The Shed brings art to NYC's new Hudson Yards complex

NEW YORK — Critics have generally not been kind to the new Hudson Yards complex.

The new neighbourhood, built atop a platform over train yards on the west side of Manhattan, features sleek glass towers with stratospherically expensive residential, retail and office space.

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Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times' architecture critic, lamented this spring, "It is, at heart, a supersized suburban-style office park, with a shopping mall and a quasi-gated condo community targeted at the 0.1 per cent." Even the design centerpiece, a 15-story honeycomb of stairways called the Vessel, has been mocked by some as looking like a giant shawarma. (The New York Post, on the other hand, was kinder, with a headline: "Why the Hudson Yards Vessel is $200M worth of glistening glory.")

The Shed, a performance and arts space at Hudson Yards, has generally been cut more slack.

The 300,000-square-foot Shed can be expanded into a 3,000-seat concert hall or shrunk down to an intimate theatre space. The whole thing moves on giant wheels, and is covered by a sliding roof (which Kimmelman said was "eye-catchingly swathed in a tufted Teflon-based sheeting that can bring to mind inflated dry cleaning bags"). The Shed also includes art galleries.

It opened in April with British director Steve McQueen's survey of the African-American influence on music. Bjork's show "Cornucopia" has landed there. So has opera star Renee Fleming in "Norma Jeane Baker of Troy," a theatrical mashup of the stories of Marilyn Monroe and Helen of Troy. A Steve Reich-Arvo Part soundtrack accompanies paintings by the German artist Gerhard Richter.

Shed artistic director and CEO Alex Poots is sensitive to criticism of the complex as a billionaire's playground. But he maintains that whatever you think of fancy retail stores, "The Shed is the Robin Hood of the neighbourhood," an institution that "everyone wants."

As for its association with the rich, he says, "I don't know where else you get money to invest in artists on this scale."

And he promises it won't be just a touring spot for shows created elsewhere, or a haven for established names only. Poots, the former director of the Birmingham International Festival, is interested in commissioning new work geared to the space.

For more on the Shed and the Hudson Yards, check out The Associated Press' podcast, "Get Outta Here ."

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