The Guggenheim has emptied itself almost completely of art on it’s walls for the fiftieth year anniversary celebration. The Frank Lloyd Wright building stands alone as a work of art. It is refreshing, almost glorious to take in the encompassing white spiral. There are 3 exhibitions of note currently taking place: Tino Sehgal, Anish Kapoor’s “Memory” and “Contemplating the Void.”

For this artist the whys and wherefores about Sehgal’s mise-en-scene or situational constructs can be interesting but in the end the participant experiences a subjective reality that recalls one’s own associations. Using the museum as arena, and the empty Guggenheim lends itself well, there is nothing really new going on. Since it is not a new concept to think of the museum as an arena, or theater, I’m not sure sure why this is significant. I did read some of the rhetoric surrounding it but I’m not convinced that it is. It is fun though.

‘The Kiss’ (my title) was the only piece that was taking place while we were there. I noticed children asking the the museum goers if they would like a tour. (Jerry Saltz, the critic for New York magazine, was so taken by his experience because the little girl who asked him was so dear that it made him cry.) The adults didn’t seem open to this part of and the kids seemed shy. It wasn’t working. ‘The Kiss’ brought to mind all famous kisses, Rodin, Munch, you name it. It also brought to mind a visit to the Pompidou Center where, on the Plaza, there was a couple involved in deeply serious kissing. It was intense passionate kissing. We figured the French will always be French, cool. We should be so demonstrative. We went in for at least two hours and when we came out they were still at it! To get back to the Seghal the first two dancer performers moved seamlessly together. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for them. Quite engaging, the male dancer took the lead and every movement was conscious and graceful. When we came back later, it was a different pair, they weren’t as well matched and it was a bit maudlin.

Anish Kapoor’s “Memory” is about subjectivity. From a distance the square void looks like it could be a painting. It is reminiscent of his work with pigment because the black space within the rectangle appears rich and dense, the space is amplified by the dark interior inside the iron barrel behind the wall. The barrel weighs twenty-four tons. I wonder how necessary that is; does it need to weight that much, is there meaning in it? It recalls Richard Serra in its materials and forbidding exterior. It also looks quite expensive.

The heaviness and rust color in the iron provides the opening in the wall with an illusion of deep space and darkness framed by a reddish tinge on the periphery. The guide emphasized the “processional method of engaging” with the sculpture. The guide insisted that we line up behind her and follow her to the mouth on the wall from three differing approaches. With each step we had our own vision of the piece and our own memories to take away.

“Contemplating the Void” exhibition was an open call that invited artists and architects to design a piece that would fill the Frank Lloyd Wright interior space. There were approximately 200 entries and all were exhibited. Standouts were Christian Marclay filling the space with ping-pong balls, Pipilotti Rist fills hers with a clitoris, hair and all (I heard a child say eeww); and that seemed kind of predictable. There were a number of rain forests and many really complicated proposals. Anish Kapoor wanted to fill it with a spiral of magenta powder and many many want to fill it with more spirals. I thought of a small group parachuting into it, like a Magritte and then a tornado rising out of it. Matthew Ritchie had a very nice drawing of an ecosystem of sorts and Richard Meier and Partners was inclined to make it more Wrightian. Anthony McCall’s solid light installation seems that if it were realized on a grand scale it could be awe inspiring.

The Pompidou Center emptied itself in 2009, Le Vide (the Void) re-staged historic examples of vacant installations. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim is a space that lends to contemplating the both emptiness and fullness.

The whole museum seems to be an arena, and a very public public space.

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