January 12, 2008

A Winter Walk on Museum Mile

Early January is usually not the greatest time for museum exhibitions - most of the special shows are targeted at holiday crowds and many end with the season. But a recent walk up "Museum Mile" on Fifth Avenue in New York showed that there are still some really great exhibitions on view, and the best part is, they're not crowded anymore!

Starting at 86th Street, the always fabulous Neue Galerie is now showing "Gustav Klimt: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections". You will remember the 2006 drama of the restituted Klimt painting "Adele Bloch-Bauer I" which drew international attention and was reported in my blog ("Crazy for Klimt "). In summary, the Bloch-Bauer heirs successfully challenged the Austrian government's claim to this and several other paintings and subsequently sold it to Mr. Lauder for $135 million. This magnificent work now hangs permanently in the Neue Galerie, and, until June 30, 2008, is surrounded by 7 other paintings and 120 drawings also by Gustav Klimt.

Mr. Lauder and Mr. Sabarsky were pioneers in their appreciation of the work of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and his contribution to Secessionism, Symbolism and ultimately Modern Art. Between them they amassed a very important collection of this major artist's œuvre and together they created the Neue Galerie as an homage to fin de siècle Vienna and its artistic luminaries.

For this limited time visitors to the museum have an opportunity to view not only these rarely seen works but also a re-creation of Klimt's second studio based on photographs and floor plans and decorated with the original Josef Hoffman Wiener Werkstätte furniture. Another fascinating object seldom available to the public, is Klimt's actual painting smock (see the 1912 photograph at right). Rather extraordinary in its size, the smock was made by the Schwestern Flöge (Flöge Sisters) Reformkleider in Vienna, and is the costume in which Klimt created some of his most memorable works.

No visit to the Neue Galerie is complete without a short stop at the Café Sabarsky for lunch or at least a Viennese coffee and torte! It is the perfect place to reflect on the beauty of the collection and to get ready for the walk up Fifth Avenue to our next stop...

The Jewish Museum at 92nd Street is currently presenting a lovely show dedicated to the only artist to show his work in all 8 official Impressionist exhibitions (1874-1886) and the only member of the movement who was Jewish. I'm talking about Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and this exhibit "Camille Pissarro: Impressions of City and Country" is a small but well curated selection of 50 paintings, prints and drawings, from each of his major periods, and all lent by American collectors and institutions. From his early, classically styled Caribbean landscapes, through his Impressionist farm scenes ("Landscape at Osny, View of the Farm" 1883), to his late, more Pointillist urban views ("Place du Théatre Français, from the Avenue de l'Opéra, Hazy Weather", 1898), this is a very fine, concise overview of this important artist's work. It is on display until February 3.

So don't let the winter blues get you down - take advantage of this mild weather to walk up Fifth Avenue and enjoy the shows!

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