New York WeddiMoon: Day 8

… in which we covet our neighbor’s possessions.

Does everyone have this reaction in the Metropolitan? That you want just about every single thing you see? Even just a representative sample would be OK – I’m not that greedy.

We could say a couple of Chinese bronzes, a Mayan jaguar pot, a Nan Goldin photo or two. Throw in a couple of African masks, a New Guinean funeral pole, and — let’s be honest — you’ve got way more Greek and Roman marble busts and statues than you know what to do with, and I’ll take a few off your hands just to help out with the storage problem. The same thing is going on with your Egyptian collection, which is literally bursting at the seams, and I’d be glad for just about anything (though if it happened to be a blue-glazed hippo or a handful of tiny carved scarabs, that would be swell). Finally, I admit I kind of do have my eye on the four-foot, red sandstone Ganesh in the “far east” wing and, well, you’ve got to load up the truck anyway…

Yeah, I’ve got art envy and I’ve got it bad.

The other wild thing is to read the museum labels and realize how much stuff came from the private collections of not all that many different people. What kinds of homes did they have? Did they just sit around watching TV, surrounded by 3000-year-old Chinese jades and a smart little display of canopic jars? Did the kids keep their loose Legos in a Meiji tansu? The rich are different from us: the kind of second-hand tchotchkes and used furniture they buy come with provenance documents.

Anyway, I have a friend who says the Met is New York’s most exhausting museum, and that assessment is spot on as far as I’m concerned. After about 3 hours what we discovered was that the spirit was still rarin’ to go, but the flesh had gone on strike. Not even an $11 salad from the Met Cafe could rouse us enough to get really excited about the American Wing or modern European painting.

Which freed us up to go across town to walk the High Line, which, in turn, sent me into a rant about Chelsea and modern art and the offensiveness of pretending like history doesn’t exist. A bit of an overreaction, you might say but, in my defense, I hadn’t been in Chelsea or near the piers or meatpacking district since some time in the early 1980s. Seeing it like that, from (so to speak) one day to the next, terrifies your mind.

And I will say this. A big part of what made Chelsea Chelsea and made New York the birthplace of a unique kind of American pop art avante-garde and allowed “gay literature” to exist was sex. And drugs. And gay men.  Mapplethorpe. Haring. Basquiat. Wojnarowicz. Rechy. And most of the people who made all that excitement possible died a lot sooner than they should have — in no small measure because they were gay men who were at least as interested in drugs and sex as they were in art and literature.

So there’s something jarring about seeing buildings being torn down everywhere and then being built up again to become studios in the low 400s and the artisan gelato stands and the fabulous little galleries with clerks in fuck-you ties and angry shoes and everything clean and safe for visits by mommies and double-perambulators and straight-couple wedding photographers who aren’t there to be ironic and not seeing one goddamn word about an entire fucking dead generation not just of brilliant artists and writers but of demanding, sophisticated, intelligent audiences and readers, those “monks of the dead river,” in whose memory unremembered now come the clots of cattle who clomp over “the High” knowing nothing knowing nothing knowing nothing and having no fear of bitter ghosts in the picturesque ruins.

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Posted on 28 September 2013, in Tales from the Road. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is so good. I want more people to read it. Our memories are so short, and the generation born in the early 80’s is still largely ignorant of this horrific loss. There was more to come from this artistic frontier but we will never know entirely what.

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