How is tomorrow my last day at the Whitney? I am incredibly uber-sad. I love my department: my understanding and generous supervisor, Christa who is funny and cool and down to earth, Theresa my intern buddy with whom I bemoaned the horrors of grad and post-grad school, Rebekah and Molly down in the subcellar who always brightened my day when they popped upstairs, Alicia with whom I wandered SoHo…so many good people! Hopefully we will stay in touch.
The farewells began today, alas. My supervisor treated the interns to a farewell lunch at Spice, a Thai place on 2nd, and we lingered for three hours discussing everything: East Coast vs. West Coast Judaism, the Club Kids of New York City in the 1980s, Kiki and Herb, various museum experiences, the meaning of the word “hipster,” my supervisor’s adorable-sounding children, and, of course, the New York food scene. Speaking of food, I ate some: vegetable dumplings and pad thai. The dumplings were wonderfully chewy and a little nutty (I have not yet had bad dumplings; they all taste a little different but it is hard to displease me when it comes to dough stuffed with delicious things) and a serviceable and sweet pad thai.
Lunch was long and leisurely and we didn’t get back to the Whitney until 4:15, and then I did a bit of shopping, and then the interns and I headed upstairs for the farewell interns party which involved some cupcakes and cookies and much talking and many staff members from the museum. And then I got sad, because I am leaving. Yes, sadness hit my heart, and I’m still feeling a little sad. I had to say goodbye to my supervisor and Alicia, and I dislike goodbyes, I really do. Tomorrow is the official last day which means uber-sadness. Do. Not. Like.
Allright, enough angst and melodrama. Time to go to my last Beer Crawl. Ungh. Sad.
In the city, and it wasn’t too active I am afraid. Work is wonderfully busy. The curators met today to approve gifts, and there were many gifts (I believe around forty-five objects total). Some of the works were not approved, or met vigorous debate before being approved. Said debates/conversations involved issues of differing taste, the subject of politics when dealing with donors, the odd particularities of conceptual art, and the legacy, mission, and history-building aspects of the museum. I won’t go too far into detail regarding said debates because it is not my place and certain things should remain behind closed doors, but it was fascinating and a privelege to get to witness the conversations held at this curatorial meeting. A really unusual time, and an aspect of the Whitney that I had not yet experienced during my time at the museum.
Once the curatorial meeting was over Theresa, Christa (the documentation assistant who also went to Pine View and the University of Florida) and I had to get to work cataloging all the new art. Cataloging involves measuring, making notes of any signatures/markings on the fronts and backs of the works, and transcribing labels on the frames. If you find irregularities, such as a tear in the backing board or debris, you make a note of it. I found a little tiny (dead) bug in one of the prints I was cataloging. The frames on those prints are original, so that bug has been there since the piece was made in the late 1970s. Hopefully one of the conservators will remove the little dead 1970s bug. I actually really enjoy cataloging, though I feel bad having to constantly get art handlers to move/turn over/prop up the works for me so I can see their reverse side. Part of the job, I guess. Anyhow, working with the art is great!
This evening I didn’t do much. I fought the horrible rain and thunder and humidity to the gym and back again, worked at eating down the food in my fridge, and recorded a podcast with Brad. Said podcast will be posted sometime next week; worry not, I will link to it. Now: more packing and cleaning and getting ready to leave New York City. Which is ridiculous. I love New York City, so I am definitely sad to leave, but I am also definitely ready to be back home. Bittersweet indeed.
Oh, also, Rebekah, one of my Frying Pan buddies and one of the more solid people at the Whitney, has a really lovely photoblog that captures quirky, unusual images of her day. You should check it out here.
Today we were back in the subcellar at work, finishing cataloging the Buckminster Fuller prints. Which I want. In my apartment. Right now. We also had a group intern luncheon. They fed us sandwiches and cookies from the City Bakery; the sandwiches were fairly average, I enjoyed my tomato and mozzarella and had a bite of some sort of chicken and cilantro thing that was a little weird. The cookies were awesome: rich and buttery, though the chocolate chip was a little thinner than I like. Cookies should have a little thickness and heft. The luncheon was presided over by a panel of former Whitney interns who are now Whitney employees which, I mean, great for them that they were at the museum during a non-recessionary time period where their respective departments were hiring, but their stories of luck and good timing just don’t apply to my current situation. While it is encouraging to see people who are doing what they want to do and enjoying their jobs, particularly in the arts, the current economic realities just don’t allow for the opportunities the panel employees had when they worked at the Whitney three, four, or five years ago. Anyhow, hopefully their situation will be my situation at some point in the future. Fingers crossed, etc.
