NY, NY, A Minimal Town

It’s a fine hook to hang a puff piece for the Guggenheim’s minimalism exhibit on: Tour the city with the curators and uncover the minimalism all around us. Should be ideal; so why would I rather take my chances on the Baghdad-Najaf local?

Is it the idea of riding around in a van all day? The constant competition for most nerve-fraying whine between Nancy Spector’s 3-month-old baby and chief curator/clotheshorse Lisa Dennison? (“There is a very real danger that I will start to shop, so we’d better be brief.”)

No, it’s the depressing realization that these supposedly high-octane New York artminds, augmented by artist and prolific writer Liam Gillick, couldn’t have come up with a more unimaginative, uninformative itinerary. With the exception of Donald Judd’s own studio/house in SoHo, their minimalist sites barely warrant looking up as your cab goes by.
Jil Sander (by Spector’s husband) instead of Calvin Klein (by maxi-minimalist and Judd cut-and-paster John Pawson)? The window at the Time Warner Mall instead of the Rose Center Planetarium (which did clear-glass curtainwall first, infinitely better, and happens to be by an actual architect)? Richard Meier’s silly Asia de Cuba or whatever the hell it’s called? (My guess: Lisa’s idea.)

And the piece de resistance: the Seagram building instead of something actually minimalist, like _____(I’m thinking.) This minimalist braintrust actually drinks the Miesian Koolaid, that it’s all about “structure as the expression of the buildng.” Mies was as much about decoration as the next classicist, it turns out, as the renovation of his IIT in Chicago proved. His structure was a veneer on top of the actual structure: aestheticized, artificial, techno-classicist.

[Update: I am not all right on this Mies nonsense, but it turns out I’m even lazier than a vanful of curators. And I’m too bored with their conceit to care. If you’re really interested in minimalism and the grid and its influence on the city, go read the chapter on how laying out the grid led to the development of the skyscraper in Koolhaas’s Delirious New York.