NYC-ARTS

S2020 E495 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: June 4, 2020

A selection of NYC-ARTS Greatest Hits: Philippe de Montebello in conversation with Glenn D. Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art, about the visionary expansion and renovation of its campus; Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel — the founder of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park — talks about FDR’s legacy and his indelible mark in history.

AIRED: June 04, 2020 | 0:27:46
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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

>> Coming up on the "NYC-Arts,"

we'd like to share with you

some of our favorite segments.

>> This project had three big

goals -- to not only provide

more space to show more of a

collection, but to show it

differently, to create a much

more welcoming institution,

to make this a more comfortable

place to navigate.

And then the other was to

connect the museum to its place

in Midtown New York.

>> We've had well over 600,000

people come to the

Four Freedoms Park.

I've seen people weep

as they look at Jo Davidson's

sculpture of Franklin Roosevelt.

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported

in part by public funds

from the New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with the

City Council.

Additional funding provided by

members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible in

part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome to

"NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn at the Tisch WNET

Studios at Lincoln Center.

It's been my pleasure,

along with my colleague

Philippe de Montebello,

to bring you the very best

of arts and culture

in the tri-state area.

Whether it's music, dance, film,

theater, the visual arts,

classic or contemporary,

well known or newly discovered,

"NYC-Arts" has provided

unique access to the people

and places that represent

the richness of our arts

community.

In this program,

we'd like to share with you

some of our favorite segments.

We hope they are some of your

favorites, as well.

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome

to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Philippe de Montebello,

on location at the

Museum of Modern Art on

West 53rd Street.

This year, the museum celebrates

its 90th anniversary

with a visionary expansion

and renovation of its campus.

The expansion by architects

Diller Scofidio + Renfro,

in collaboration with Gensler,

increases gallery space by 1/3,

up to one 175,000 square feet.

But the reinstallation

also provides a completely

new presentation of the museum's

renowned collection,

showing more art in new

and interdisciplinary ways.

Tonight on our program,

my conversation with the

museum's director, Glenn Lowry.

Lowry became the sixth director

of MoMA in 1995.

During his tenure, he has led

a number of initiatives

that have brought MoMA's

renowned collection and research

to larger audiences

across the world.

He guided the museum through

the successful merger with

PS1 Contemporary Art Center,

now MoMA PS1, in 1999

and led an earlier expansion

of this building in 2004.

He also developed the museum's

holdings in all mediums

and from around the globe,

from Latin American modernists

to contemporary artists.

Lowry has continued the museum's

legacy of enriching public life

through exhibitions,

educational programs,

publications, and digital tools.

He has also challenged

conventional ideas about modern

and contemporary art and design.

I recently had a chance to speak

with him about the museum's

transformation and its future.

Welcome, Glenn.

No, I shouldn't say "Welcome."

I'm in your galleries.

Thank you for allowing us

into the brand-new

Museum of Modern Art.

Or is it merely a reimagined

Museum of Modern Art?

So, let me start with a

broad-stroke question,

which is -- what was

your ultimate intention, in

addition to space, in creating

the whole new addition?

>> For us, this project had

three big goals.

One was to not only provide more

space to show more of the

collection, but to show it

differently.

The other was to create a much

more welcoming institution,

to make this a more comfortable

place to navigate.

And then the other driving force

was to connect the museum

really substantially to

its place in Midtown New York,

to open it up to the energy

of the city.

>> It does so, actually,

in a wonderfully physical way

because all along the

trajectory, periodically

one sees New York City.

It reminds me of Gertrude Stein.

"The best thing about museum

is the view from the inside

out."

>> [ Laughs ] It's a great line.

But in fact, Liz Diller,

who drove the project

for Diller Scofidio + Renfro,

is just a profoundly

New York-based architect.

She gets the city.

And so every time I walk through

the galleries and I get a

glimpse of the skyscrapers

that dominate Midtown

or the residential

buildings to our north,

I feel connected, and that makes

the art come alive,

I think, in a very dramatic way.

>> Tell us something about the

building.

>> Well, I think one of the

great things that Liz Diller

and her team did for us

was to both add new architecture

and make these surgical

incisions into the existing

architecture.

And that's nowhere more visible

than in our lobby,

where she has opened it up,

made it expansive,

made it almost intuitive

to move through.

You have a sense of where

to get your ticketing.

