ET’s not proper, it’s basically crude to find the Hudson Yards in New York cool or even acceptable. The Hudson Yards – that’s an area of about eleven hectares on the west side of Manhattan, not far from Penn Station, where there was actually nothing until yesterday. To be more precise, there were Long Island Railroad tracks, where discarded trains were parked.
Then the rails were roofed over, and in the fall of 2013 the largest private construction project in American history began: bold high-rise towers made of steel and glass grew into the sky, high-rise towers that had round and oval shapes; cranes swayed frantically between them.
The first phase of the project has now been completed and can be viewed. And New Yorkers, especially those who think politically left, shudder with disgust. Because the Hudson Yards are an oversized playground for multi-billionaires.
For one of the designer apartments with a view of the river (as well as Hoboken on the other bank), several millions are on the table. It should be clear who can afford this: Russian mafiosi and members of the Chinese nomenklatura.
Part of the construction project is a shopping mile with sophisticated shops and trendy restaurants. If Berlin tries (rather unsuccessfully) to play Chicago at Potsdamer Platz, New York plays (quite successfully) Dubai at Hudson Yards.
Then there is the honeycomb. The honeycomb! It is officially called “The Vessel” (the container), unofficially it is also called “Schwarma” (after the grilled pieces of meat that are popular throughout the Middle East and stuffed into pita with hummus and falafel).
In any case, the honeycomb has drawn the hatred of commentators in a very special way. The thingbang was terribly unsuccessful. We are dealing here with a walk-in sculpture by the British Thomas Heatherwick. 2500 steps leading here in front and there back to dizzying heights; eighty viewing platforms; and the absolute absence of any purpose.
An opaque house
The Shed – the newest exhibition center in New York – must be understood in this context as a gesture of indulgence. It starts with the name. An exhibition space that can simply be called “the shed” is an understatement, it says in a way: Everything is not so bad, not so sophisticated and hypertrophic, and Dubai was not really meant in that way either.
The building (which comes from the drawing boards of the well-known architecture firm Diller Scorfidio + Renfro) doesn’t look like a shed at all, more like an elongated glass building that Christo could no longer cope with.
Because a second, opaque house slips over the glass house from behind, as if it wanted to wrap the glass building, just as Christo once wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin with plastic.
Very strange and, in a strange way, very beautiful. The fun cost $ 475 million. The building was named after Michael Bloomberg, the super wealthy businessman and mayor who ruled New York for three terms like a cheerful, gracious Renaissance prince.
A budget that makes you jealous
But of course with a building like The Shed it’s not the outside that counts, but the interior. The program director Alex Poots from Edinburgh is responsible for this inner workings. The sponsors provided him with a budget that made his colleagues pale with envy. (Poots used to design the Park Avenue Armory and even earlier the Manchester International Festival.)
The reporter experienced a performance on the second floor of the art gallery that he will not soon forget. The whole thing began in a large room that exuded factory-floor cosiness; Elongated blob paintings by Gerhard Richter hung on the walls. Maybe 100 people had gathered. And suddenly – like a flash mob that has agreed to meet – artists started to sing.
They sang a piece of music composed by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, an enigmatic chorale in German, something with children and infants and alleluia; and while the polyphonic melody intertwines itself over and over again like an endless ribbon, Gerhard Richter’s splotches of color began to make sense that could not be put into words.
Then the audience was chased with relentless friendliness into the next hall, where musicians with instruments (including two pianists with grand pianos, but also clarinetists and strings) were waiting for them. Two long wooden benches on the walls; various folding chairs were unfolded.
The light died out, a projector threw lines of color on the wall, which formed into geometric patterns, first slowly, then increasingly dramatically. Plus minimal music by Steve Reich. It was touching in an indescribable way, but also pressing, frightening, but also inspiring.
An installation by Trisha Donnelly was on view two floors higher: tree trunks were lying around in a dark room, and the aria “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen” sounded from giant loudspeakers – turned up to the stop. Oh well.
The weights are shifting
The concert hall right next to it, on the other hand, was impressive: standing room in the parquet, a huge balcony hangs above it, the sounds have an enormous amount of space to fly through the room. This is where the Soundtrack of America concert series is currently taking place, with young black singers from all over the United States.
Next Björk will sing in front of 1200 people. And when summer comes, the ceiling and walls roll back and the concert hall turns into an open-air hall. Then at the latest it could happen that left-wing New Yorkers, who despise the Hudson Yards for ideological reasons, begin to reluctantly and grudgingly fall in love with this new building district.
Perhaps one could say that the aesthetic weights have started to shift in New York. In the past, the focus was clearly on the Upper East Side, where the old, rich people live.
There is the Museum Mile on Central Park, crowned by the Vatican of Art, the Metropolitan Museum. On the other side of the park and a little further south, Lincoln Center was added in the 1960s to house the Metropolitan Opera.
Art shed instead of the Olympics
Then in 2007 the New Museum opened in the Bowery, a neighborhood in southeast Manhattan where the drug deaths were lying around a few decades ago; the New Museum – a building that appears to be made of sloppily stacked boxes – is the counter-Vatican of the Metropolitan Museum.
The south of Manhattan had finally become a main and state address when the Whitney Museum (which is run by the Lord Seal Keepers of American Modernism) moved to the Meatpacking District of all places.
And now the Shed in Hudson Yards is a little further north. According to the “New York Times”, this art gallery is practically the consolation prize because New York 2012 did not become the venue for the Summer Olympics. One can imagine shabbier consolation prizes.