Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Autumn 2017 in New York Museums, Some Very Big Names Are Coming to Town

Although the current temperatures don’t yet feel very autumnal, colder weather will be here soon and the leaves will eventually change color.  With the coming of autumn, the museums of New York have a host of new offerings to tempt us indoors.  And, this autumn, they are presenting some of the biggest names in the history of art, both Renaissance and Modern.  Just remember that some of the exhibitions in this article have not opened quite yet, so check with the museum websites before your leave home. 

I will start the list with the biggest of Manhattan’s museums, the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART or, as it is now known, 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:

Rodin at the Met.  This show is currently open and will run through January 15.  This exhibition occupies the long, entrance gallery of the 19th and early 20th century galleries, newly and attractively repainted to highlight the works of art.  It features multiple sculptures: small, medium and large by Auguste Rodin from the Met’s own very extensive collection of his work.  There are works in bronze, marble and clay, including some of Rodin’s most famous pieces.  Also, extremely interesting is an adjoining gallery filled with Rodin’s drawings and with photographs of the man and his works, plus some of his sources of inspiration.

Leonardo to Matisse, Master Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection.  This exquisite exhibition, featuring drawings from the Lehman Collection, one of the greatest collections of drawings amassed during the 20th century, is on view till January 7, 2018.  It presents drawings from some of the most famous names in the history of western art from the Renaissance to the early 20th century and truly deserves careful attention.

World War I and the Visual Arts.  In honor of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into “the war to end all wars” the Met is presenting a well-chosen array of works demonstrating how artists reacted to the war.  The works on display span the gamut of responses, from the patriotic to the pacifist and from the traditional to the avant garde.  The exhibition will run until January 7, 2018.

Three great masters are honored with solo exhibitions that have not yet opened. 

The most anticipated exhibition will open on November 13th and will run until February 12, 2018.  It will focus on one of the greatest and most influential of all artists:  Michelangelo Buonarotti.  Titled Michelangelo, Divine Draftsman and Designer, it will be composed of “approximately 150 of his drawings, three of his marble sculptures, his earliest painting, his wood architectural model for a chapel vault, as well as a substantial body of complementary works by other artists for comparison and context”.  It includes such items as his preparatory drawings, letters (complete with his caricature-like commentaries), finished drawings.  Many of these items have been loaned for the very first time by the institutions to which they belong and many will probably never be lent again.  So, if it is at all possible you should make it a priority to see this.

Next, comes an exhibition honoring the 80th birthday of a much more recent master, David Hockney.  This retrospective will run from November 27, 2017 to February 25, 2018 and will feature some of Hockney’s most recent works. 

The MET BREUER (Madison Avenue and East 75th Street) is also hosting another important retrospective, Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, which will open on November 15, 2017 and runs till February 4, 2018.  Munch is probably best known to the American public as the artist of The Scream.  This exhibition will, hopefully, encourage a wider perspective on his work.  It will include “approximately 45 of the artist's landmark compositions created over a span of six decades, including 16 self-portraits and works that have never before been seen in the United States”. 

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

The FRICK COLLECTION (Fifth Avenue at East 70th Street, will present two autumn shows of great interest:

Veronese in Murano: Two Venetian Renaissance Masterpieces Restored.  This exhibition focuses “on two recently conserved and rarely seen paintings by the celebrated artist Paolo Veronese (1528–1588), St. Jerome in the Wilderness and St. Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter. While the paintings are known to scholars, their remote location in a church in Murano, an island in the lagoon of Venice, has made them difficult to study. The exhibition will provide a unique opportunity for an international audience to discover these two masterpieces in New York.”  This exhibition opens on October 24, 2017 and will run until March 11, 2018.

Murillo:  The Self-Portraits, which runs from November 1, 2017 to February 4, 2018.  In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Murillo’s birth this exhibition unites two self-portraits, made approximately 20 years apart, which are owned by the Frick and the National Gallery in London.  “To provide context to these canvases, the exhibition will also feature a group of fifteen other works on loan from international private and public collections. These will include paintings of other sitters by Murillo, as well as later reproductions of the two paintings that reflect their fame in Europe.”

The MORGAN LIBRARY (at Madison Avenue between East 36th and 37th Streets, has a trio of exhibitions on offer. 

