The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

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The Guggenheim, The Whitney & Hell’s Kitchen

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on May 17, 2009

What a lovely day we had – grabbed a cab (as they are very cheap here) to the Solomon Guggenheim (an art gallery to die for) and saw a bit of the permanent collection, which was out-standing.  However, what was really breath-taking was the space itself of course.  This is the iconic, bright white, circular 1959 gallery designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (one of my most favourite modernist achitects’, and the man who most inspired Australia’s Harry Seidler).  Incredibly, we lucked in on the 50 year anniversary retrospective of Wrights’ work, built and unbuilt (sketches, plans, elevations, models, film, the lot!).  This was an absolute feast for an architectural freak, such as myself.  My Grand-father was a builder, and so as a 7 year old I spent many a day studying 1960s architectural magazines, which were all highly modernist and ‘futuristic’ at the time.  I even attempted my own innovative triangular floor-plans, but nothing like Wright’s!  His is the genius; no question!  Following a glorious 3 hours at the Guggenheim, we lunched in the cafe there, on tuna and caper brioche, which was mouth-watering, then popped over to Central Park to have a peek at the most familiar, but still unreal, vista across the Jacquie O Reservoir to the condo’s on the Upper West Side.  We then taxi’d to The Whitney, which really knocked our socks off.  The merits of its giant box like quality only become truly apparent from the inside.  We saw some really great stuff; amazing works by several highly accomplished contemporary artists; a lot of it political in one way or another.  This gallery was a real surprise to me; much better than I was anticipating.  After 1.5 hours there, we wandered through Central Park, past the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party monument, the toy boats on the Conservatorty Water, and past the Children’s Zoo.

After a brief interlude back in our ship’s cabin like room (it’s only 3.5 x 3.5), we noticed a street fair happening outside, 10 floor’s down, so ventured out again.  Wow!  This was a lovely surprise experince, that we could never have found out about from any guide book.  We walked ultra slowly down through 9 blocks into the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, among an endless ocean of locals, enjoying roasted corn on the cob, fried onion flowers, Italian sausage, curly fries, epinada’s, caramel corn, deep fried Oreo’s and gosh only knows what else.  The whole of 8th Street looking down was populated by the multicultural colours, sights and sounds of NYC inhabitants.  There was a massive range of side-stalls with games for kids, and gold-fish for sale, and even 600 thread count Egyptian cotton bed linen for $20 (so naturally we felt compelled to buy a pack).  The whole street fair thing went for about 15 or more blocks I’d guess.  So many people.

In the evening we caught up with a woman I work with, who’s just moved to Chelsea, from Sydney, and we had a really lovely evening of cocktails and tuna sashimi, tempura oysters, chicken tepinyaki and so on.  It was great to spend time with her.  Came back to the Patio Bar here afterwards, at the Hudson, among the vined walls, and thought about how mind-blowingly wonderful this city is to visit.  We are having a spectacular time.

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