November 28, 2007

What's On at the New-York Historical Society

The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804 with the mission of preserving and presenting the rich and dynamic history of New York City and its influence on the shaping of America and the world. Located in a landmark building on Central Park West, the Society overcame severe financial difficulties in the 1990's to be brought back to life as an invigorated and vital part of the New York cultural scene. This successful recuperation was very much in evidence the other evening at a preview party for the Society's two newest exhibitions.

To celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of the Marquis Gilbert du Motier Lafayette, the N-YHS is presenting "French Founding Father: Lafayette's Return to Washington's America". A staunch ally of George Washington's in the quest to gain independence from Britain with the American Revolution, Lafayette returned to America 50 years later for a triumphant tour of the fledgling country. Arriving in New York City in 1824 and traveling by every conceivable means of transport, the Marquis de Lafayette covered over 6,000 miles in 392 days and succeeded in visiting all of the 24 states that existed at the time. He brought a strong message of patriotism and pride in the new land and was welcomed as a hero by all citizens. This exhibition honors his tireless dedication to the American ideals of democracy and and freedom and brings his historic tour to life with documents, artifacts and hands-on exhibits. A fitting tribute to a true champion of the original United States of America and Franco-American relations.

Also on view at the New-York Historical Society is "Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush With Leisure, 1895-1925". The "Ashcan School" or "The Eight" refers to an artistic movement active during the early 1900's and known for its scenes of social realism, particularly among the lower classes. This exhibition focus' on the artists' depictions of leisure and recreation as pursued by working and middle class Americans, and presents more than 70 paintings from the Society's own collection and borrowed from some prominent collections and institutions around the country. Although not entirely typical of the sombre, gritty scenes for which the movement is most famous, the selection of paintings represents works by all the major contributors and is a wonderful snapshot of New Yorkers at play.

Divided into galleries including "Dining Out", "Parks and Public Spaces" and "Sports", well-known images by John Sloan ("McSorley's Bar", 1912), George Bellows ("Dempsey and Furpo", 1924), and William Glackens ("Central Park, Winter", 1905), display the very best examples of this New York based group of realist painters and their acolytes.

The latest statistics put New York City's population in the neighborhood of 8.25 Million inhabitants. Anyone who lives in this great Metropolis has an obligation to see how it all began. Take some time to visit the oldest museum in New York watch history unfold!

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving 2007!

It's a beautiful Thanksgiving morning here in New York City - a perfect day for the wonderful Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to wend its way down Central Park West and then Broadway! The crowd started to gather at the end of my street early this morning and by the time the event kicked off, around 9 AM, there was a large crowd of happy parade watchers of all ages.

The marching bands, the clowns, the floats, and of course, the famous balloons delighted the onlookers both young and old. Some of the characters are not so familiar, but there are some old standbys like Scooby Doo, and Snoopy.

Some had very creative approaches to watching - standing on window ledges, in dumpsters, or on cleverly constructed viewing stands made of boards and stepladders. As you can tell, the temperatures were mild and the sun was shining and many people, both local and from out of town, were enjoying the festivities before tucking in to a big turkey dinner.

Wishing you and yours the Happiest of Thanksgivings!

November 18, 2007

November in Paris

Paris is famous for many things - great food, fine wine, stunning fashions, beautiful art... It is also notorious for strikes and civil unrest that can bring the country to its knees. I have experienced everything on this trip, both the good and the not-so-good, and have learned, as the French themselves do, to just shrug off the bad with the understanding that "C'est la France!"

A week in Paris is never quite enough, but certainly better than not being here at all! The bright autumn sunshine belied the cool, damp November air and a winter coat and warm gloves were very much in order. The impending transportation strike forced a quick re-thinking of plans and appointments to take care of the farthest quartiers on the first day and hope that everything else could be taken care of on foot for the rest of the time. No one expected a quick resolution to this strike, although it seems to be very unpopular with the general public who resent being forced to walk or bicycle to work while the rail workers lobby for retirement at age 50.

