Saturday, January 28, 2017

Winter 2017 Art Offerings in Manhattan

The excitement of the Christmas/Holiday period if now behind us and many of the most spectacular shows presented by our Manhattan museums have closed, but there is always something to see.  So, unless the weather is truly frightful (which so far it hasn’t been), button up your coat and come see what around.  A few haven’t opened yet, but soon will, so check the museum websites before you leave the house so you won’t be disappointed.

I will start the list with the biggest of Manhattan’s museums, the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART or, as its rebranding campaign suggests, THE MET.  Recently expanded through the opening of the former site of the Whitney Museum, renamed the Breuer Building, The Met is of course, in itself, a feast of offerings. 

At the main building, now known as THE MET FIFTH AVENUE (Fifth Avenue and West 82nd Street), there will be some major exhibitions, plus a host of smaller ones (some of which are already open) to tempt interested visitors.  The major shows are:

Max Beckmann in New York continues until February 20th.  Planned as a commemoration of the Expressionist artist’s sudden death on a New York street corner in 1950 at age 66 (1950+66=2016), the show will bring together works made by Beckmann in the last year of his life, when he was resident in the city, with earlier works held in New York collections.  So, it gives a pretty good overview of Beckmann’s entire body of work. 

On February 13th, a major exhibition of the work of the somewhat mysterious Hercules Seghers opens.  Organized by the Rijksmuseum and the Met it promises to give us a real look into one of the most original artists of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century period.  At my Ph.D. orals one of my examining professors suggested that he used sugar to texture his work.  Interesting.  The exhibition will run until May 21th

Also opening in February will be Seurat’s Circus Side Show, which will situate one of the paintings from the permanent collection in its time and examine its influence on later artists.  It opens February 17th and closes May 29th

Among the smaller exhibitions at THE MET FIFTH AVENUE are:

Velazquez Portraits, which is currently open and closes on March 12th.  It’s a lovely small show of the portraits of Velazquez, including two works on loan from the infrequently visited Hispanic Society in upper Manhattan.  They are well worth seeing. 

European Paintings: Recent Acquisitions 2015-2016.  This is currently open and runs through March 26th.  Many of the works in the group are religious in nature and all are absolutely beautiful. 

Simple Gifts: Shaker at The Met, ongoing until June 25th.  This lovely small exhibition shows off holdings from the museum’s collection of American furniture and decorative objects.  The simple, dignified work of the Shakers speaks to a vision of American life, simple, earnest, purposeful, that still resonates today and touches our modern design sense as well.  One nice extra in this show is a showing of the full length video of Martha Graham’s dance setting of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, filmed in 1958 in the early days of Public Television and featuring Ms. Graham herself. 

Following up on its recent opening of new rooms from the Gilded Age period of American design, The Met is offering a survey of the decorative works of the era, called The Aesthetic Movement in America, which is ongoing until June 25th.  Mostly from The Met’s own holdings, the exhibition surveys the amazing decorative items produced during the late years of the nineteenth century when, under influence from the English Aesthetic Movement, American designers created works of great luxury and beauty.

Finally, The Met continues to present its small, but important show, Collecting the Arts of Mexico, which runs until September 4th.  Tucked away in the second floor American paintings galleries (third level of the American Wing) it represents The Met’s new commitment to inclusion of some previously uncollected art, the art of New Spain and colonial Latin America.  Ranging from ironwork to pottery, it also includes a few important and interesting paintings. And, while you are there, don’t forget to visit the beautiful “Crown of the Andes”, an emerald laden solid gold crown for the Madonna from 17th century Colombia.  It can be found amid the pre-Columbian gold of the first floor galleries for the Art of Africa, the Americas and Oceania. 

The new THE MET BREUER (Madison Avenue and East 75th Street) is also hosting a range of important exhibitions during this, including:

Marisa Merz: The Sky is a Great Space, which has just opened is the first major retrospective in the United States of works by Italian painter, sculptor, and installation artist Marisa Merz (born 1926), the sole female protagonist of the Arte Povera movement.  It will run until May 7th.

Finally, the MET CLOISTERS (in Fort Tryon Park at the top of Manhattan Island), the Met’s specialized medieval museum will offer Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures, which opens February 22nd and will run till May 21st.  It will focus on 50 of the tiny and amazing miniature sculptures carved in the early 16th century Netherlands, objects like rosary beads that open to display entire scenes perfectly executed and incredibly small.

