nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Panorama without the politics

Panorama has been on the BBC for as long as I can remember. Focused on current affairs with an investigative approach, it’s a stalwart of the BBC. But here in NYC it’s nothing of the sort. “The Panorama of the City of New York is the jewel in the crown of the collection of the Queens Museum”, says the blurb on the leaflet about the enormous 3-D map of the five boroughs of New York. It’s hard to comprehend just by looking at a computer screen, but here’s what you see when you first walk into the Panorama room at the museum:

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Even if you know nothing about the geography of New York, you can see here on the right hand side the long island of Manhattan with Central Park providing a rectangle of green relief in the middle. Look in the distance of the photograph and you can see how small the people are compared with the size of the map.

Walking around the Panorama you see how big Queens and Brooklyn are compared with Manhattan. But the greatest surprise is the size of Staten Island, seen here looking from the south of the island north to Manhattan in the distance on the left.

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And then back round for a closer look at Manhattan. It still shows the Twin Towers and when we went the Statue of Liberty had fallen into the sea, but I am pretty sure it’s still there in real life.

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The Panorama was originally made in early 1960s for the 1964/5 New York Fair; it still looks good today and in the newly refurbished Queens Museum, it makes it well worth the trip. And it’s only $8 suggested donation to get in, so a bargain to boot.

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Shattered in Queens

It’s quite a long way to Queens. Got my first visit to the newly refurbished Queens Museum this weekend. What a find. Set over two levels and a massive 105,000 feet space. The building has had a varied past including being originally built for the 1939/40 New York World’s Fair but since then been the home of the United Nations General Assembly and an ice and roller rink. It’s a lovely airy space and if you walk in this month, you’ll be greeted by this enormous artwork by German born artist, Peter Schumann who now lives in Vermont.

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Schumann has an exhibition on at the moment called The Shatterer and it’s pretty gruesome stuff. Carrying on with my general theme for seeing bonkers art, this one certainly leads the way. As you walk in you are confronted by vast black and white sculptures hanging from the ceiling, all over the walls and jutting out in to the floor space. There’s something distinctly unsettling about his work. The blurb says his work ‘often depicts past and present battles between good and evil’.

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I don’t know about you, but it just makes me shudder. When I was there a steel band was playing Caribbean music in the atrium, which lent a peculiar soundtrack to all this horror. As you wander through the room into the ante room you come across a large number of puppets, so far from Sesame Street and the Muppets, that Jim Henson clearly wasn’t an influence here.

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Quite what these fellas are trying to tell me, I’m not sure, but spending ten minutes in their presence was enough to send me back to the atrium and the comfort of the Caribbean. I asked a member of staff what would happen to the large painting in the atrium and he said it would be painted over. Good job, he said, it had been scaring the kids. I am not surprised.