When the Met Breuer, named after its famous architect Marcel Breuer, opened in March, it promised to be the Met’s hip younger sibling — a response to the growing hunger for contemporary art. However, its maiden exhibition, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, was greeted with a lukewarm response. Comparisons were drawn to the space’s former resident, the Whitney, and other contemporary art museums like MoMa and LACMA. I’m probably less discerning than an art critic, but I found Unfinished to be a fun reshuffling of the deck.
There’s something compelling about the idea of unfinished business: it’s a universal concept we can all relate to. We’re likely to have unfinished projects, unfinished relationships, or unfinished dreams ourselves. At the Met Breuer the artwork on display could quite literally be unfinished in the sense of being incomplete, unfinished as a purposeful stylistic decision, or dealing with unfinished concepts like death and decay. Some pieces are question marks: did the artists mean to leave them the way they were? Some other pieces were left unfinished to create a more interactive experience by having the viewer figuratively finish the piece.
The Flaying of Marsyas by Titian
As we’ve come to expect from the Met, there are works from so many of the greats in this exhibition: Manet and Cezanne share the space with Warhol and Basquiat, but there are also more contemporary, lesser-known artists to discover. These are some of the different ways the theme comes to life: Titian’s macabre work, The Flaying of Marsyas, features varying degrees of finish which produces depth and texture from varied perspectives. Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler’s portrait of his mistress and muse on her deathbed “raises fundamental questions regarding…the “unfinishedness” of human life.” Klimt (a favorite featured in one of our previous posts here) and his posthumous portrait of Ria Munk III is engulfed in a series of unfortunate events: the subject of the portrait was a victim of suicide, the piece on display was the third iteration after two prior versions were rejected by the subject’s family, and then the artist passed away before he could finish it. Lucien Freud’s self-portrait was left unfinished because he had difficulty with the psychological challenge of painting himself. And Gerhard Richter’s Stag, which was painted when he was still a student, is in its present state because a friend at his academy told him to leave it as it was, therefore deeming it not so much unfinished as “finished courtesy of Konrad Fischer.”
Unfinished is the kind of exhibition that you can revisit many, many times because there is so much room for contemplation and interpretation. It will, hopefully, remind you of the fluidity of art and life, and encourage you to embark on a journey without concern for the outcome. Unfinished is on display through September 4.
945 Madison Ave
Tuesday–Thursday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10 am–9 pm
Sunday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Pair it with:
A meal at H&H Midtown Bagels East
H&H Bagels has achieved a pretty high level of notoriety in New York City. You might have heard about the massive scandal when its owner was arrested for stealing withholding taxes and evading unemployment insurance taxes, which eventually led to the company’s bankruptcy and collapse. Or, you might recall that that’s where Kramer worked on Seinfeld, before the alleged 12-year strike he was on. Either way, you probably know the name. The location on the Upper East Side was actually sold off by its owner prior to the scandal, hence the slight variation in the name. However, many will argue that the quality of the bagels and spreads is as reliable as the original. There is often a line out the door on the weekend, and as you wait your turn you can marvel at the clientele, which is as varied as their favorite combinations. You might see an elderly couple eating plain bagels while they read the newspaper, or a young group of girls indulging in their bagel-and-egg sandwiches as they catch up on the latest episode of The Bachelor. Pop in here before of after your visit to Met Breuer, and get a true taste of New York City.
1551 2nd Ave
5:30am-9:00pm, 7 days a week