Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  

Time Warner Building on Columbus Circle

Plans for The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art expansion under construction, Mar. 29, 2002

Orson Welles as Harry Lyme in The Third Man

Build, Baby, Build
by Charlie Finch

Collector Richard Massey hosted a bash for the artists of Mike Weiss Gallery on the 30,000 square foot veranda half way up the South Tower of the Time Warner building on Columbus Circle last week.

The steep, darkly breathtaking view from Time Warners perch recalls Orson Welles famous turn as the amoral Harry Lyme in The Third Man from atop a Viennese Ferris wheel the taxis teem down Central Park South like so many cockroaches, cold lights stream from one Midtown tower to another, and the only nature in view is a brace of sickly trees in concrete pots shipped in especially for the party.

Downstairs, the Nuremberg-like Time Warner bunker yields machine gun toting cops and guards, metal barriers and cement berms and blocked traffic everywhere.

Its as if our citys response to the murders of 9/11 was to build one more tempting target, daring Al Qaeda to try yet again. Like so many peasants climbing up Krakatoa to plant new crops in the cooling lava and smoldering dead, New York has launched an irrational frenzy of building which threatens to engulf city life forever, or at least until the next terrorist attack.

Our blessed museums are not exempt! MOMAs recent confirmation that it will reopen in November sent shockwaves of anxiety through its museo competitors the Whitney announced yet another tired expansion plan, the Guggenheim suddenly noticed that its toilet bowl is covered with mold and dangles yet another branch near the proposed Jets Stadium above Hudson Rail yards; the Metropolitan seems permanently covered with black construction netting.

The New Museum will move to Rivington Street; the Drawing Center, courageously, to Ground Zero. Yet, amongst the hammering, the planning, the bond sales, the plutocratic soporifics, of the Bloombergs and Patakis, there seems to be no time to live.

As the ugly, claustrophobic Time Warner building demonstrates, we are all ants waiting for a ride on the Ferris wheel, and the insignificant specks we view from atop the sky are us.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).