You have a sense of where to sit

and wait for a friend.

And the entire ground floor

of the museum

has become free to the public.

So you can walk into the museum

as if it were a continuation of

the street and enjoy the garden

or go to the store or go

even to two of our galleries.

We've got a beautiful new design

gallery for contemporary design

on the ground floor, facing out

53rd Street, with a great

exhibition on energy.

Just next to that design

gallery, a projects gallery

that we initiated with

The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Every year, they will curate

an exhibition in our

Projects Series, and the

inaugural one, which opens our

building, is of the young

Kenyan-born artist

Michael Armitage.

All of that is free to the

public.

And it's only when you go

upstairs that you need a ticket.

>> You are, at least initially,

for the first few months,

treating the permanent

collection as the quarry

in which one would find

both the permanent collection

and the special exhibitions.

If I'm not mistaken,

all of the works on view are now

of your permanent collection.

>> Virtually everything.

We thought, "Okay, why not treat

our permanent collection with

the same energy and commitment

that we treat our temporary

exhibition program.

And if we believe, as we do,

that the 200,000 works of art

in our collection represent

some of the most interesting

and important works of art of

the 20th and early 21st century,

then they should be a wellspring

of possibilities for us.

Every three to six months,

roughly 30% of the collection

changes so that there is no

sense of a fixed collection

anymore, that the galleries

represent some canonical view

of art history, but rather there

will always be surprises.

That doesn't mean that

Matisse's "Dance" or the

"Demoiselles d'Avignon" or

"Starry Night," favorite

pictures, are going to

disappear, but it does mean that

their neighbors are likely to

change with great frequency and

that maybe even, on occasion,

they might move rooms

so that one gets this sense

of renewed energy

that comes when you simply

displace a work of art

from one location to another.

>> I don't see the names

of what were the canonical

movements -- pop, abstract

expressionism, Fauvism.

Is this a repudiation

of traditional art history

or something else?

>> It's not necessarily

a repudiation of art history

because this is, I think,

a deeply art-historical project.

But it is moving beyond

the very narrow definitions

that have been given

to certain moments to ask

a different set of questions.

Indeed, you can find

the "Demoiselles d'Avignon"

surrounded by early Cubist works

of art, but you can also see

that great painting in a

dialogue with Louise Bourgeois

and Faith Ringgold across time,

around issues of violence

and the impact of Africa and

African art on sensibilities,

so that it's more than just

Cubism that's at play

in a room like that.

And that's our goal -- to expand

the conversation.

>> The previous museum was

a series of mini retrospectives

with a substantial number

of works by individual artists.

And now there's

much more fluidity,

much more confrontation

than there was before.

>> There was a notion of "this

artist begat that artist,"

that there was a kind of march

of time, that you could chart

the course of art history

with a certain clarity.

And it was almost like a baton

passing from Cézanne to Picasso

and so on.

This time around, I think what

we've realized is that there

were competing ideas that were

taking place simultaneously with

each other and that, actually,

those competing ideas

reverberate across the decades

and even the century.

And in a way, we've tried

to excavate those arguments,

make them palpable again,

and also to introduce

some new voices, some voices

that hadn't been here before,

whether they're artists

like Tarsila do Amaral

the great Brazilian modernist,

who was in Paris in the '20s,

but who's literally

not represented

in any American institution.

There's a beautiful moment

in the museum where a Rothko

sits next to a Gaitonde --

Gaitonde being an Indian artist

who was in New York,

who knew Rothko, and who

absorbed

many of Rothko's ideas,

but also brought his own

sensibility, his own interest

in a kind of Zen-like

experience.

And these paintings talk to each

other in utterly unexpected

ways.

But they also make us aware

that modernism and modern art

took place all over the globe.

It wasn't just in New York

or in Paris or Berlin.

And I think this iteration

of the museum makes palpable

the degree to which there is

an international perspective

that we have to keep in mind

when we think about art.

>> Going through the galleries,

as I did,

one of the things

that struck me first is that you

have remained experimental.

>> When we were conceived in

1929,

the idea was that the museum

would be a laboratory

to which the public was invited.

And this notion of a place

of experimentation

that engaged the public

in a new art and in a new way of

thinking has been integral to

so much of what we've tried

to do today,

and that is to recapture

the notion that the

Museum of Modern Art

is not a finished project --

it's a work in progress,

intellectually,

artistically, physically.

