Jay Myself

November 1, 2019

I watch a lot of documentaries, and Jay Myself is one of the best I’ve seen. The story –– legendary New York photographer, Jay Maisel moves out of his home of 50 years –– is told through the eyes of fellow photographer and friend, Stephen Wilkes. You feel their friendship throughout. The home, is a 35-000 square foot disused bank in lower Manhattan, filled to the brim with five decades worth of bric-a-brac. To Maisel, even the mundanest of objects –– a battery, spatula, a machine part, or glass bottle –– is a thing of beauty and curiosity. It’s not about purpose, it’s about play, he says, and about learning to look at things in a different way. “You have to really look in order to see.” Unable to afford the maintenance costs –– $300,000 a year –– Maisel is forced to sell the building. The transaction –– 55 million dollars –– is said to be the greatest New York City real estate deal in history. Much of the film focuses on the artist and his team sorting through and packing up six stories of things. Maisel speaks movingly about his collection, his career, art. “Objects are there only if you really see them,” he says.  “And art is trying to make others see what you see.” Most of his collection now lives in storage –– he and his wife, Linda moved into a 10,000 square foot coach house in Brooklyn –– and I wonder what will become of it. I suspect it brings him some comfort to know that it still exists, and that he can visit it at any time. 

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