Friday, December 30, 2011

Eastern Parkway - BMA - Youth and Beauty, Hide/Seek, Brunch

Journey far from tourist-infested Times Square this weekend and treat yourself to the fantastic offerings at Brooklyn Museum of Art.  Start on the 5th floor with Youth and Beauty. Despite the loud reputation of the roaring 1920s, the exhibition presents the art and tropes of the time as quiet, desolate landscapes and intimate portraits. Take, for example, this captivatingly still photo of Gloria Swanson by Nickolas Muray. According to the commentary, her hand-to-face starlet pose originated in the ‘20s “to suggest a beautiful woman’s depth.” Who knew?!
The exploration of liberated individuality seeps down to the 4th floor galleries where Hide/Seek surveys the extraordinarily complex history of LBGT representation in modern American art from Walt Whitman and Thomas Eakins to Annie Leibovitz and Ellen DeGeneres. Spotlighting the contributions gay and lesbian artists have made to modern art, the show runs the gamut from grand oil paintings to tiny platinum prints. George Wesley Bellows depicts dozens of men disrobing by the riverfront on a hot day. Robert Mapplethorpe offers just his arm and torso reaching across a blank wall in a private studio. Félix Gonzåalez-Torres' work piles 175lbs of individually wrapped candies in the corner of the room and invites you to take one. You should!   
Then, save the rest of the museum's offerings for your next visit and opt for a cozy, delicious brunch at Cheryl's Global Soul. Full disclosure: there isn’t much that’s global about brunch at Cheryl’s, but the brioche French toast and Norwegian smoked-salmon plate are darn good. Afterward, take advantage of this gorgeous weather and stroll around the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. They bloom all year round!
Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1975.
Venue: Brooklyn Museum of Art
Artists: Nickolas Muray, Robert Mapplethorpe, George Wesley Bellows, Félix Gonzåalez-Torres, Others
Streets: Eastern Parkway, Underhill – Washington Ave
Eats: Cheryl’s Global Soul

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whitney Museum – Real/Surreal, Cubes and Anarchy, Calder’s Circus

There are many reasons to skip out of work for lunch at the Whitney. Top on my list is Danny Meyer’s new restaurant, Untitled, on the lower level. They’re serving up “updated coffee shop classics,” which means matzo ball soup and pastrami reubens but also crispy kale salads and aged gouda grilled cheeses. Oh, and need I mention breakfast all day?! 
This is an exciting time to visit the Whitney. In preparation for its move downtown curators are dusting off the deep holdings and presenting exhibitions drawn entirely from the permanent collection. As Ken Johnson said in the NYTimes, “Seeing ‘Real/Surreal’ … is like visiting your grandmother’s attic and finding it loaded with forgotten treasures.” It’s such fun! 
That said, if you only have time for one show, I’d pick David Smith: Cubes and AnarchySmith is considered on of the best American sculptors, and this exhibition of sculptures, drawing and paintings, plus rarely seen sketchbook and photographs, gives you a rich understanding of his masterful work. These geometric abstractions will have you seeing things in a whole new way.
On your way out, do not miss Calder’s Circus. Before he got started on his exquisite mobiles, Alexander Calder invited guests to sit on bleachers, eat popcorn and observe as he enacted the circus using wire, wood, metal, cloth, yarn, paper, cardboard, leather, string, rubber tubing, corks, buttons, rhinestones, pipe cleaners, and bottle caps. The video footage is incredible!

With so many great options and so little time, what will you choose to see?

