A friend encouraged me, okay ordered me, to go to a museum today. I needed to get over my preference for activities with friends (in short supply at the moment), and experience the cultural theme park stretched out before my feet. I chose the Guggenheim for the current Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) exhibit. When I went to the Getty Museum (built by Richard Meier) in Los Angeles many years ago, I frankly was more moved by the architecture tour than the art hanging on the walls. I know relatively little about architecture, and my chilly relationship with spatial relations makes it an impossible career choice. Yet, I remain a fan–the kind who would rather read a Rand passage about a building than pretty prose of a pastoral landscape.
Speaking of nature, FLW was quite fond of it, intending his buildings to be at one with the site. He detested cities, an irony which was not lost on him, however he envisioned some spectacular urban plans. I particularly liked this quote from one of the cases: “I have found that when a scheme develops beyond a normal pitch of excellence the hand of fate strikes it down,” said Frank Lloyd Wright.
I wanted to learn more about those hands of fate. Sure, the exhibit captures his consistently amazing pitch in grand style, but what of the drama behind the scenes? We have a long-standing joke in the advertising business. You know the one where the client looks at a mock up and says, “I like it, but make the logo bigger.” I wish it were a joke. I imagine some tycoon, belly spilling over a glorious Wright blueprint, saying, “Frankie, it’s grand, but lose the windows.” Where’s the extortion? The hideous compromises? The sliding of Falling Water into the earth? One description did make me laugh out loud, likely annoying other patrons nearby. There is an office tower somewhere in Oklahoma that was commissioned to be two or three stories tall. FLW submitted a plan for 22 stories to the owner. They compromised at 19. I think I’ll remember that the next time I’m called upon to negotiate.
I suppose since the exhibit is housed in the Guggenheim, itself a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, my imaginary incendiaries would be sacrilege. After all, Wright died just days before the inauguration of the fantastic structure with its endless spiral ramp atrium. The bones bleed class, and the Upper East Side address doesn’t hurt either. I love it when buildings upstage their art. Kandinsky? Nah, I’m with Frank.