Field Trip: ICP Museum

ICP Museum entranceThe International Center of Photography‘s new museum on the Bowery is not one of those museums you go to for the architecture. Most of the gallery space is below ground and fairly generic, with the street-level space mainly devoted to an outpost of Maman and seating that I presume is for programming.

Maman at ICP MuseumICP Museum lobby tablesICP Museum lobbyThere’s also a small bookstore operated by Spaces Corners of Pittsburgh. I don’t mean them to take this personally—the staffers were nice, and the selection was fine—but when did New York City cede its cultural cred to second-tier cities? (Answer: When Manhattan became unaffordable to young creative folks.)

ICP Museum bookstoreI was prepared to be told I couldn’t take photos—the irony would’ve been delicious—but it’s totally fine. As you can see below, visitors will also need to be ready to be photographed themselves…. The “universe” part always kills me. Let us never underestimate our own importance.

ICP Museum photo noticeAs surprising as it is in a new cultural institution, the lack of architectural zip rightly puts the emphasis on the art. The current exhibit, Public, Private, Secret, is about “the concept of privacy in today’s society and [it] studies how contemporary self-identity is tied to public visibility.” Which is another way of warning you that you’re going to get not just art about social media, but also actual social media from celebrities…. The theme didn’t really hold for me: Cindy Sherman’s photography, for example, has little to do with privacy; Merry Alpern’s famous sex-club shots have little to do with self-identity. (Paging Arne Svenson! And how about something interactive, like the camera that used to take stills of people entering the Brasserie in Midtown?) But if you don’t worry too much about the overall point and just enjoy the work individually, I think you’ll find much of it engaging and worthwhile.

Kim Kardashian at ICP MuseumThe lone street-level gallery was given over to four artists, but I bounced off of it.

ICP Museum ground floor galleryYou have to admire how much art the curators jammed into the downstairs galleries.

Main exhibit at ICP MuseumMore ICP Museum exhibitEven the nooks and stairwells were deployed.

ICP Museum exhibitAnn Hirsch YouTube Whispers at ICP Museum“Great news!” I can just hear the curators telling artist Kurt Caviezel. “You’re in our inaugural show! And we’ve found an amazing space overlapped by a fire extinguisher cabinet!”

Pas de Deux by Kurt Caviezel at ICP MuseumOn the other hand, that location did lend a certain emphasis. Caviezel’s piece, “Pas de Deux,” comprises stills, taken from a publicly accessible webcam, of a nude man dancing along to a video; it nails the exhibit’s mission better than most pieces. I remain unconvinced that the audio piece in the adjacent stairwell—those are its speakers in the second image above—belongs at a photography museum at all (said the Tribeca blogger writing about a museum in Nolita).

My favorite piece was a set of the photos, taken by Don Mullin McCullin, at the center of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966).

Blow-Up photos by Don McCullin at ICP MuseumLast but not least, the Maman café has a walk-up window on the street. My dog can’t get that far north anymore, but I’m still incredibly fond of these windows. More, please.

Maman window at ICP MuseumPrevious Field Trip posts:
Noguchi Museum & Socrates Sculpture Park
The Fisher Landau Center for Art
The High Bridge
The Broad
Crown Heights
Spuyten Duyvil
New York Botanical Garden
Bed-Stuy
The New Whitney Museum
Bushwick-ish
The Rockaways
Greenpoint
Wave Hill
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance

1 Comment

  1. The bookstore at the old ICP location was a treasure. Wonderful postcards, gift items and an extensive collection of photography books. I hope they plan to revive it at the new location.