Beyond THE MET the museums of New York also have many things to offer. 

Leading the way is the MORGAN LIBRARY (at Madison Avenue between East 36th and 37th Streets) with Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden: The Collections of Count Tessin, opening on February 3rd and closing on May 14th.  It will include work by Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, Antoine Watteau, and François Boucher.

The FRICK COLLECTION (Fifth Avenue at East 70th Street) will be hosting Turner’s Modern and Ancient Ports: Passages through Time which will run from February 23rd to May 14th.  I’m sure it will be interesting to look at how his expression of the port changed over time. 

The MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), not a frequent venue on these pages, has a slew of exhibitions, as it usually does.  Two current exhibitions look interesting, however.  They are:

Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction, open until March 19th examines the work of one of the most important artists of the first half of the 20th century.

Meanwhile A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde looks at the period from 1912 to the 1920s, when Russian artists explored the new artistic ideas circulating through Europe before being superseded by Socialist Realism, which dominated the country thereafter. 

And, last, but by no means least, the NEUE GALERIE (Fifth Avenue at East 86th Street) presents the first American retrospective of the painter Alexei Jawlensky, a Russian-born Expressionist painter who worked in Germany.   I saw a few works of his in the Neue’s amazing exhibition of what the Nazis termed “Degenerate Art” a couple of years ago and was very struck by their spiritual content.  So this is something that I am looking forward to.  The exhibition opens on February 16th and will close on May 29th

So, if a brisk walk in cold weather isn’t really your cup of tea, you can easily find something to suit in museums.  And maybe have a cup of something hot while you’re at it.

Which reminds me that many New York museums have restaurants and cafes within their walls.  These include the Morgan (which has two), The Met Fifth Avenue (which has three public and two members only restaurants, plus a cocktail bar on weekend evenings), The Met Breuer (which has two), the Museum of Modern Art (which has several tucked away on different floors) and several others.  There are also some reasonably priced places to eat within a block or two of those mentioned above as well as near the Frick, which at the moment does not have a restaurant.  There is really no need to run the risk of eating from a street food cart, especially when the weather is frigid. 

I’m sometimes asked where to eat outside the museum (and even near some of the mid-town attractions) and here’s my answer, at least for the areas around the museums mentioned here.

Near the Neue Galerie and the Met (86th Street – 84th Streets).  This is an expensive, residential area, but there are a few possibilities outside the museums. 
Demarchelier – 86th Street and Madison Avenue.  Classic French and pricier than most, but well worth the splurge if you can afford it.

Dean and Deluca – 85th Street and Madison Avenue.  Not a restaurant as such, but you can get sandwiches and salads and drinks and perch on a few stools in the window.

The New Amity Coffee Shop – 84th Street and Madison Avenue, west side of the Avenue.  This is a classic New York Greek diner.  It has had the same décor for at least the last 40 years, but the food is good, the staff is friendly (except at lunch time, when no staff anywhere is friendly) and the prices are pretty good as well.

Le Pain Quotidien – 84th Street and Madison Avenue, east side of Madison.  A branch of the well-known chain featuring some communal tables.  A bit on the pricey side for sandwiches, but usually very good.

Near the Met (82nd to 79th Streets)
Lexington Candy Shop – 83rd Street and Lexington Avenue.  This requires walking a couple of extra blocks, and is definitely a step back in time.  It’s a genuine lunch counter/ice cream parlor from the 1940s.  Presumably the stoves, etc. have been replaced over time and there was the “renovation” in the late 1980s when the pay telephone booth was removed to make way for two more tables, but that’s about it.  It’s been run by the same family since the 1920s.  Space is tight and it’s usually very busy.   The food echoes the décor and prices aren’t dirt cheap, but it’s worth the trip for the experience and to help it survive.

EAT – Madison Avenue between 80th and 81st Street.  This is one of the offshoots of the Zabar family’s empire.  There is a pricier restaurant here, but there is also a take-out division, with prepared sandwiches, etc. and a convenient bench outside the door if it’s decent weather, especially if you are drinking something hot.

Serafina Fabulous Pizza – Madison Avenue and 79th Street (upstairs).  One of a chain of mid-priced Italian eateries.  Offers pizza, pasta and entrees at moderate (but not cheap) prices.  The only drawback for this particular Serafina is that it is on the second floor. 