Venue: Whitney Museum of American Art
Artists: David Smith, Alexander Calder, Federico Castellon
Streets: Madison Ave, 74th-75th Sts
Eats: Untitled

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wooster St – Landscape, Transgressive

At first glance Jean-Frédéric Schnyder’s landscapes seem like sweet storybook pages. Look closer and you will find flies in the honey. There is a mushroom cloud rising over the pastoral countryside threatening to block the smiling golden sun. Swastikas light the sky over fairytale-like houses. Like in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, these lullabies slip softly into kitschy nightmares. However that makes you feel, Schynder isn’t concerned. “I do not care which associations my paintings provoke,” he says. “Swastika, crucifix and sugar cubes are just motives which are interesting to paint. To apply color—this is what painting is about, right?—is for me the common thread.” Do you agree?
Whether you’re on Schnyder’s side or not, don’t judge before you see the video installation downstairs. Titled Corso Schnapsparade it features mini hand-carved wooden horses pulling wagons with airplane-size schnapps bottles. It’s a toy liquor parade complete with brass-band soundtrack, and it’s kind of amazing.
Whip out your smartphone and take advantage of the new order online capabilities at Le Pain Quotidien. (There’s even an app for that!) As you make your way over to pick up your tartine, check out Transgressive, the window gallery exhibition at Leslie/LohmanFeaturing powerful large format prints by photographer Jess Dugan and oil paintings by Joelle Circé, the exhibition presents intimate portraits of individuals who happen to be transsexual and transgender. These arresting portraits will draw you in. Don’t linger too long, though. Your sandwich is waiting…

Venues: Swiss Institute, Leslie/Lohman
Artists: Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Joelle Circé, Jess Dugan
Streets: Wooster St
Eats: Le Pain Quotidien

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cloisters Museum & Gardens – Game of Kings

You could easily kill this holiday Monday eating leftovers and watching a TV-show marathon. (I vote for Inside the Actor’s Studio on Bravo!) At some point, though, you should probably ward off cabin fever and breathe in some fresh air. Jump on the A train and journey way uptown to the medieval oasis that is The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. There are many reasons to go any time of year (see below), but go now to see The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis. The Lewis Chessmen date from 12th century Scotland and are carved in intricate detail from walrus ivory. They are so individualized and interesting, and this is the largest collection to ever travel outside the UK. Take this chance to see them in NYC!
If you’ve been there before, you know that The Cloisters is one of those NYC destinations that feels like you’ve been magically transported to a far away land. Nestled in Fort Tryon Park, the building incorporates five medieval cloisters and houses an expansive collection of medieval European artwork, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, metalwork, enamels, ivories, and ornate tapestries. Stroll the covered walkways and open galleries and spend a good long time gazing at the exquisite Unicorn Tapestries.
Unfortunately, the museum's little Trie Café is closed for the season. Maybe bundle up and pack a picnic for Fort Tryon Park, or splurge on lunch at New Leaf. 'Tis the season for indulgences, so what's one more, right?

Venue: The Cloisters Museum & Gardens
Artists: Various artists from the ninth to sixteenth centuries
Streets: Fort Tryon Park - Margaret Corbin Drive, 190th St
Eats: Trie Café, New Leaf

Friday, December 23, 2011

Madison Ave - Gaga's Workshop

So, Lady Gaga set up a boutique of limited-edition swag at Barney’s. Whatever comes to mind when you first hear this news, there is no real way to prepare yourself for the experience that is Gaga’s Workshop. From the open-mouthed entryway to the custom elevator décor, it is clear that this gratuitous display of consumerism is going to be indulgent and fun and borderline offensive. (No surprises there.)
Bypass the custom lollipops ($14) and designer press on nails ($225), and focus on the sculpture. Artists Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide Pierson, together with their art collective assume vivid astro focus (avaf), designed an all-encompassing world of Gaga that is pure cheeky pleasure. Hoards of tourists aside, it’s a neat place to explore. Plus, it's all for a good cause...
Assuming you don’t want to gorge yourself on Monster Cookies, go upstairs for a celeb-worthy lunch at Fred’s or venture back into the real world with a lite tuna sammie from Sunberry’s Café. On the way out, be sure you hit the Madison Ave windows for even more Gaga.
For more images of Gaga’s Workshop, click here.

