The only reason we were here was to see the new Whitney Museum of American Art. Have you forgotten that the Cypriot is an architect by day? Seeing the latest work by fellow architect, Renzo Piano, was much more important than relaxing with friends and family, even during the holiday season. Off we went…
Jumping on the train from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, one can’t help but be reminded how grand train travel was in the early part of the 20th Century. You gasp in awe as you wait in line for your train encompassed by the vast ceiling, larger than life sculptures, hanging chandeliers and the pièce de résistance, Karl Bitter’s 1895 relief The Spirit of Transportation. Everyone in the relief is heading off somewhere, sheep included, just as we were.
Upon arrival, we didn’t even have to leave the station, but headed straight uptown to midtown to drop our bags off and a quick kiss the friends who were housing us for a few nights before jumping back on the E train, or should I say the Whitney Express!
A girl has got to eat if she is going to see so much art and I made the Cypriot take a detour to the, not so new, but oh so delicious, Chelsea Market.
What was new to me there was Num Pang – the Cambodian Sandwich Shop. Having never been to the country I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but I can vouch for its being the best damn Pulled Duroc Pork I’ve had. We also sampled their Roasted Chicken Rice Bowl. Come hungry as you get lot of bang for your buck, especially if you use the spicy sauce provided.
Now the time had come to see what we came for – Renzo Piano’s spanking new, metal structure that was built to house the Whitney’s permanent collection. Although the uptown Whiney is not that old (1966), a new more funky modern one has arrived. It has been called: “more clunky than romantic” or my favourite quote by New York magazine’s Justin Davidson “The thing might have arrived in an Ikea flat pack and then been prodigiously misassembled.” The critics hated the previous building – “”an inverted Babylonian ziggurat,” said one, so who knows how history will rate this.
After a walk ‘round front and back and sides, we entered the bright, busy hall with a huge elevator built to transport art and ultra-hip art fiends.
Out on the terrace of the top floor, no one could criticize these views, especially on such a lovely afternoon.
Uptown: The Standard Hotel and the Empire State Building say hello.
Downtown (not Downton – which is on everyone’s mind in the USA right now!): the Freedom Tower and, if you look very closely, Lady Liberty in all her glory at the tip of the promontory.
The terraces interconnected the three top floors, but we doubled back inside to see some art.
Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool, and a slew of other famous names line the walls for cool sun-glassed onlookers to pose in front of.
As we made our way downstairs, Frank Stella’s metal monument seemed to wave us goodbye and I whispered a “Locomotive,” (A Princeton thing – Frank was a tiger too.)
Although the Meat-Packing district is filled with shops equally as cool as the new Whitney, Warby Parker, Rapha, Jeffrey’s and a glorious food market. Old New York seems to have been swept away.
As we wandered down Gansevoort Street overwhelmed by new New York and all its shiny and fabulous constructions, I regaled the Cypriot with tales of the old days: blood lined the streets, cow’s that is, dodgy all-night hang-outs where you were encouraged to dance on the bar (think Hogs & Heifers), and how you could get a soupe à l’oignon 24 hrs a day, when Florent was the only eatery in the neighborhood.
NB: We were guests of the The Whitney, but had our heart set on going as soon as I knew the USA was our holiday destination. Everything I write is always my own opinion!