one was hit by a cab, though had they been they’d have struggled to garner my sympathy.

At the Saatchi & Saatchi Gallery on Hudson Street I was asked to attend the opening party of Ulla Von Brandenburg’s La Maison, in which 8 millimetre footage of an old French chateau is projected onto a dark sheet within a maze of brightly-coloured sheets. The whole thing was so dull that one visitor mistook the messy area backstage as part of the exhibit. I was fortunately given the task of tending bar, which proved to be a highlight — if I wasn’t getting any money I was damn sure gonna get me some Grolsch.

Afterwards I squeezed into hip Lower East Side nightspot The Box for Sanford Bigger’s The Somethin’ Suite. Apparently Erykah Badu and Lou Reed were there but I missed them both. That weekend I witnessed another bizarre performance, this time at The Atrium at 590 Madison Avenue. Spider Galaxy was the work of Mexican artist Carlos Amorales, in which a grown woman dressed as a brightly-coloured bird skips and flaps around a wooden “spider’s web” stage for ten minutes before flying/running off in the direction of NikeTown. I sat through this nonsense twice before running off in the direction of NikeTown.

After all this volunteering and sitting through tiresome drivel it was about time I got my own back, and was thrilled to be given the chance to play the role of “heckler”, in Yvonne Rainer’s RoS Indexical at the Hudson Theatre on West 44th Street. In what was my off-Broadway debut, mid-way through the performance I was required to lead a bunch of “angry” audience members on-stage to confront the dancers. It was only when I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov exiting the theatre afterwards that I became nervous.

The finale and after-party were held at the Hudson Theatre on Tuesday, although after three weeks of PERFORMA I was more than glad I had tickets across Broadway for Caetano Veloso, which I am pleased to say was the best performance I’ve seen this month.

Sunday Afternoon In Brooklyn

On Sunday I took the L train for a birthday brunch at Diner, an imaginatively-named eatery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, carved into an old restaurant car. Great apple pancakes, which I walked off wandering through the deserted streets off Bedford Avenue. Later in the afternoon, I paid my first visit to the now MoMA-affiliated contemporary art museum, P.S.1. OK, so there was (overpriced) beer and a (amateur) live band, but the overall experience was highly disappointing. Most of the work on display is what I would consider the worst of contemporary art, the kind of self-indulgent nonsense that unfairly gives Modern Art a bad name, and puts millions of people off visiting museums and galleries. I sometimes wonder if it’s just me, if I’m missing something huge, but as I watched a group of self-important Brooklyn hipsterati stare with painfully earnest contemplation at a video installation of shuffling feet I decided that whatever I was missing I didn’t really care, and I suddenly couldn’t wait to get back to Manhattan, where at least pretentious crap doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

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The Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street.

It was little over a month ago when I learned I’d be spending the fall of 2007 working at The Museum of Modern Art. I had long dreamed of the opportunity to live in New York City, yet never imagined it would arrive in the form of an internship at arguably the world’s finest Modern Art museum. A heavy application process (including three essays) had ended with a carefully coordinated trans-atlantic telephone interview with a certain Larissa Bailiff, MoMA’s internship coordinator. I was extremely nervous before the interview, and spent that morning researching extensively the museum’s current and upcoming exhibitions. Fortunately, Ms. Bailiff immediately put me at ease, and we settled into a breezy chat which lasted over 45 minutes. I like to think my British charm and wit over the phone was what secured me the position of marketing intern, as less than a week later, back in England, I received confirmation that I’d be spending the next three months stateside. I barely had time to obtain my visa and update my iPod before I was jetting off across the Atlantic to confront a healthy mix of the familiar and the unknown.

Having spent the last four years livin’ la dolce vita in Italy, how would I cope when suddenly tossed into the ultimate modern metropolis that is Manhattan? As it turned out, quite well: all those years spent studying the city combined with intensive previous visits had earned me something of an honorary self-taught degree in Newyorkology, and I felt confidently able in dodging such infamous New York pratfalls as subway navigation, the delicate art of tipping, and the correct pronunciation of Houston Street.

It seemed like an eternity before I finally had to go to MoMA on Monday morning. In my eagerness I had arrived spectacularly early, and spent almost an hour reading in Central Park before I was due to meet Ms. Bailiff and the other interns. When I arrived at the entrance to the Cullman Building on 54th Street I was informed by the receptionist that the other interns had elected to go to Starbucks. Putting aside my usual boycott of the Seattle-based coffee giant I walked over to Sixth Avenue where I met three other interns — from Connecticut, Los Angeles and Paris. I was surprised to discover such an international bunch — something had told me I’d be the sole Brit. Instead nearly all of North America and Europe was represented. I was relieved to find all the interns smart and instantly likeable, yet I felt a bit like a reality show contestant meeting my competition rivals. I suppose this would make Larissa Heidi Klum. Larissa in person was as I had found her to be on the phone: warm, friendly and a very entertaining speaker, to the extent that a side career in stand-up comedy would not be out of the question.

After our welcoming talk and initial introduction I met my supervisor Julie Welch, who immediately struck me as bearing an uncanny resemblance to the actress Annette Bening. Julie gave me an extensive behind-the-scenes tour of the museum before introducing me to the rest of the marketing team. She then showed me where I’d be working: a tiny cubicle the size of a phone booth (but without the windows). When Peter told Julie I’d go crazy in there she gave me the option of sharing the back office with three other interns. But for some reason I chose to stick with the private cubicle, despite its lack of space. I took off my jacket and got down to work.

My first task as a MoMA employee was to input survey results from MoMA@Nite, a series of summer parties held at the museum’s newly-renovated sculpture garden. As I spent the next week typing the zip codes and annual salaries of around 1500 New Yorkers (plus about six people from other states) into an Excel sheet from my tiny cubicle on the sixth floor of a Midtown office, I realised what had happened. I had become Chandler Bing.