Most significant for the subject matter of this blog is Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings which runs until January 7, 2018.  This exhibition focuses on the beautifully bejeweled book bindings of the Middle Ages.  In an age when all books were the products of the human hand those that were brilliantly illuminated, especially the Bible and the books used for liturgical purposes, they were treasured and frequently honored with incredible covers of gold and precious stones.  Few have survived the centuries, frequently being destroyed to recover the value of their metal.  The Viking invasions and the Reformation were particularly hard on valuable book covers.  So, it is a major event that the Morgan is displaying its amazing collection of bindings collected primarily by J.P. Morgan and his father, J. Pierpont Morgan. 

Also on view are two exhibitions drawn from the Thaw Collection, formed by Eugene and Clare Thaw who are among today’s major collectors and museum benefactors, and recently gifted to the Morgan.  

The first, Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection, runs until January 7, 2018 and “focuses on pivotal artists and key moments in the history of draftsmanship. Works by major masters from the Renaissance to the modern era will be on view, including Mantegna, Rubens, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Piranesi, Watteau, Fragonard, Goya, Ingres, Turner, Daumier, Redon, Degas, Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and Pollock.”

Another, Views of Rome and Naples: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection, runs until March 18, 2018.  This exhibition focuses on the oil sketches of these two Italian cities made during the second half of the eighteenth century.  At the time, a visit to Italy, and especially to these two historic cities, by young artists was an essential part of their training.  “Working outdoors, artists recorded their observations of these natural and man-made wonders in small-scale studies, mostly executed with oil paint on paper. In these oils, painters captured the grandiosity of Rome’s classical ruins and the sublime natural beauty of Naples, with its famous view of Mount Vesuvius. Artists from France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, and Sweden are featured in this selection.”

MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art (53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues,, has a couple of exhibitions that may be of interest.  

The first is most unusual for MoMA, it’s a fashion exhibition!  As the MoMA website points out, it is the first fashion related exhibition in the museum’s history.  Unlike recent shows at the Met, which focus on the work of a particular designer, this show explores items of clothing that have had an influence on fashion in the twentieth century.  Items: Is Fashion Modern? Will run until January 28, 2018. 

The second MoMA exhibition, Max Ernst: Beyond Painting will run until January 1, 2018.  Ernst loved to experiment with techniques, which often give his paintings an air of otherworldliness.  “Featuring approximately 100 works drawn from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition includes paintings that challenged material and compositional conventions; collages and overpaintings utilizing found printed reproductions; frottages (rubbings); illustrated books and collage novels; sculptures of painted stone and bronze; and prints made using a range of techniques.”

New York’s two museums of local history are also offering some exhibitions of more than usual interest.

The NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Central Park West and 77th Street,, is displaying its recently rehung collection of paintings, one of the most important collections of the Hudson River School in existence.  
The exhibition, entitled Collector's Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection, is described as ongoing.

Also ongoing is the newly created gallery of Tiffany lamps.  The new space displays approximately 100 examples of Tiffany lamps, along with information on how they were created, about the designers who worked on them and the milieu in which they were used. 

The Historical Society also has several other exhibitions that may be of interest.  Among them are:
·         The Vietnam War: 1945 – 1975, which will run until April 22, 2018.
·         American Visionary: John F. Kennedy's Life and Times, which runs until January 7, 2018
·         Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection.  This will open on October 27, 2017 and will close on February 25, 2018.
·         The ongoing exhibition of Audubon’s Birds of America.

The MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK (Fifth Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets, will offer several interesting small exhibitions.

New York Silver, Then and Now
(ongoing) compares silver recently crafted in New York with that done by New York silversmiths during the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries.


      Art in the Open, Fifty Years of Public Art in New York.  This will open on November 10 and will run until May 13, 2018.  Reviews the public art of the last half century which has a different character to prior public art.


Mod New York, Fashion Takes a Trip focuses on the decade of the 1960s a time in which a revolution in fashion accompanied so many other revolutions in manners, politics and morals.  The exhibition opens on November 22, 2017 (anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, a significant date in the 60s) and closes on April 1, 2018.

Finally, the NEUE GALERIE (Fifth Avenue at East 86th Street, will be showing Wiener Werkstätte 1903-1932: The Luxury of Beauty, which will run until January 29, 2018.  “More than 400 objects have been selected for the presentation, and the loans are drawn from both public and private collections in the United States and Europe, including significant pieces from Austria. This show surveys the entirety of the firm’s extensive output in a variety of media, including ceramics, drawings, fashion, furniture, glass, graphic design, jewelry, metalwork, textiles, and wallpaper.”

Need to Sit Down/Drink Something/Eat Something?

