This weekend I went Downtown to take a walk along the High Line, the fairly newly created park and walkway on the old elevated railroad that used to carry freight trains above the crowded cobbled streets of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. The Friends of the High Line have done a magnificent job in creating a peaceful place just a few feet above the bustling streets of what is now one of the trendiest districts in Manhattan, and the views across the rooftops of Downtown and also across the Hudson to New Jersey are breathtaking. I loved looking at the way Manhattan used to be, filled with warehouses and red brick apartment buildings, many of which still have signs painted on them referring to long forgotten products and shops who last saw customers one hundred years ago, as well as the cobbled streets that used to ring with horses’ hooves and the din of many hundreds of workers rushing around the wharves and huge warehouses. This area is on a much smaller scale and feels more domestic and homely than the tall and more impersonal spaces of Midtown, and I very much enjoyed my walk through the district.
On Sunday I took myself off to the American Museum of Folk Art, which has an exciting exhibition of Quilts…opening this coming weekend. So, I will have to go back to see those. However, I did enjoy seeing their current exhibition of folk art taken from the apartment of Henry Darger, who is apparently quite famous, but I had never heard of him before. I found this exhibition very interesting, as his art work was basically torn out pages from magazines and colouring books, made into collages. Not being an art connoisseur, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘what makes this worthy of display in a Museum?’ – they looked like the pictures my nephew draws at nursery that are stuck on my sister’s fridge. In fact, the whole definition of what is ‘folk art’ and what is essentially a child’s drawing, was a bit lost on me, but I did very much appreciate the celebration of the often excellent work of unschooled artists creating beautiful objects and paintings that reflected their experience and used their abilities without feeling pressured to bow down to the accepted rules of the artistic establishment.
Right next door to the Folk Art Museum is MOMA, and I wandered in to see the Matisse exhibition, which was so crowded I couldn’t bear it, and instead I went down a floor to the 19th century room. I am not really a fan of contemporary modern art, but the work of Van Gogh, Klimt, and Cezanne, I particularly enjoy, and it was such a wonderful surprise to round corners of rooms to find more remarkable, famous paintings I know and love and have never seen in the flesh. My personal favourite was the Klimt below, and I know I will be going back to have a better look when it’s not so crowded. However, after having just visited the much smaller Folk Art Museum next door, I couldn’t help but think that some of the work dismissed as simply amateur ‘folk’ art is really a lot better than the abstract sploshes considered works of contemporary genius costing millions of dollars that are displayed on the walls of MOMA. Matisse’s paintings especially had many similarities to the simplistic, brightly coloured paintings in the Folk Art Museum, and I left my afternoon at these two museums really quite confused as to how the art world works, and who decides what is good and worth lots of money and what isn’t. It’s an enigma to me. But I still enjoyed looking at it, and that’s what matters.
I finished my day with a wander down to Little Italy, where I was meeting my flatmates for dinner. I popped into Shakespeare and Co books, where I bought some hilarious Anne Taintor postcards to send home to my domestically oppressed sister, and then found myself caught up in the delicious smells and wonderful sounds of the San Gennaro festival on Mulberry Street, where my friends and I ate and soaked up the atmosphere of yet another lively and warm night in Manhattan. Finally, I’ll leave you with a photo of the view of Manhattan from outside my apartment block; aren’t I the luckiest girl in the world?!