January 5, 2008

Museums As Gyms: A New Art & Exercise Series From Walking Off the Big Apple

Readers of Walking Off the Big Apple know I like to combine walking and looking at art. They also know I don't like going to the gym and staring at myself in the mirror while walking absolutely nowhere. When I compiled the list of forthcoming museum exhibitions the other day, I began to think of the physical effort that seeing these exhibitions would require. Visiting the Met alone, I thought to myself, involves walking through miles of galleries and courtyards and ascending and descending stairs. When I walked around the New Museum last month, I immediately noticed the potential value of the museum's narrow staircase as a stairmaster. All the museums, in fact, afford excellent opportunities for exercise. The Guggenheim has that lovely circular ramp, and MoMA's stairs are preferable to the department store escalators.

I have decided, accordingly, to introduce the WOTBA Museum As Gym series. In this series I will evaluate New York's major museums (including the American Museum of Natural History) for their potential as exercise venues. I will not run through the museums, but I will walk purposely around and through the rooms and up and down the stairs. Many years ago, humorist Art Buchwald popularized the Six-Minute Louvre, the story of one American's achievement in visiting the three major attractions of the Paris museum - the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, and the Mona Lisa, in record time. This New York version won't be anything like that. Well, it may be, sort of, but without the anti-cultural implications, I hope.

While exercising my right to look at art, so to speak, I intend to stop regularly, look at artwork, and take my pulse. I don't have a locker at any of these places, and I don't need one. I intend to wear regular clothes. I am a member of four of the major museums, so I expect this project to provide an economical alternative to real gym membership.

I'd like to get started with this series right away. I want to see the new galleries devoted to 19th century art at the Met, so I intend to start there. I will report back later with my evaluation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Fitness.

Image: Any exercise program starts with just a few steps. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as seen behind the snowcones. 2006. New York, New York.

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