It is emotion.

Among the really fantastic

new aspects of the building

is a studio,

the Kravis Studio,

which is essentially

our first performance space

with acoustically tuned walls,

a floor on which dance can

occur,

and we're opening

with an incredible installation

of David Tudor's "Rainforest."

This is a series of almost

Rube Goldberg-like objects,

each of which

has an acoustic dimension to it.

So you become aware

of the fact that sound

can be a form of art

just as much as painting

or sculpting can be.

And for us, performance

and the performative

is a really important aspect

of what we're trying to achieve

with this iteration

of the museum.

>> It must have been a rather

delicate calibrating process

for the curators

who might have been upset

that the sound

from "Film X" interfered with

the deep silence of

"Painting Y."

>> It has been a challenge

to figure out how to balance

all of these different forms

in a way that builds rather

than diminishes the experience.

And, you know,

we'll keep tweaking it.

But I think the balance

is pretty good, and the

moment -- you know, if you walk

into a room

with Rauschenberg and Johns

and Twombly, and you encounter

Merce Cunningham and "Dance,"

and you begin to understand

that these artists

were working with each other

and with choreographers

and with dancers and that

the performative dimension

of their work is embedded

and only fully realized

when you see the kind of dialog

between Merce Cunningham

and Robert Rauschenberg.

>> There's one

particular exhibit,

a substantial one with

over a hundred works

from Latin America, and that is

the Patty and Gustavo Cisneros

gift of Latin American

works called "Sur Moderno,"

"The Modern South.

Tell us a little bit how that

fits in to the overall mission

and direction

in which you want MoMA to go.

>> Well, the Cisneros gift

expands dramatically the stories

we can tell with our collection,

because Patty's intense focus

on geometric abstraction

across Latin America,

especially in the '50s,

'60s, and early '70s,

means that we now have the works

of art that can engage Mondrian,

Max Bill, and many others --

European artists that we think

of as sort of huge proponents

of geometric abstraction.

But they can take that idea and

move it out laterally and

inflect it in new and different

ways.

And it's all part of an ongoing

effort on our part

to really understand

different artistic practices

across geographies.

The Pigozzi gift,

which we just acquired,

opens up Africa for us in ways

that we've never had before,

or recent acquisitions

that we've made from China

that let us look at that

post-1989 moment

when the arts in China took off.

So, the ability to have these

different stories

develop on their own and in

relationship to each other

is what I think marks

this moment for us

in a really interesting way.

>> That's a great moment

for the history of museums and

a great moment for the history

of New York.

You should be very proud,

and we're delighted

that you gave us the time

and that wonderful tour

and insight into

the new Museum of Modern Art.

Thank you, Glenn.

>> Thank you so much, Philippe.

And if I can say, you have been

an incredible inspiration to me

and to a whole generation

of curators here.

So it's always a pleasure

to share a moment with you.

>> Thank you.

♪♪

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

was our 32nd president

and the only one to be elected

to three consecutive terms.

Many of the benefits we enjoy

as Americans, we owe to FDR --

Social Security, our labor laws,

and the knowledge

that if a bank fails,

our savings will be intact.

But what may be his greatest

accomplishment was to articulate

four universal human rights.

Known as the Four Freedoms,

they are freedom of speech,

freedom of worship, freedom from

want, and freedom from fear.

In 2012,

a park on the southern tip

of Roosevelt Island

was dedicated to these ideals.

We spoke with Ambassador

William J. vanden Heuvel,

the founder of the

Four Freedoms Park,

about FDR's legacy

and his indelible mark

in history.

♪♪

>> This nation has placed

its destiny in the hands and

heads and hearts of it

millions of free men and women.

♪♪

>> After President Roosevelt's

death in 1945,

there was a broad discussion

by many groups about what

would be an appropriate memorial

to our 32nd president,

who already was seen as one

of our greatest.

Memorials take a long time to

work out.

I remind people that the

Lincoln Memorial in Washington

was only dedicated in 1922,

when Lincoln died in 1865,

of course.

So that debate went on

for a number of years.

The person who I would think

should be designated

as the one who was determined

to make it happen

was Nelson Rockefeller.

And as governor of the state,

he began an urban development

project on what was then called

Welfare Island in the

East River, right across

from the United Nations.

