Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Key West Art And History Museum

I finally got around to checking out the Art and History Museum on Clinton Square. It's been a while since I was last in the old US Customs house and as always it was a pleasure to spend an hour wandering the venerable halls of the elderly building.

Outside as always we find the over sized statues preferred by Seward Johnson who enjoys reproducing well known two dimensional paintings in three dimensions. He has had a display of nudes dancing which I featured previously on this page so tough luck, I did not photograph them again. Johnson, heir to the talcum powder fortune, amuses himself rendering two dimensional paintings into three dimensions and doing them over sized frequently as well. a while back there was a great exhibit of famous paintings cast as sculptures. I'm not an art critic and I don't know if it was High Art but it was fun.

The museum is ideally placed to attract curious cruise ship passengers as they make their way towards the bars and knick knack shops on nearby Duval Street. At the moment the moneyed interests in Key West's business community are pushing hard to study widening the ship channel to accommodate the new generation of super large cruise ships, something that gets not much support from the moneyed retiree classes. The argument is that cruise ship passengers don't buy much as they have it all on the ship while clogging city streets. I was quite surprised by the number of visitors, in the dozens, in the museum, wearing colored cruise ship tags. I am sort of opposed to more ships but on the other hand Key West lacks any kind of unified vision of its future so worrying about a few thousand more temporary visitors swarming off the docks from time to time seems a bit, I don't know, capricious?

They sell a few books and knick knacks in the museum shop as well which might be an argument in favor of multiplying the number of such visitors but I suspect it's t shirt shops, tour operators, bars (including the ones owned by the portly city commissioner) and souvenir floggers that expect to profit. As far as I'm concerned what's happening in Europe is probably going to migrate over here and the more key West can insulate itself from economic Armageddon the better.

Or perhaps bigger cruise ships mean the city is selling it's historic heritage for a mess of potage. Beats me.

The building was abandoned in the sixties and was well on the way to falling apart, like most of downtown Key West. Gay visitors, attracted by the enormous Navy base saw the guest house potential and bought out the Conchs who built modern homes in New Town and left the ramshackle old town huts to the crazy outsiders. The smart ones held on, built and made fortunes, and some small portion of those fortunes spilled over into public works.

The restoration has been well done and the building is lovely, with or without the art.

I like wandering the corridors between exhibits as much as the rooms filled with the attractions.

My plan is to illustrate several of the exhibits on show over the next few days in separate essays now I've introduced the brick building that houses them.

Next door to the Westin Hotel near the waterfront you will find this big red brick building with the pointy roof, designed to slough off the snows of winter on the Canadian border (no, really!) built to one government design for Customs Houses. Inside you will find Key West laid bare. Not to visit would be a crime. Almost as bad as being undecided about what to do with the ship channel.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Anonymous said...

Dear Conchscooter:

Where did you learn to write the King's English. Did you look at this sentence carefully?

"Gay visitors, attracted by the enormous Navy base saw the guest house potential and bought out the Conchs who built modern homes in New Town and left the ramshackle old town huts to the crazy outsiders."

A casual reading of this sentence shifts the focus of interest from real estate potential to quite something else. Or did you mean that?

Very Truly Yours,
Elliot C. Watersley
Social Director
That Huge Fucking Navel Base

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir:

Have you seen the size of the current crop of cruise ship passengers? It's a wonder those damn boats float at all. It is my suggestion that Key West charge a $700 per person widening tax, to widen Duval Street so those fat asses don't get jammed up scrambling for the tee shirts that read, "Wait, I have to fart."

Mike Stuvie
Key Fungo, Fl.

Conchscooter said...

I learned to write the Queen's English on the third barstool from the left at the 801 pub in Key West. A very tall Queen with a wiry blonde week and a pair of bazookas the size of riepe's whatsit. S/he did her best but it never really took as you can see. I have ambiguous gender feelings to this day as you very well know.

Conchscooter said...

Dear Mike, once they've learned to far the passengers slim down noticeably.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir:

I am not fat, just big bonered. I got off the cruise ship to get a better look at the Navel base, for which I feel a certain enthusiasm. I couldn't find it. So I asked this dancing couple outside the custom house for directions. They ignored me. Is this town always like this?

Yurgis Maltodel
Goat Cheese Aroma Consultant
Tuna Melt, Norway

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Conchscooter:

Can't we just all be friends. I happened to pop in here by surprise, and discovered my "whatzit" is the subject of idle chatter. I remember when this blog used to host some pleasant banter. Now it's like whatever goes.

I was sorry to hear that your Triumph took a dump yesterday. May I make a suggestion? Deutschland Uber Alles.

Pip pip, what, what?

Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Conchscooter said...

Hell no Bavarian rubbish here.Ride a BMW and the next thing you know we'd be wearing toothbrush moustaches and jackboots and feeling an urge to invade Poland. Triumph is fine for me thanks. And Vespa.

Conchscooter said...

Dear Mr Maltodel, On thursday we have a public barbecue at the customs house and serve cruise ship passengers. Most of them we grill but some we deep fat fry. Join us on Thursdays.

Anonymous said...

I always go the customs house when I'm in town. I marvel and gawk at the magnificent huge wooden crab. It is amazing. It must have taken days or weeks to make it out of hard wood (I think walnut).

Dodged a forest fire here in Montana last week. The whole state seems to be on fire.

Bob from Livingston Montana

Anonymous said...

Having lived near both I find forest fires worse than hurricanes.