Visiting museums is a wonderful way to spend the day, but it does tend to make one both tired and hungry.  In my volunteer “job” as a Visitor Services representative at the Met Fifth Avenue I am frequently asked where to find food and something to drink.  Apparently few people are aware that most New York museums have restaurants and cafes within their walls.  These include:
  • ·         The Met Fifth Avenue (which has five public and two members only restaurants, plus a cocktail bar on weekend evenings from May to the end of October),
  • ·         The Met Breuer (which has two),
  • ·         The Morgan Library (which has two),
  • ·         The Museum of Modern Art (which has several tucked away on different floors),
  • ·         The New-York Historical Society (which has two),
  • ·         The Museum of the City of New York (which has one),
  • ·         The Neue Galerie (which has two).

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 nippy.

Although most visitors are grateful to hear that museums do offer so many dining options 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, where the majority of the restaurants are quite pricey, 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 1920s.  Presumably the stoves, etc. have been replaced over time and there was the “renovation” in the late 1980s when the pay telephone booths were 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 continue to 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.   Be warned though, the sandwiches and salads are not on the low end of price, although they are equivalent or slightly cheaper than you might pay in a diner.
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 and there is no elevator.
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 Coffee Shop – 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 much steeper 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.
Nespresso.  If coffee and a tidbit (but not a meal) are what you want, you might try the newly opened branch of this Swiss chain at Madison Avenue and 74th Street (the southern end of the block occupied by the Breuer).  Coffee is the main menu item, tidbits are small and there are no tables.  There are curved wooden seating areas where you can perch.

The Loeb Boathouse.  If a walk in the park would clear your head, you might try entering Central Park at either 79th or 76th Street and following the paths to the main Lake.  The Boathouse sits on the north side of the Lake.  There are two distinct dining possibilities available within it.  The first is the pricier Lakeside Restaurant, which offers somewhat upscale dining at somewhat upscale prices and a unique location.  The atmosphere of a beautiful room opening onto the lake leaves a memorable impression and is definitely an only in New York experience.
The second dining room is the counter service Express Café.  Not quite as lovely as the Lakeside room this does have its own atmosphere, complete with a cozy fire in winter, plus views of the lake. There is also a small sheltered patio where one can sit outside if it isn’t too cold.  It offers burgers and hot dogs, as well as sandwiches, salads and soups, all of which are very good.  Not surprisingly, it’s hugely popular, especially on weekends all year long. During the autumn it is open till 5 PM.  In winter only till 4:30.

Nearby the Boathouse and slightly closer to Fifth Avenue the Model Boat Lake (officially the Conservatory Water) sits between the 76th and 72nd Street entrances.  There, on the terrace of the model boat house, is a branch of Le Pain Quotidien which offers beverages and a limited menu of edibles, including hot dogs and baguette sandwiches during the season.  Seating is all outdoor, so once it becomes really cold it will likely shut down till spring.  But, on a pleasant autumnal day, it offers a nice breather while you sip your coffee or tea.

Near the Frick Museum (72nd Street to 68th Street). 

What little exists in the immediate vicinity is very 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 from breakfast 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. 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. (There’s another one on 49th Street between Fifth and Madison as well.)

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.  During the month of October it will be open, weather permitting, so in this warm October you may be lucky.  After that you’ll have to wait till April (also weather permitting). 

Near the New York Historical Society (The Upper West Side between 79th and 72nd Streets)

The Upper West Side is replete with dining opportunities.  One block west of the Historical Society is Columbus Avenue, which offers many possibilities.  As this is not my home neighborhood and I don’t eat here often I hesitate to make recommendations.  However, a few suggestions are:
Coppola’s – West 79th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.  Long running Italian restaurant with decent food and a usually packed house.  It has survived four decades of changes on the Upper West Side and is still going strong. 
Shake Shack – Columbus Avenue at 77th Street.  One of the numerous neighborhood outposts of the original in Madison Square Park.  Offers hamburgers primarily.  I personally do not like their hamburgers but they do have a large and faithful following.
Pappardelle – Columbus Avenue at 75th Street.  North Italian with a lovely dining room.
Arte Café – West 73rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.  Pleasant Italian with a reasonably priced menu.
You will also find several Starbuck’s Coffee shops on Columbus Avenue, something that you will not find near the East Side museums. 

NOTE:  Descriptions shown in quotes come from the description of that exhibition and are copied from each museum’s website.

© 2017, M. Duffy

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