New York

Visions of New York City

Visions of New York City

Some time ago when I lived in New York City, friends and I would talk about ‘getting into moma’. No, it wasn’t some Oedipal urge; what we meant was we would meet inside the Museum of Modern Art which, apart from all its other goodies, had a fabulous Italian café, absolutely buzzing at the weekends.

MoMA, off Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street, was the kind of place we called into to take in its latest show and have coffee with friends. This was a new experience for me. When I was young in London, going to an art gallery or a museum was an event; in NYC it was something you folded into your day.

Now, on the opposite side of the world, MoMA is getting into AGWA (doncha just love the acronyms). Not long ago, in what’s called the MoMA Series, AGWA put on ‘From Picasso to Warhol’ a great collection of modern paintings loaned from MoMA. Now it’s mounting an exhibition of photography of NYC called, Picturing New York

There are some great images, ranging from the middle of the nineteenth century up to the present. All the pictures, save one, are black and white and are vernacular rather than being arty. Many of them are grainy and grimy and so New York when you walk out of the exhibition you expect to find dirt under your fingernails. It’s a terrific show: the pictures filled with excitement or with that fantastic sense of anticipation you get in New York; the world’s second greatest city.

Here are some of my favourites:


1. This was taken by Berenice Abbott in 1936 – about the same time as Edward Hopper was painting. It’s so Hopperesque…which is why I like it, I guess.

2. Taken by Charles Sheeler, to me this captures what a god-awful bureaucracy the United Nations has become. Maybe he saw that way back in 1951 when he took the picture.

3. It’s from a series called ‘Dirty Windows’ and like all good photos it tells a little bit of a story but leaves us to guess the rest. Taken by Merry Alpern in 1994.

4. This is Sixth Avenue at 50th Street. Taken by Thomas Struth I love it because it’s so obviously NYC.


My little shutter-bug was so taken with the show she immediately took off for NYC and here she is on a bench in Brooklyn. (Not really – you too can have your picture taken in Brooklyn. Just go to AGWA).