Anyhow, in more interesting less work related news a group of us from Documentation left work a little early today to pilgrammage down to this really unusual bar in Chelsea called the Frying Pan. The Frying Pan is actually a boat which is docked at Pier 66 on the Hudson River, which, I mean, awesome. The bar is composed of the boat itself, which sank twice (I believe) before being resurrected in its current incarnation, and a larger slightly more stable barge area with food and tables.
Luckily we sat on the barge side of the establishment, as the boat was rock-rock-rocking and I tend to get dizzy when placed on rocking boat-like objects. The barge was a little rocky but I managed to ignore it if I was sitting. The table got a bucket of Coronas (so Florida, or at least it felt so Florida to me). I ordered a diet coke and some much raved about Old Bay Garlic Fries. Said garlic fries were generally seasoned with Old Bay and, more importantly, studded with whole cloves of roasted garlic. Which I consumed, copiously immediately, I will be sweating garlic for days.
Anyhow, it was a beautiful summer night, and the boat was on the river, and Jersey was across the river and Manhattan was behind me, and I was with some of my favorite people/interns at the Whitney, and all was well. I will miss the people in this department when I leave on Monday, and hopefully we will stay in touch, they are solid human beings.
So after a few hours of enjoying the lovely company and lovely evening it was decided that the boat proper needed exploring. I decided to brave the unhappily rocking waves and enter the Frying Pan. Which is amazing: a big rusted mazey interior of old-fashioned boaty goodness. Everything is old and rusted and dangerous and you can just sort of wander and evidently at night it turns into a ridiculous drunken rocking party, which, awesome.
I can imagine how creepy/fantastic this boat is when it is night time. Also, evidently, there was a geocache hidden somewhere on said boat, so if you iPhone folks have geocache, get searching.
All the rocking of the boat sort of drained me of life, so I headed out fairly shortly after exploration and fun. I decided that I wasn’t yet ready to climb back onto a moving object so I decided to walk from the Hudson and Riverside Drive all the way to the Park Avenue and 23rd street stop of the 6 Line. Which is far, yes, but I stopped for some yogurt on the way to the subway and the walk enabled my head to calm down. Also, the walk brought me to Madison Square Park where I saw an odd but charming solar-powered wifi floral set up installed by Prius.
A good night. Only a few days left. Ridiculous. Go to the Frying Pan! One of the coolest bar-type places I’ve experienced in this wonderful, charming, infuriating city.
Back to work today! Theresa and I will be downstairs in the subcellar this week cataloging works. Today we worked on a series of really fabulous oversized Buckminster Fuller prints. I love getting to see and handle the art, and today we were extremely up close and personal. My only real coplaint about the subcellar is that it can be a little inefficient, especially when handling large works. We need art handlers to deal with large prints, so sometimes it can be a little slow if the art handlers are busy. Still, I really love the prints with which we are working. Later this week we’ll get to sit in on a curatorial meeting where the curators approve new works–we get to watch said approval and then curate said works.
After work I decided I needed cupcakes, stat. I trekked across the Upper East Side to Two Little Red Hens and was caught in a monsoon-style rainstorm right when I hit 2nd and 80th. I battled the rain to the cupcake shop and ordered several cupcakes to go as well as two mini-cupcakes (red velvet and yellow cake with vanilla frosting) to keep me company while I waited out the rain.
The monsoon eventually reduced to a drizzle and I headed back to my apartment to meet up with Mara, who had to collect her bag before heading back to Chapel Hill; I’ll be following her in a week. Yay.
I decided to have some of one of my cupcakes as a pre-dinner snack.
Since I’d never had Brooklyn Blackout I decided to try some of that cupcake first. The Brooklyn Blackout is a lot of chocolate: fudgey cake, chocolate topping, etc.
Also, a little something extra on the inside: CHOCOLATE. PUDDING. Chocolate pudding, in a cupcake! Genius!
I love pudding and I love cupcakes so this really was an all-around win. However I only had a few bites, because I wanted to a) eat dinner and b) go to the gym. Also c) don’t want to get fat. I had a few bites of the red velvet for dessert post-dinner (the red velvet at Two Little Red Hens is to die for, lovely and light and fluffy and the cream cheese frosting is amazing). I’ll nosh on the cupcakes through the week as little snacks. If I ate all three at once it’d be delicious but also a failure in terms of common sense.
