What I Saw in Chelsea (and points south)

September 15, 2010

Barbara Kruger’s big words at the Whitney’s High Line construction site (top) and Marc Newson’s boy toys at Gagosian (above).

Gorgeous day yesterday.  Didn’t want to sit at my desk.  So I accepted an invitation to go to the press preview of designer Marc Newson’s exhibition, Transport.  It’s at the Gagosian Gallery on W. 21st St.  Initially I viewed it as a collection of planes that don’t fly,  boats that don’t float and  cars that don’t drive.  Which, I figured, makes them art rather than design.  Except that Newson’s boyish enthusiasm for aerodynamic form doesn’t lend itself to the critical viewpoint that art generally requires.  He’s no Damien Hirst.  But as it turns out, the boat, Aquariva, actually does float, and has been produced in a limited edition of 22 by the Italian Riva boatyards.  Asking price: $1.28 million.  So it actually is a design show.  And the Gagosian Gallery is  doubling as a boat showroom.  My mistake.  Now, if  the little jet, Kelvin40 (pictured above), could really fly, I’d be impressed.

From Gagosian, I resisted the urge to get on the subway and instead climbed up to the High Line and meandered south, enjoying the sun and noticing how the foliage around the re-installed railroad tracks was beginning to take on that lush, overgrown look that Joel Sternfeld captured in his old High Line photos.  At the south end of the park, I looked down at the site where the Whitney is building its new branch and was surprised and happy to see jumbo  words  everywhere.  It was, as I suspected, a new installation by artist Barbara Kruger.  Her art doesn’t float, fly, or drive, but she hasn’t lost the knack for putting her worldview right in your face.

P.S.  I have a new Metropolis column about urban beauty and a very profound new Travel + Leisure web feature called the World’s Coolest Observation Decks.  (There’s also an observation deck story in the October T+L, but that’s not online yet.)

P.P.S.  I own a Marc Newson-designed soap dish and it really does hold soap.