Last week, the Museum of Modern Art held a peculiar vernissage, sponsored by Sotheby’s, for its new Education Building designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. The blast had more trolling middle-aged males than a night at Doubles during the 1980s, copious platters of cheese, and 30-year-old piped-in rock. Then there was the building.
Give Taniguchi san credit. He has achieved completion, MoMA is finally his and his alone. The bonsai effect -- planned diminishment -- began as my wife and I strolled past the rushing pond in MoMA’s sculpture garden; the thing now rushes by like a sewer in Detroit. The education complex glowed like an alien visitation, forbidding yet seductive like sushi on a naked geisha.
Inside, a few arch artworks announced that we were still under MoMA’s control. Warhol cows which we fondly remembered from the Whitney in 1968 are now plastered and sadly truncated on the stairway. There’s a Formula One race car and a lavender Elizabeth Murray, basically throwaways. Everything is neatly slotted into boxes. The refectory, aka "The Café," seats one in tight, parallel formation, like galley slaves on a ship to nowhere. The movie theater, the Titus, a last refuge for bag ladies and the penniless with MoMA memberships, now resembles, and presumably will function, as David Geffen’s screening room. Have they finished dry-cleaning the vomit off Nan Kempner’s clothes at the Met yet?
Why, Taniguchi, why? For years rumors have circulated in New York’s architectural community that Taniguchi sans was bitter at being nickel-and-dimed by the MoMA board for materials, etc. Perhaps you recall that at one point Taniguchi wished to construct an artists’ mausoleum in the basement of MoMA patterned after Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, an idea which horrified a MoMA board which believes that you can take it with you.
Now that MoMA’s Iron Butterfly has been dragged from its cocoon, Taniguchi’s evil genius is reified: shopping malls for art, crypts for the scholarly brain. Somewhere Frank Lloyd Wright glows with envy.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).