As residents of a city that is home to arguably the best Modern Art museum—MoMA—the most exciting showcase of natural and historical artifacts—The American Museum of Natural History—and quite possibly the most diverse and comprehensive art museum in the world—the Met—we New Yorkers are often shockingly complacent and ignorant of the creative treasures that lie right under our noses. It’s the same odd complex that keeps Manhattan lifers from visiting the Statue of Liberty or makes us put going to engaging new exhibits on the back burner for so long that they cool and close. Well, a new publication created by the small army of guards at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is forcing us to acknowledge that interesting artists are gestating unseen all around us, even when we go gazing in the Arms and Armor wing.
Cheekily titled “Sw!pe Magazine: Guards’ Matter” in a reference to punching in for duty with the museum’s time clock, the publication acts as a showcase for a clique of Met guards who may spend their days securing some of the world’s greatest art treasures, but are artists at heart. According to the New York Times article on the publication, these aren’t your typical sentries—one has a degree from FIT, another was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Some have been artists since childhood. Others have arrived at painting, photography, or illustration later in life. What they all share in common is a need to pay the rent and a way to get medical insurance. For an aspiring artist extra time and few funds, keeping the sugar-coated mitts of touring toddlers off the Giottos seems a fine way to make ends meet—especially when the guard corps is made of similarly minded individuals. Indeed, as the Times noted, widely recognized artists such as Jackson Pollock, Sol LeWitt, and Dan Flavin have all punched time cards as members of the Met’s security detail in their younger years. Now, though, as guards finally get their own regular showcase for their off-hours efforts and have enjoyed a successful exhibition of their work at local gallery 25CPW, will a new generation of out-of-town neophyte painters arrive in New York with dreams of standing duty at the Temple of Dendur in their heads? That would be just SO New York.
For more information on “Sw!pe”, go to their website at www.swipemagazine.com. To see these guards at their day jobs and discover the best the world of art has to offer head to…
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York, U.S.A.
Top (left to right)—The cover of “Swipe”, Jack Laughner, “Before I Put on My Make Up”, Barry Steely, courtesy of the New York Times.
Bottom (clockwise from upper left)—”M-Hands” Jason Eskenazi, “The Palisades”, Peter J. Hoffmeister, “2 Swimmers”, Barry Steely, “Poe”, Phil Padwe, courtesy of the New York Times.