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The Museum of Modern Arts new 53rd Street entrance


MoMA board chairman Ronald Lauder addresses the press in front of James Rosenquists F-111


One of Moma's new contemporary art spaces

MoMA with Tears
by Charlie Finch


Sitting in the spacious sixth-floor atrium of the brave new Museum of Modern Art, listening to a dentefricial Ron Lauder praise himself and his wealthy colleagues, one remembers a more intimate MoMA where working class people brought a sandwich in a brown bag and a book of poems, or Shakespeare, to rest and bask in the temple of art.

That world, and that ethos, are gone forever. Even 9/11 could not bring them back, at least not in midtown Manhattan. Looking at Rosenquists F-111 like an altarpiece, one can hear the little blonde girl quoting Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

Looking at Taniguchisans sterile environment, like a larger version of the interiors at MoMA QNS, one thinks of the auditorium scenes in films such as Charly or 1984. The individual is sucked out of existence in this matrix; the individual artist disappears in the wake of the exchange value of the art object.

This is the price you pay under moguls like MoMA trustee Jerry Speyer, who, at the press conference, spoke of "the glory" of MoMAs renovation project and the inspired moment when they "set up the bandstand for the trustees dinner."

Let them eat art, or dollars, or status, or any other indigestible bit of materialism which stomps on the soul of what art should really be about.

What art is not about are engulfing white walls and airless shopping-mall spaces which neutralize even the greatest works of art. The new MoMA is the logical endpoint of the Thomas Krens/Guggenheim mentality: grandiose preening vanity for its own sake.

From the grubbiest atelier in the middle of nowhere, let the word go forth:

Shame, shame, shame.


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