It has snowed a few times since I returned from Perth (here’s a picture I took in Central Park last week), and I find myself thinking wistfully about the coffee breaks we took during the installation of Picturing New York at AGWA, when the staff would convene outside in the Perth Cultural Centre and enjoy some lively conversation and the warm Australian air. I never quite figured out how to order a proper coffee in Perth, but I do have some advice for the winner of the Check In Here to Check Out There competition about the differences between ordering coffee in these two cities (to begin with, no one will understand you if you use the words “flat” or “white”!).
Of course, there were other things I enjoyed about my trip to Perth (swimming at City Beach, exploring the map shop in Fremantle, and wandering around Kings Park over the weekend), but even if I had spent all my time in the Picturing New York galleries at AGWA I would have left happy. Lucy Harper did an amazing job of anticipating how visitors would experience the exhibition—how the cumulative and varied pictures of New York that the photographs offer might be enriched for an audience literally on the opposite side of the globe. There are several significant details that most might take for granted, but that deserve special mention. To begin with, one enters through a soundscape of New York City noises, and to anyone who has visited New York these will be very familiar. When MoMA published the catalogue for Picturing New York, I made a selection of literary “pictures” of New York, and Lucy had the idea of including some of these enlarged on the gallery walls—something I had never done before, but which works very well within the space. Again taking advantage of the unique gallery configuration at AGWA, Lucy suggested integrating several films (you can see some visitors enjoying one of these in her recent blog post), and we were mesmerized by these at the end of our long days with AGWA’s expert installation crew.
The talented and stylish Tika Bachu developed an iPad program that is also accessible within the galleries, and includes (among other things) interviews with several of my MoMA colleagues about our favorite places in NYC. I could go on, but I’ll end with Lucy’s decision to paint the walls with large bands of paint ranging from deep grey for the earliest pictures in the exhibition, to clean white for the most contemporary work. Coincidentally, I had been planning to paint the galleries at MoMA with similarly scaled bands of gray for Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light, which opened here earlier this month, and I believe anyone fortunate enough to visit both exhibitions will enjoy the parallel.
I hope everyone continues to enjoy the slice of the Big Apple on view at AGWA—we’re missing these treasures but it makes it all worthwhile to know how much audiences in Perth are appreciating them.
View the installation photographs from Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light through the New York Times online album.
Written by Sarah Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.