Mr. Glenn D. Lowry
Museum of Modern Art
New York, New York
Dear Mr. Lowry:
I read about you in the New York Times article titled "MoMA's Expansion and Director Draw Critics." In it, you are quoted as saying: "on the other hand, sometimes you have to make really tough decisions if you think they're right......If one's tenure boils down to a construction program then something fundamental has been missed. And what I think is essential is the collection, the programs and the people." Then the article goes on to state that:
But Mr. Lowry said that for the museum to embrace art that is increasingly interactive and pop-culture infused, it had to risk such opposition. Under his leadership, he said, the museum has not only dived more energetically into contemporary art but has also broadened its overall focus to include more Latin American and non-Western art and more work by women (critics say it still has a long ways to go). It has also been more welcoming to performance-based art, though some of its forays -- like the actress Tilda Swinton lying inside a big glass box -- have been ridiculed as pandering or ham-handed.
"If we were being criticized for being timid, that would upset me," Mr. Lowry said. "But if we're being criticized because we've engaged spectacle or we engage popular culture in interesting ways," then it does not worry him deeply.
Well said, Mr. Lowry.
After reading this article, I realized that you have led the MoMA during most of my interaction with the institution, as a visitor and as a member. Throughout the last eighteen years, my experience with the MoMA has been very meaningful to me. While the MoMA's "new" facilities were being constructed, I visited the temporary one in Queens with my wife and then seven year-old son. We went there because one of my son's marvelous teachers had taught him about pointillism, and also about the Starry Night painting. I cannot describe my emotion when he pointed, and said "Starry Night." Or when I asked him "what is pointillism?", and he pointed to a Seurat painting.
Later came my turn at childlike discovery. At the inaugural installations in November 2004, I was stopped dead-in-my-tracks when I saw, for the very first time, Brice Marden's art. That painting which hung in the atrium is embedded in my mind. During that visit, I also discovered the storytelling genius of Andreas Gursky; the mesmerizing command of light, and also my imagination, of Josiah McElheny; and the surprise in Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk.
I became mesmerized by art after taking a history of art class, as an undergraduate student at Yale. The professor required her students to visit the Yale University Art Gallery, and to write essays about paintings which we selected to explore further. At the "new" MoMA, I've seen a fan magically whirling what seemed to be a video tape, and a woman playing from inside a piano. I've drunk possibly the best coffee I've ever tasted. I've seen a lamp made out of kitchen utensils (please remind me who created it.) At the MoMA I have found joy. Because of the MoMA, I have even experienced longing. Like when I was unable to travel to visit the retrospectives of Elizabeth Murray and Brice Marden, or the exhibition of Richard Serra's monumental pieces. (I did get to see the Jeff Wall exhibition.)
In 2010, I visited the MoMA again with my wife and fifteen year-old son. We savored the exhibition Abstract Expressionist New York: The Big Picture. I was able to share with my son my thrill at seeing so many important Pollock's and Rothko's. I had the audacity to explain to him some of what little knowledge I have about these artists, and their work. I'll never forget standing in that room full of paintings by Rothko with my son!
My son is now eighteen. He wants to become an engineer. He just returned from a "flash escapade" to New York City with his mother. Of course, for them another visit to the MoMA was a top priority. Now they understand much better Gaugin's body of work. And my son, the future engineer, saw Frank Lloyd Wright's drawings and large-scale models.
Mr. Lowry, I have never resided in Manhattan. But I feel that I can wholeheartedly say "Ich bin ein Manhattanite." I have no clue about the merits of the issues provoking "dark nights of the soul" for you. But please allow me to express that, if, based solely on your judgment, you decided to tear down a swath of Manhattan for the sake of progress or for the sake of art, you would have my full confidence for such a decision.
Thank you, Mr. Lowry. Thank you so much!
Manuel R. De Juan-vW.
PS I wanted to send this note to you via email but, try as I may have, I could not find the right address. So I decided to send it to you through Huffington Post. It is sure to reach you.