New York, 28 December 2015

I’ve described in a previous post the beautiful, and really very unique, High Line Park in New York. On our first visit to the park, we heard that the Whitney museum was planning to relocate from uptown to new premises bang on the High Line. Now, two years later, the plans have come to fruition, and since we are once again in town to celebrate Christmas and New Year with the children we decided to go and visit.

The building itself was designed by the architect Renzo Piano, he of the Centre Pompidou in Paris (along with fellow architect Richard Rogers)
and, less felicitously, of the Shard in London
along with a string of projects in between. The new Whitney is not as spectacular as these two, giving the impression of being more of a workmanlike project – how to give the museum lots of exhibition space – and blending in quite well with its surroundings.
One also gets beautiful views across the Hudson River from its windows.
Perhaps it’s just as well. I mean, the main purpose of going to a museum is not so much to see the container as to see what is contained (I grant, though, that a handsome packaging can add lustre to what’s in the package). So let me focus on the contents.

Actually, I don’t really want to focus on the contents as such, but rather use them to meditate on something which gets under my skin when it comes to really modern art – let’s say, stuff produced in the last sixty years i.e., during my lifetime.

I happen to think that the primary purpose of any piece of art should be to adorn one’s abode in a way that gladdens the heart and puts a spring in one’s step. The key, though, is that the piece of art should fit through the door of one’s abode and, once in, should fit on a wall of that abode (or, if a sculpture, on a small table or shelf). The core of the Whitney’s collection, from the ’30s and ’40s, would do this admirably. For instance, there was a lovely Hopper on view which would could be passed through the door of our apartment quite easily and would fit quite nicely on one of its walls.
It’s one of several delectable Hoppers in the collection. Or I wouldn’t mind at all putting this painting by Charles Demuth on our wall.
Getting it into the apartment would be a breeze – I think it could probably even fit it into the small elevator we have in our building, thus avoiding us having to carry it up three flights of stairs.

But as we get into the late ’50s, early ’60s, the pieces begin to grow. We would just about be able to manhandle this Pollock which the Whitney has through our apartment door, but I think we would have difficulty finding a place for it on the wall.
And this painting by his wife Lee Krasner would be impossible to hang in our apartment, it’s just too damned big let alone of a size to get through the door.
The pieces in the Frank Stella show which the Whitney is currently organizing were even worse. They were huge lumbering monsters, which would not even fit through the front doors of our apartment building, leave alone through the door of our apartment.

And even if by some miracle we got them into the apartment, many of his pieces jut out, making it hard to have any furniture around them.
Of course, given the stellar prices for modern art, only plutocrats can afford to buy these pieces. But do even they live in such palatial abodes as to make it possible for such a piece to fit snugly in the living room, say? I find it hard to believe.

I can only assume that much modern art is either made for large and powerful multinational corporations, whose huge atriums or corporate boardrooms in their Headquarters have enough space for such pieces


or it is made for museums such as the Whitney which have large exhibition spaces. Either way, art for the people it is not. And that’s a pity, because at the end of the day art should be for us, something which we can hang on our wall and admire for decades or even centuries before perhaps donating it to a museum.

I think it’s time for a new art movement, the FOTS (“Fits Over The Sofa”) movement.


Centre Pompidou:
The Shard:
The Whitney (both views):
View across the Hudson:
Edward Hopper “Early Sunday Morning”:
Charles Demuth “My Egypt”:
Jackson Pollock “Number 27, 1950”:
Lee Krasner “The Seasons”:
Frank Stella:
Frank Stella:
Headquarter atrium art:
Corporate boardroom art:
Space over sofa:

Published by


I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.