Arts Watch: The New Old Bowery at the New Museum

Martin Wong: Photocollage, 7 x 11 in, Courtesy Fales Collection. Photo by Tim Schreier.

On a recent trip to the New Museum to see its Come Closer: Art Around the Bowery, 1969-1989 exhibition, I was reminded of the Bowery of my youth. There were certainly no art museums dotting its landscape (or star-chef restaurants or luxury boutique hotels for that matter), but there was plenty of art. Only I didn’t know it. What I do remember is how run down it seemed—tired looking buildings, garbage strewn about, off-putting restaurant supply stores (a few of which are still holding on) and, except for a few “colorful” characters who were hanging around the flop houses, empty streets. It all seemed so desolate. Of course, these images came from inside the safety of my mom’s car, as we drove on the Bowery on our way to or from Chinatown or someplace else. Little did I know that inside those buildings I was staring at was a different story completely-–a thriving and lively artist community.