Sunday, August 25, 2013

Museum in the city, city as museum

Head of a Queen Mother (Iyoba), Edo Peoples, Kingdom of Benin
(Within Territory of Nigeria Today), c. 1750-1800
At the Metropolitan Museum, NYC (for more, click here)
[As always, copyrright of the image and artwork depicted held by the artist or museum and/or their legal representatives; no infringement intended, image presented here solely for purposes of commentary, i.e., non-commercial.]

The lobster and the canary visited the Metropolitan Museum yesterday afternoon, with no particular goal or agenda except to wander, listen and learn.  We sought counsel with iyobas, and delivered our respects to the beete masks of the Kwele peoples (whose territory falls within the borders of Gabon).   We contemplated the marble sarcophagus of one Arria, who died in the middle of the third century C.E., presumably in Rome itself, given the grandeur of the carvings.   We watched as pale-rust-red runners contended with one another across the flanks of gleaming black vases, abdominal muscles so finely etched we could almost see the sweat flowing along their contours.  We shuddered at a reproduction of Ayne Bru's early 16th-century painting of Saint Cucuphas's martyrdom, marveling at the juxtaposition of all the blood surging from his scored throat and the dog sleeping peacefully at his feet.  We craned our necks to follow the arc of lodge-pole carvings from Vanuatu, monstrously strong figures holding one another on their wooden shoulders.

The world expands within forever, each aperture opening infinitely on halls and chambers ever inside, but all connected, an arcade-work of humanity.

Outside the Metropolitan Museum is the metropolitan museum.

On the Great Lawn in Central Park, sunbathers in bikinis and strollers wearing hijab, both on cell phones and eating ice cream.  Or waffles from the Belgian "dinges" truck.   Tourists from the American Midwest (accents as odd to our ears as those of the French or Chinese tourists in line with them) queuing for Italian sausage from one of the grills parked at the Fifth Avenue entrance, near the enterprising young men selling their own hip-hop CDs, and the violinist in the underpass.  Every kind of footwear and headgear (nice fedora!), every kind of ball game.  

A bestiary on the cornices of the Upper East buildings, here there be dragons indeed.   A veiny-winged griffin guards one particularly grand edifice.  We still miss Botero's rolly-polly "El Gato" sculpture at 79th & Park (where did he go, the cat we mean? where all cats go, to roam the secret by-ways of the moon!).  On 80th near Lex, every townhouse has a painted door, a quiet red, a demure blue, little understatements in our brash city.

On the Lower East Side, bachata and the laughter of children echo from a courtyard.  At the farmacia, notices in Chinese and Russian to get a flu shot before the season starts.  On the sidewalks families promenade in their sabbath best.

Reflected in a window are the lobster & the canary.  Not mere observers.  We hope somebody is blogging about us as we blog now-- two more members of the urban gallery.

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