Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sunday Confidential

So I decided that, following the success of last week's visit to the Bronx Museum, I would visit each borough's official museum, so today was the day of the Queens Museum. It's an interesting place, because the fact that they're a relatively new institution (created after the New York 1964 World's Fair) means that their collection is more eclectic, less reified and less canonist, if that's a word, than the collections at more established museums. Also, the Queens Museum has filled a function that I have a feeling no one would handle without them: memorializing both the 1939 and 1964 New York world's fairs. The surrealism pavilion, the plaster cast of the Pieta and the like are things that no one else would probably find necessary to document, but that are a really bizarre and fascinating cultural document. All of Flushing Meadows Corona Park is, in fact, basically a testament to the world's fairs. The setup of the park is both nationalistic and continental, with flag-lined plazas and long, broad, boulevards, and mosaics in the walkways documenting time capsules, Elsie the cow, the museum building, and the like. There's the Unisphere, a big globe-type thing where kids skateboard, and all kinds of weird retro 1960s futuristic buildings. And I've never seen a park full of so many people who are so busy: people playing tennis, praciticing dance routines, playing soccer, and whatnot. I was like, where's the barbecue?

The piece de resistance of the Queens Museum is the Panorama of the City of New York, a massive architectural model built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World's Fair that includes every building in every borough. Updated in 1992, it's fascinating, kitschy, and remarkable. If you're not a New Yorker or perhaps a bit Manhattan-centric, the panorama gives you a wonderful sense of the unexpected scale of the city, the unknown islands, the endless density.

All that said, and as interesting as the whole thing was, it took a full hour in each direction on the subway, and while there was some very lovely art, I can't see myself making the trek again soon unless something special goes up. I'll give it 2.7 stars out of five.


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