♪♪

He had come, as president

of the United States

to a country where the financial

system had been destroyed,

where 25% unemployment.

♪♪

With no social welfare,

with no Social Security.

I often think back, when he came

to office, in March 1933,

the banking system

was demolished.

First thing he did was close

the banks, declared

a bank holiday.

Within 10 days,

he gave his first Fireside Chat,

which was his way

of communicating with America.

>> After all, there is

an element, in the readjustment

of our financial system,

more important than currency,

more important than gold.

And that is the confidence

of the people themselves.

Confidence and courage

on the essentials of success

in carrying out our plan.

Together, we cannot fail.

>> And almost overnight,

people had confidence in him.

His voice communicated that,

and his actions assured it.

And Roosevelt saved

the capitalist system,

the entrepreneurial system.

And we went on with labor,

giving labor a voice

through the Wagner Act

and went on through

the Social Security system.

He ended child labor

in the United States.

The CCC -- my brother was in

that -- they planted over

2 billion trees in America to

stop the kind of storms that had

swept through the Middle West

and removed the topsoil

of the country.

More than half

of the infrastructure

of the nation today

was built in the New Deal.

World War I had been

a terrible disaster for

many nations and many families,

and it was

difficult to understand,

as you look back, what that

war had been fought about.

So that America in the '30s

was an isolationist country.

It was quite content,

even though it had major

economic disasters

and other things of its own

to contend with,

it was prepared to lead its life

without being involved

in the problems of Europe.

But then the war came

in September 1939,

and Hitler's armies proved to be

the most powerful armies

in the history of the world.

The Four Freedoms speech

was given on January 6, 1941.

Now, that was a very critical

and difficult time.

Hitler had conquered Europe.

Only Winston Churchill

and the British

stood against it.

And so he said to the Congress

and to the people

of the United States

and specifically to the peoples

of the world, the world

that we need to create

to preserve peace

and social justice is a world

that has to be founded

on four freedoms.

>> The first is freedom

of speech and expression,

everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom

of every person to worship God

in his own way,

everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want,

everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear,

anywhere in the world.

[ Applause ]

♪♪

>> We've had well over 600,000

people come to the

Four Freedoms Park.

I've seen people weep

as they look at Jo Davidson's

sculpture of Franklin Roosevelt,

as it's there.

♪♪

I can't tell you how many people

who have told me -- stopped me,

even, to talk about it -- the

spiritual dimension of the

Four Freedoms Park.

♪♪

I hope that those

who are the ambassadors

to the United Nations and those

who come to the United Nations

to work every day, from

the Secretary-General on down,

understand their obligation

to create the world that

Franklin Roosevelt

was talking about.

He once said, in his second

inaugural, "Don't judge me

by how much I've done

that helps those who have much.

Judge me by how much I've helped

those who have need."

♪♪

♪♪

>> I'm Paula Zahn at the

Tisch WNET Studios

at Lincoln Center.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Good night.

>> To enjoy more of your

favorite segments on "NYC-Arts,"

visit our website

at NYC-Arts.org.

>> Leonard, what a privilege

to be able to sit down

and talk with you.

>> I love being here

with you too, Paula.

>> Where are we?

>> We're at a moment

to take nothing for granted.

>> Well, it's a pleasure to be

with Marci Reaven, the curator

of this exhibition full of hope.

We are in the midst of some

of the greatest sculptures

by the iconic names.

>> Classical and modern dance

are extremely different.

And I have so much more

to learn before I can really

articulate the differences.

>> And when I listened

to Yip Harburg's lyrics in that,

I suddenly thought, "That's what

I want to do with my life."

>> My pictures reside

in very intimate,

very private moments.

>> My primary way of playing

piano is by improvising.

>> You are, in some respects,

on sacred ground.

>> A woman came to see me

perform and said,

"How would you like to play

Billie Holiday?"

>> I think one of the essential

things that we learned

is that Matisse used pens

to compose his work.

>> You always are surprised when

you're in opera and you're doing

a piece that's a hundred years

ago, and you think, "Ohh, my

gosh, this could be now."

>> The "Cardboard Guitar" is

the very first of that moment

of realization.

>> Suddenly, you come and

present something, and you get

applause.

Great. You know?

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is support in part

by public funds from the

New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with the

City Council.

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

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