Beside making it difficult to get around, and limiting the number of exhibitions and activities one could accomplish, the strike caused many business' and institutions to close early to give their employees a head start on the long trek home. This was particularly irksome as I stood in line in the cold at the Musée d'Orsay only to be told that the galleries would be closing in less than an hour. So much to see and so little time!

Given the restricted mobility, there were a number of exhibitions that I could not get to see. I am sorry to have missed the Giacometti show at Centre Pompidou and the Picasso Cubism show at the Musée Picasso. I was also sorry to miss Courbet at the Grand Palais and especially the Biedermeier show at the Louvre. Nevertheless, I did catch "Allemagne: Les Années Noirs (Germany: The Dark Years)" which focused on German art during and immediately after World War I. This presentation of prints, drawings and oils by George Grosz, Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, was not exactly cheery, but it was powerful. It remains at the Musée Maillol until February. I also saw a retrospective of the works of Ferdinard Hodler at the Musée d'Orsay. Hodler (1853-1918) was a Swiss painter of portraits and especially landscapes and his work has been compared with Cezanne. I found many of the pieces overly Teutonic in feel, but some of the views of Lac Leman and the Alps were quite beautiful.

Wednesday evening was the opening of Paris Photo at the Carrousel du Louvre. Over 100 photo dealers from Europe and America exhibited at this annual fair that celebrates photography both vintage and contemporary. As is happening with prints and paintings, the balance is shifting from old to new, but there were some fine examples of early photography by such masters as Cartier-Bresson, Steichen, Edward Weston and Stieglitz. Of special note was a pair of small format Man Ray "Luminographs" on the stand of Lawrence Miller, New York, and a group photo taken at a Dada fête in 1921 on the stand of Lumière des Roses, Montreuil.

As usual, the main objective for this trip was to find beautiful things for my website and next catalogue. The diminishing dollar made buying a little more challenging but our French colleagues have tried to accommodate their poor American cousins and I did manage to find a few treasures!

Cold or warm, strike or no strike, dollar high or dollar low, it is always a pleasure to be here. It is with a certain sadness that I leave for the airport this afternoon to return to New York. But next week is Thanksgiving! And then the holidays! And before you know it, we'll be saying Bonjour again and enjoying the sights and sounds of this compelling city.

November 03, 2007

"Berlin in Lights"

For 17 days this November, New Yorkers have a unique opportunity to enjoy the excitement and vitality of the contemporary culture scene in Berlin without leaving town. Carnegie Hall, in conjunction with several fine institutional partners, presents, for a limited time, "Berlin in Lights", a snapshot of the best Berlin has to offer in the realms of music, film, art, architecture, and dance.

Many people think that Paris was the center of avant garde expression in the period between the World Wars. While Paris was a major force on the artistic scene, think Josephine Baker, Marcel Duchamp, Coco Chanel, Sara and Gerald Murphy and the rest of the ex-pat community, it was really Weimar Berlin that set the bar for truly over-the-top creativity and decadence. The city, probably in a reaction to the horrors of The Great War, became without a doubt the epicenter of the avant garde. It was a no holds barred environment in art (think Dada), music, cinema, theater, cabaret and lifestyle. Sadly, by 1933, the Germans had in effect turned on themselves and the very genius' that had created this progressive environment were persecuted, exiled and killed. Fortunately with the re-unification of Germany in 1989, the past glory of this amazing capitol city has been brought back to life and from now until November 18th, we can experience the very best of its past and its present right here on this side of the Atlantic.

Last evening was the opening night of this international festival, and I had two tickets for Max Raabe & Palast Orchester at Carnegie Hall. What a fabulous show! Max Raabe, the extremely polished singer and leader of the orchestra, has devoted his life to reincarnating the best of Berlin tea dances and other musical entertainment of the 1920's and '30's. The moment he walks on the stage wearing an impeccable tuxedo and slick backed hair, the audience is hooked. The 12 piece orchestra with the big band sound is perfect. Max Raabe is totally in character. Singing in both English and German, Max Raabe interprets musical gems by composers from Cole Porter to Kurt Weill. We are transported through song to a totally different age. No one wanted the evening to end.

While the Max Raabe concert may be over, there are still many more events to enjoy. Check out the schedule and see if there isn't a little bit of Berlin in your future!