I spent the rest of the evening post-gym cleaning house and beginning to pack. I have a busy week ahead so I wanted to ensure domesticity while I had the time. We’re in the home stretch, y’all!
Thursday morning the intern group was addressed by the Whitney’s general counsel, Nick Holmes, and the Whitney’s curator of photography, Elisabeth Sussman. The general counsel practices what I believe is termed “fun law.” That is, he went to law school, worked at a large corporate law firm for a few years, hated it, decided to combine his undergrad degree in art history with his law abilities and came to work at the Whitney as the manager of collections, ended up counseling the museum on contracts etc., and was therefore given the title legal counsel before being upgraded to general counsel, which is where he’s at now. Nick presented a series of case studies regarding issues he has encountered during his time at the Whitney, from having artists waive insurance rights with work they insist be placed in unprotected areas (ie: stairwells where there are no guards and where visitors can and do damage said works) to dealing with works that damage people (believe it or not it happens, and the general counsel has to settle the claim). The general counsel deals with work permits and sidewalk permits and anything involving zoning issues with the building and any and all contracts with loaners or artists or corporations. He made law sound enjoyable; he has, as he termed it, the dream job, and is clearly really enthused to be able to speak on behalf of the Whitney.
Elisabeth Sussman got her start by curating the 1993 Whitney Biennial, which is one of the more famous biennials in the museum’s history (two of her co-curators was Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Musem in Harlem, and Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum). Sussman spoke at length about her experience as an extremely green curator working on the biennial and how that biennial really shattered a lot of conceptions and paved the way for future biennials. Sussman worked for nearly a decade at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston before returning to the Whitney, and so told us of her time there working in a museum that had minimal budget and that was really shaping its identity. She also talked about some of her favorite exhibitions she’d curated, including an exhibition of works by Mike Kelly and an exhibition devoted to Diane Arbus. Sussman noted some of the issues with the photography collection at the Whitney. The Whitney began collecting photography late, and so has many major gaps in terms of American photography. For instance, the Whitney lacks work by Walker Evans and only has a single Ansel Adams photography. These gaps are glaring at a museum devoted to American art. However, major works by artists such as Evans and Diane Arbus and Adams are extremely expensive and difficult to acquire. Therefore Sussman must focus on acquiring works by newer artists to strengthen the collection on the contemporary side of the board.
After the intern meeting I ran home for a quick lunch and then returned to the Whitney to give Cookie a tour of the museum. I enjoy being able to show my friends around where I work and I especially enjoy introducing people to art with which they are not familiar and/or explaining art that isn’t immediately comprehensible. Also, yay seeing Cookie again–seriously, their visit was a pleasant surprise.
I was going to trek to museums during the remainder of the afternoon but the weather was miserable and so I decided to head inside until around 6:30, when a dinner date with a friend forced me back outside into the horrible awful weather that seemed more appropriate to Seattle than to New York City. We went to a dirt cheap and dirty deli on 2nd avenue between 7th and St. Marks called B&H Dairy–the dairy referring to the fact that it used to be a kosher dairy deli. I think that they’ve since lost their kosher seal but whatever. Anyhow, this is one of those little hole in the wall New York City places that hasn’t been cleaned since it opened in the 1960s. And that’s okay, because the food is delicious and deliciously cheap. I had a classic New York deli dish of really wonderful cheese blintzes. The filling was perfectly sweet and the wrapping was crispy on the outside, chewy on the in, excellently cooked and extremely filling. The blintzes also came with a plate of thickly sliced and thickly buttered challah bread. I mean, this was a total win.
After dinner I walked several blocks up 2nd to the Telephone Bar and Grill for beer crawl, which I hadn’t attended since Brad’s birthday which was something like three weeks ago so I am officially lame. This was an extremely successful beer crawl: a large turnout of diverse people, some of whom, much to Brad and company’s glee, were even female! I had various enlightening conversations with various ex-college roommates of some of my Pine View friends. What can I say, Pine View people tend to be friends with smart/amusing/enlightening people. It’s a thing.
So after a few hours at beer crawl I headed home (with a stop at Red Mango along the way of course). Yes, I am a little behind schedule, but I’ll catch up, no worries. I’ve been here eight weeks already; that is absurd. Where oh where did the summer go…