I can’t recommend anything else in the stretch between 84th and 79th.

Near the Met Breuer (79th to 72nd Street).  This area used to be plentifully supplied with restaurants and bakeries at all price ranges.  However, the rents have risen so high in the last decades that, one by one, they have mostly closed.  What is left is one Greek coffee shop, one moderate to expensive Italian restaurant, one moderate Italian themed café and several expensive restaurants, confined primarily to the side streets, where the rent is a little less.  What’s left are:

Sant Ambroeus -- Madison Avenue between 77th and 78th Street.  This is the oldest of the New York offshoots of the classic Milanese restaurant of the same name.  If you are coming here for lunch or dinner, it's expensive.  However, at the front of the restaurant is a bar area where you can have lighter fare, like panini or focaccia, and pastries at reasonable prices.  Do not miss the gelato, which is the REAL thing.  

Three Guys – Madison Avenue between 75th and 76th Street, one-half block from the Breuer.  A large and more elegant version of the classic New York Greek diner.  The menu is extensive, the prices are a bit higher than usual for this type of restaurant and the crowds at lunchtime and on weekends are appalling, but it’s generally worth it. 

Via Quadronno – 73rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues.  This is a tiny North Italian eatery.  It’s incredibly crowded at lunchtime and expensive for dinner.  However, the all-day panini/salad/pastry menu is reasonable and there are some bargains.  For example, instead of a cup of American coffee for $5, you get a pot, containing about 3 cups.

Near the Frick Museum (72nd Street to 68th Street).  What little exists in the immediate vicinity is expensive.  So, to find more reasonably priced food you may need to head to Lexington Avenue, three blocks away.  Clustered around 70th Street and Lexington are several options, including a French restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a deli and a pizza joint.  Two good lower priced options are:

Neal’s Coffee Shop (70th Street and Lexington Avenue, east side of Lexington).  This is another Greek diner that hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, except for the addition of a back room with more seats.  Usually very crowded through lunch. 

Diagonally across the street, is Corrado Café (70th Street and Lexington Avenue, west side of Lexington).  Corrado is tiny, with limited seating inside and some seating outside which is useful in good weather.  Premade sandwiches and salads are reasonable and usually very good.  Also sells pastries and bread to take home.  Well worth the walk from Fifth.

Laduree – (Madison Avenue between 70th and 71st Street).  This is the New York outpost of the famous Parisian patisserie, so it’s not exactly a restaurant, since it sells only confections and only has two tables.  It usually has a line, waiting to buy some of the incredible macarons.  I love the rose macarons, which taste just like eating a rose petal, only better.  Not cheap, but a macaron or two probably won't break your piggy bank.

Near the Museum of Modern Art (53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth).  This is in midtown.  There are lots of opportunities to find something within a moderate budget.  Going west, Sixth and Seventh Avenues are loaded with all manner of dining options.  Moving east the options, while still there, are more limited.  I can recommend two restaurants within one block of the Modern on the east side of Fifth Avenue.  They are:

Le Pain Quotidien (53rd Street between Fifth and Madison).  Another branch of the reliable chain.

Burger Heaven (53rd Street between Fifth and Madison).  One of a chain of modern coffee shops that offers what is probably the best hamburger in Manhattan, way better than the greasy offerings of the various Shake Shacks. 

Near the Morgan Library (34th to 40th Streets).  The Morgan is also in a midtown area, with a variety of dining options.  My personal favorites are:

Moonstruck Coffee Shop – Madison at 38th Street.  This is a large, modern styled Greek diner with typical Greek diner food and spectacular bathrooms that are worth stopping here for.

Two branches of the popular sandwich and salad chain, Pret a Manger.  These are reasonably priced, good but very busy.   There are two within a very short walk from the Morgan.  The nearest is at Fifth Avenue and 37th Street, the other is at Madison Avenue and 39th Street.  The 39th Street Pret is quite large and not quite as crowded as it lies on a border between residential and commercial real estate.

Near the Cloisters (Fort Tryon Park, northern Manhattan)
Alas, the nearest thing to the Met Cloisters is the lovely New Leaf Café within Fort Tryon Park.  However, while the food can be spectacular it is pricey and almost always requires a reservation, especially on weekends.  The Cloisters does have a small eating place in the Trie cloister building, but only in warm weather.  Right now you’re out of luck. 

© M. Duffy, 2017

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