Fisher Landau Center for Art

**UPDATE AS OF 16 MARCH 2018.** I’m saddened to learn that the Fisher Landau Center for Art has closed.  It was off the beaten path and kept eccentric hours but I really liked that place when I reviewed it last July, and I’m sorry I only got to go once.  I’m leaving the review below, but please don’t try to visit it. 

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value 4/5 
Should you go?  4/5
Time spent 52 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Many of the pieces on display made me smile, one made me laugh out loud.

Diptych, Fisher Landau Center, Queens
Ricci Albenda, “Diptych,” 2005. Acrylic on wood panel.

I don’t know why I chuckled at a painting of the word “diptych.” It’s a fairly mild art joke. I was just enjoying the museum, rounded the corner, and appreciated the cognitive dissonance.

Fisher Landau Center for Art, Queens New York

The Parachute Harness Factory Museum

Here’s another novel adaptive reuse of a non-museum building into a museum.  The Fisher Landau Center for Art resides in a former parachute harness factory in a random and as-yet ungentrified part of Long Island City.   Emily Fisher Landau originally bought the building just to warehouse her huge collection of modern and contemporary art, but realized some years back that the place had character, and could in fact show some of that art off to the public.  So she had it painted white, created airy, beautifully lit, columned interiors, and opened it for free to anyone intrepid enough to find their way there.

Fisher Landau Center, Queens New York

What’s on View

So for those in the know, a bastion of terrific modern and contemporary art exists, far from the maddening crowds that afflict MoMA or the Whitney.  In fact, I had the place all to myself.  Clarification:  no other visitors.  I saw a casually dressed guard and talked a bit with the very nice guy sitting at the front desk.  This was not another Maritime Industry Museum situation.

Each of the three floors changes themes every so often, letting them swap pieces and refresh the presentation of Ms. Landau’s collection.  When I visited the themes encompassed:

  • Language as Representation (somewhat like the Studio Museum in Harlem‘s “Excerpt” show)
  • Intuitive Progression, on series of an artist’s work, showing development or variations on themes
  • An installation of Lorna Simpson’s “Hypothetical,” and three other pieces of hers

Fisher Landau Center, Queens

Tastes and Preferences

It turns out Emily Fisher Landau knows or knew everybody in the art world.  She visited Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico. Andy Warhol did her portrait, twice even.  Picked out her Rothko just days before his suicide. That sort of thing.  One of Jenny Holzer’s mean granite benches (on display in the Fisher Landau Center stairwell) sums up the way I wanted to feel about Emily Fisher Landau:

Jenny Holzer, at Fisher-Landau Center, Queens
Jenny Holzer, “Selection from THE LIVING SERIES,” 1989. Bethel white granite.

And yet, I just can’t wish her ill. Her taste is so good.  Her museum is such a joy. Just from the sampling of work on display, I feel like I knew her a little bit.  She  takes art seriously, but she also has a sense of humor, and appreciates artists and work with some humor as well.  I thought the Ed Ruscha painting in the library summed it up pretty well. Or it would if it read “The act of letting a person into your parachute harness factory in Queens.”

Ed Ruscha at Fisher Landau Center, Queens
Edward Ruscha, “The Act of Letting a Person Into Your Home,” 1983. Oil on canvas.

I deeply appreciated the lack of wall texts at the Fisher Landau Center.  Each floor has a stack of Xeroxed sheets listing the theme and all the artists, pieces, and dates on display.  And that suffices.  Some artists and works I wanted to Google, and will follow up on.  But I respect a person who feels comfortable letting her art speak for itself.  And her art mostly speaks very eloquently.

Kiki Smith at Fisher Landau Center, Queens
Kiki Smith, Untitled a.k.a “The Sitter,” 1992. Wax, cheesecloth, wood, and dye. (Plus other works.)

Thank You, Ms. Landau

Emily Fisher Landau is still alive as of this post, in her 90s. So I still have time to write her a thank you note for creating the Fisher Landau Center.  Absent this project, I’d never bother to visit her factory-turned-museum, and that’s a mistake.  Anyone even mildly interested in modern art should plan a trip to this remarkable Queens institution.

Fisher Landau Center, Queens


For Reference:

Cost  Free
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