Tourist For A Day: New York City Edition – Guggenheim Museum

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under: Things I Love About NY, Tourist For a Day | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Being “between opportunities” has its benefits (and no, I’m not just talking unemployment). This is particularly true in a city like New York, where you never have time to do the things you want because you’re working too hard (or you can’t afford it, but that’s another issue entirely).

So now that I am a free agent on the job market, I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to do some things and see some sights that I haven’t done in my 16 years here. Or that would require me to go on a Saturday or Sunday, when the rest of the world has “free” time. BTW, have you ever wondered why it’s called “free” time? It always costs me a lot of money.

Introducing Tourist For a Day: New York City Edition

Welcome to the first installment of a new series I’m calling “Tourist For a Day.” Each week, I’ll do something “touristy” that’s been on my list, take pictures, and write about it. There will be a number of museum visits and I hope to finally walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (weather permitting).

I will not, however, go to Times Square as part of this series. I worked in that area for many years and frankly, I don’t need to spend any more time there. Ever.  Also, I won’t walk four across on the sidewalk, stop in the middle of the street for a photo or look slack-jawed at anything for no good reason.  I can only take the “tourist” thing so far. I am a New Yorker.

I’m also open to suggestions, so please feel free to send me a note or leave a comment if there’s something that you think I should check out.

Kandinsky Retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum

First up? The Guggenheim Museum for the last day of the Wassily Kandinsky Retrospective, a 95 piece collection put together to honor the museum’s 50th anniversary. (For the record, going to a museum is not in and of itself a “touristy” endeavor; going at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon is). Kandinsky played a large role in the creation of the Guggenheim Museum, as his works were some of the first to be acquired by Solomon Guggenheim, the museum’s founder. So of course it was only fitting that this museum host the huge retrospective in its trademark spiral setting.

Just a few people at the Kandinsky Retrospective

My aunt and uncle saw the exhibit when they were in New York and said it was one of the best exhibits they’d ever seen. And since it was closing on Wednesday, January 13, I had no time to spare. Off I went. I expected it to be crowded, since it was the last day of the exhibit and because the city is just crawling with tourists in December and January. Wednesday was no exception.

As you can see, a few other people had the same idea I did and wanted to see this fantastic retrospective before it closed.

I don’t want to turn this post into a history of Kandinsky, so I urge you to read the description of the exhibit from the Guggenheim or even his Wikipedia page.

Who is Kandinsky?

Wassily Kandinsky was born in Russia but lived in Russia, Germany and France, and witnessed two world wars (he died just after World War II ended). He was a fascinating man whose style and approach evolved over time. Incredibly, he didn’t even start painting until he was 30, giving up his study of law and economics. Kandinsky was interested in the deconstruction of art and so his paintings, not surprisingly, are abstract and a bit hard to understand. But that’s ok, because they are very cool to look at. His use of colors and geometry is striking and to see all the works together in one place was really quite impressive.

Kandinsky's Yellow, Red, Blue (photo from

As someone who was looking to reinterpret art and push the boundaries, it is no surprise that Kandinsky founded the “Blue Rider” and also played a large role in the creation of the Bauhaus movement, along with founder Walter Gropius. I learned a lot at the exhibit thanks to the complimentary audio tour (well, it was included in the price of the $18 ticket, so I’ll consider it “complimentary”).

Schönberg and Kandinsky

The exhibition’s curator also used a lot of the music of Arnold Schönberg in the exhibit.  Schönberg and Kandinsky shared the same basic philosophy towards their respective arts: break it down and recreate it in a way that’s never been done before. In fact, Kandinsky was so moved by Schönberg’s work and his approach to musical deconstruction that when he first heard one of Schönberg’s pieces, he wrote him a letter telling him how much he admired his work.  The men had never met, but that letter forged a relationship between the two. Totally fascinating.

A Trip to the Museum Isn’t Complete Without Idiots

Apparently two idiot women didn’t learn anything (or at least didn’t know anything), based on what I overheard: “What is the Bauhaus? I’d never heard of it.” Um, excuse me, ladies, you are AT THE KANDINSKY EXHIBIT AT THE GUGGENHEIM. HOW HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF BAUHAUS? Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. I have no patience for idiots. And in defense of tourists, I don’t know if these ladies were from out of town. Don’t tell anyone, but there are actual real-life idiots right here in NYC.

Museum Mile

After two hours at the Guggenheim (the line was out the door to buy tickets when I left, though the museum was closing in under 2 hours), I walked down the famous Museum Mile to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Don’t worry – I had no intention of actually going to the Met on Wednesday, but I wanted to walk in a tourist’s shoes.

You can see the photos from my seven block walk in the Tourist For a Day photo set on Flickr (which I’ll be updating regularly). I did the walk at around 4 pm ET, and the light was very cool as dusk approached. I love the shots of the sky and the light and shadow with the buildings. But I digress.

My favorite discovery was on the corner of 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue, directly across the street from the Met. As I turned the corner, I saw this:

Reason #892 why I love NYC

Yes, that is what you think it is: a drawing on the sidewalk with instructions where to stand in order to take a cliche photo of the Met. I nearly danced a jig in delight. I would never have seen this if not for my walk down Fifth Avenue for Tourist For a Day. In order to see the picture I took from that exact spot, you’ll have to check out my photos on Flickr.

See you next time after my next adventure in NYC. What else will I see that I’ve missed during my 16 years in the big city?

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