Venue: Barney’s New York, Gaga’s Workshop
Artists: Lady Gaga, Eli Sudbrack, Christophe Hamaide Pierson, assume vivid astro focus (avaf), Nicola Formichetti
Streets: Madison Ave, 60th-61st Sts
Eats: Fred’s, Sunberry's Café

Thursday, December 22, 2011

66th & Broadway - Lincoln Center

It is sunny, high 50s and officially the first day of winter in NYC. Let’s not worry about what’s wrong with this picture and instead take an art stroll al fresco. When’s the last time you explored Lincoln Center? Ever since they finished their massive Diller, Scofidio + Renfro remodel, the place is actually looking modern for a change. Don't you think?  

The entire experience that is Lincoln Center, from the polished subway passage to the sleek awnings to the culinary offerings, has been upgraded. Head straight up the LED “Welcome” steps, which display the greeting in 325 languages, and make your way back and to the right. There beyond Henry Moore's Reclining Figure, atop Lincoln Ristorante, is the tranquil Illumination Lawn. This sun-drenched grassy knoll is an invitingly vibrant green, but you don't have time to dawdle. There is too much else to see!
Once you start looking for it, you will notice artwork lurking around every corner. Richard Lippold’s Orpheus and Apollo gleams through the windows of Avery Fisher Hall. Alexander Calder’s Le Guichet (The Box Office) ushers you into the Library for the Performing Arts... The highlight for me is seeing those two massive Chagalls in the Opera House lobby. What are your favorite hidden gems?
Sidle up to the bar at Jonathan Benno's Lincoln Ristorante for an indulgent lunch of gnudi di ricotta e rapini, or opt for the significantly more economical goat cheese sandwich at Tom Colicchio's 'witchcraft. Either way, you will feast on culinary artistry. Guaranteed.
Bonus: if you happen to be in the 'hood after 6pm, make sure you stop by Met Gallery for artist Peter Doig's Siegfried and Poster Project. Doig was not really an opera fan himself before this project, but somehow he managed to encapsulate the power of Wagner in each piece. His magnificent paintings are not to be missed. 
Venues: Lincoln Center: Gallery Met , Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall
Artists: Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Richard Lippold, Diller Scofidio Renfro, Peter Doig
Streets: 64th-66th St & Broadway/Columbus Ave
Eats: Lincoln, ‘witchcraft

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Park Ave & 70th St – Sarah Sze – Infinite Line

In warmer weather, you might have seen birds feeding on Sarah Sze’s Model for a Habitat on the Highline. That is just a tiny tease compared to Infinite Line, Sze’s new exhibition at the Asia Society. Prepare to have your perspective rocked! 
Before you go, watch this great little teaser. As Sze meticulously installs her intricate sculptural drawings, she explains that her primary focus is the place where drawing meets sculpture. She’s “drawing” on the floor and “sculpting” on the wall in an effort to frame the negative space, and you are encouraged to move around and notice your shifting perception. “Locate yourself in space.” It’s a whole lot of fascinating theory and intention. Plus, it got the museum to open up their 2nd floor windows, which have been closed for nearly a decade, for an installation that incorporates a paper sculpture, a tree branch and a cab on Park Avenue. Looking at Sze’s work, I can’t help but feel like she would have a field day with my junk drawer. (You know, that one pesky drawer where you put everything that doesn’t fit in any other drawer?) Just think what she could do with those stray pen caps! 

It’s a busy time of year! Should you have time for a leisurely lunch, stay at the Asia Society for the curry bento box in their Garden Court Café. If you, like me, are depending on coffee to propel you between holiday soirees, you must stop in Sicaffé for a perfectly crafted cappuccino Triestino. While you sip, take up your pen and cocktail napkin and see if you can't doodle your own version of Sze's Guggenheim as a Ruin... How'd you do?
Venue: Asia Society
Artist: Sarah Sze
Streets: Park Ave & 70th St
Eats: Garden Court Café, Sicaffé