By Justin Davidson
I have two portfolios at New York magazine: one is so-called-classical music, the other architecture. Both are intensely social, mostly urban arts that require institutions, consensus, community, patience, vision, and plenty of money. Decide today that you’d really like a new office tower and a new opera, and they’ll both start to acquire some reality around the same time, in, oh, 2012. In this week’s column, I take the Cooper Union to task for commissioning a beautiful building but neglecting the wider urban environment around it. It’s the same with many musical organizations that read their mission narrowly, see their education departments as a way to increase their own future audiences rather than foster the art form, and figure that if they give a world premiere every now and again, they have dispatched their duty to contemporary music.
Developers in New York City can at least count on an activist Bloomberg administration to take a hand in the public realm. Arts organizations have only each other to leverage their efforts. The one institution that appears to take its collaborative, citywide responsibility most seriously is Carnegie Hall, which last fall fanned out across the boroughs for its tribute to Berlin and next season will head up to the Apollo Theater during a festival of African-American culture curated by Jessye Norman.
The event gets under way a year from now. I wonder if it just might rate a visit from our first post-racial president?