Onlookers Watch Art Transfer at Museum

The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City opens a new building Saturday. Before the opening, the art has to get inside. One of the features of the new building is a loading dock in the front, where passers-by can watch the paintings and sculptures get transferred from trucks to the building.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

The New Museum of Contemporary Art is reopening today in its new home - an eccentric modern building in downtown Manhattan.

NPR's Ilya Marritz was there to watch them load in the art.

ILYA MARRITZ: When the New Museum was started in 1977, the founders wanted to only show art that was totally new. There would be no permanent collection; all the artists would be living, dynamic, edgy. The concept was great, but the execution had problems: No space was ever right, there were too many columns to display the sculptures, or not enough room for the video art. And so, it's come to this - a building that looks like a stack of six, white cake boxes wedged between an industrial kitchen supply shop and a shelter for homeless men. It doesn't quite fit in with the neighborhood, but the New Museum is making itself at home.

Mr. HENRY GARRETS (Exhibitions Manager, New Museum): Yeah, well, we're getting our last crate, I believe, at 5 o'clock.

MARRITZ: That's exhibitions manager Henry Garrets(ph). He and the registrar Sherry Zola(ph) are waiting in the lobby for a sculpture to arrive by truck from Kennedy Airport.

Mr. GARRETS: And that should be it, right?

Ms. SHERRY ZOLA (Registrar, New Museum): I was going to say that looks like the truck.

Mr. GARRETS: Josh, we have our artwork, so can you…

MARRITZ: Before we meet the truck, you need to know that moving the art in here is complicated. The New Museum's new building has no driveway in the back, no hidden loading dock. Each piece of art has to be carted through the glass doors in the front. You don't want to leave sculptures sitting on the sidewalk, and you certainly don't want to work so fast that you drop a painting.

Is this the truck?

Mr. GARRETS: This is the truck.

MARRITZ: Sherry Zola, the registrar, goes to meet the delivery men and inspect the crates.

Ms. ZOLA: Hey, guys.

Unidentified Man: Hi.

Ms. ZOLA: Which two is it?

Unidentified Man: These.

Ms. ZOLA: Is it one or two?

Unidentified Man: Two.

MARRITZ: Next thing, three guys show up curbside wearing canvas gloves and carrying dollies. Hideki(ph) Josh and John are preparators - museum speak for movers.

Which piece is this?

Ms. ZOLA: Focal Shukrashekra(ph).

Mr. GARRETS: Focal Scholar which is a scarecrow(ph).

MARRITZ: Scarecrow, yeah.

Mr. GARRETS: You termed it(ph).

MARRITZ: With a big heave-ho, the preparators lift each crate off the van and on to a dolly and then truck the pieces across the sidewalk through the museum doors and up to the gallery.

Unidentified Man: We need another dolly.

Mr. GARRETS: Can we have another dolly down here?

MARRITZ: Each crate weighs about 200 pounds, making this one of the lighter sculptures the preparators have moved. Last week, they had to use a forklift to offload a pile of glued together rocks that weighed more than a ton.

Unidentified Man: Ready, one, two, three.

MARRITZ: When the crates come off the dolly, their work is complete.

Ms. ZOLA: That was the last delivery for this exhibition.

MARRITZ: These guys will be back in a few months moving the artworks out.

Ms. ZOLA: So, that's the last one.

Mr. GARRETS: That's (unintelligible).

MARRITZ: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, after all, has no permanent exhibitions.

For NPR News, I'm Ilya Marritz.

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