September 25, 2015

Pope Francis Visits New York

While I am a practicing Christian, I am not Catholic, so when the Vatican announced that Pope Francis would be visiting New York as part of a three city tour of the United States I was not overcome with joy.  I was even less enthusiastic when the intended trip was scheduled to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly, a traffic nightmare of the first order, and downright contrary when organizers decided to route him through Central Park en route from a school in Harlem to celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Things did not look up when my neighborhood was inundated with signs proclaiming "NO PARKING" for days leading up to the event and "NO VEHICULAR TRAFFIC WHATSOEVER" on the day of.  Basically, my street, as well as about twenty others that abut Central Park West, were on lock-down on the day of the Pope's visit - no deliveries, no taxis, and no admittance without proof of residence.

The morning of the big day I awoke to a very large police bus parked right across the street.  It was soon joined by other police vehicles and later by two large firetrucks and other emergency vehicles.

I admit, I felt like a curmudgeon as the newscasts and papers were filled with photos and stories of ecstatic worshipers crowding into events and lining every venue of the papal motorcades.  Despite all the warnings, I was able to accomplish everything I had set out to do on this Friday and had a very nice exchange with the officer who inspected my driver's license to make sure I actually did live on my block.  Finally my curiosity got the better of me, and shortly before five o'clock, when His Eminence was scheduled to drive through Central Park, I marched down to Central Park West and joined the dozen or so other people who did not have tickets to stand on the actual route, but hoped to catch a glimpse from a distance.

Central Park West was completely shut down to traffic and we were not allowed to stand in the emergency lanes set up on the street.  Rather, we were ushered by a very nice policewoman to stand back closer to the sidewalk, next to a sanitation truck filled with sand to make an impenetrable barricade should an armed tank roll toward the Papal convoy.

 Looking South

and North

There were probably more fire and police personnel than onlookers but one police officer became an informal emcee!  He kept his walkie talkie on so we could all hear the police transmissions and knew where the motorcade was, he shooed away latecomers who tried to impede our precious view and when the moment arrived he allowed us to move forward into the safety zone so we could have a better look.

The roar of the crowd and the red and blue flashing lights told us that the Popemobile was not far away and sure enough, in the blink of an eye, the white vehicle with the Holy Father soon passed in the distance.

It was a moment in history that I am very happy not to have missed.  The anticipation of his appearance, the palpable joy of the faithful waiting for a glimpse of their leader and the pride of living in a city where something like this is possible were like electricity in the air.  For a brief moment we were all joined as one and we were all the richer for the experience.

September 16, 2015

Presenting Catalogue Number Ten!

I can't believe how the years have flown by, but here I am celebrating the first decade of Georgina Kelman::Works on Paper with Catalogue Number Ten!  As with previous issues, I have endeavored to present an interesting mix of European and American fine prints, drawings and watercolors with a focus on the late 19th to early 20th century but a few surprises thrown in.

There is something for almost every budget with items ranging from pochoir colored plates from the album "White Bottoms" by Sem, an original watercolor study for a textile design by Sonia Delaunay and a very special example of James Tissot's masterful etching and drypoint "Émigrants".  Each piece has been selected for its rarity, aesthetic appeal and fine condition.

Please feel free to contact me for your copy, or you can download a PDF from my page on

It's the beginning of an exciting new season here in the North East and I hope you'll join me as we explore what's happening in the art world here and beyond!

September 13, 2015

A Visit to The Hispanic Society of America

One of the hidden treasures of New York City is the museum and library of The Hispanic Society of America.  Located on West 155th Street and Broadway, the Beaux-Arts building The Society has occupied since its inception in 1908 is part of an enclave of cultural centers that form the Audubon Terrace Historic District.  Virtually unknown to all but a handful of New Yorkers, The Hispanic Society boasts a world-class collection of paintings, sculpture, archaeological and decorative artifacts, prints, books and photographs relating to Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

The Hispanic Society was founded in 1904 by the American philanthropist and intellectual Archer Milton Huntington as an institution dedicated to the study and promotion of Hispanic art and literature.  With his vast collection as the basis, the Society soon became renowned for its scholarly exhibitions and publications covering almost all facets of Hispanic culture.

While The Society and its neighborhood may not be quite as posh as they used to be, a visit to the campus is certainly worth the trip.  Easily reachable by subway or bus, the complex of landmark buildings is a surprise oasis in the hustle and bustle of Washington Heights.  Some of the former residents have moved to other locations, including the American Geographic Society, The Heye Foundation's Museum of the American Indian and the American Numismatic Society, but the increased presence of the two remaining original denizens, The Academy of Arts and Letters and The Hispanic Society continue to imbue Audubon Terrace with an air of academia.

Once inside the temple-like structure of The Hispanic Society, one is completely transported to another time and place.  In this age of architect and technology driven museum experiences, this is step back to the time when the art and artifacts spoke for themselves.  There is no audio guide, no interactive displays, no café and no air conditioning.  There is a counter, next to the box for a voluntary contribution, where one can purchase a post card that was probably printed in the 1970s.  There is also a treasure trove of art that will totally amaze you!

The Hispanic Society's holdings are substantial and diverse and the most comprehensive outside of the Iberian Peninsula.  On display is a fascinating collection of decorative arts including metalwork, carpets, furniture, silver and ceramics..

and archaeological objects including statuary, pediments and tombs...

Tomb of Gutierre de la Cueva, Bishop of Palencia
Early 16th century

There are religious objects ranging from baptismal fonts to chalices made of gold and ivory and polychrome and stone.  There are drawings and watercolors and photographs and books.  And there are paintings by some of the greatest Spanish masters from the Middle Ages to to early 20th Century including works by El Greco, Zubarán, Velázquez, Ribera and Goya...

"Portrait of the Duchess of Alba", 1797

But what The Hispanic Society is probably most famous for, more than its extensive library and Islamic textiles, more than its pioneering archaeological excavations and the monumental equestrian statue of "El Cid" that graces the plaza, is the room of murals by Joaquim Sorolla entitled "Visions of Spain".

Commissioned by The Society's founder, Archie Huntington, "Vision of Spain" is a 227 foot long mural comprising 14 massive paintings depicting scenes from each of the provinces of Spain.  Joaquim Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) was a Spanish Impressionist painter best known for his seascapes and his poignant depictions of ordinary people.  Originally conceived as an illustrated history of Spain, the artist opted for a more plebian view of the provinces of the country.  Painted between 1911 and 1919 these imposing canvases fill an entire room and capture scenes typical of each Spanish region.   Like from Navarre, the "Town Council of Roncal"...

Or from Seville, "The Dance"...

Or the Valencian "Couples on Horseback"...

Or the immense panel of "The Tuna Catchers" from Ayamonte...

Each panel individually is spectacular and the group as a whole, presented in a dedicated room, is absolutely amazing - a virtuoso example of historical illustration combined with a masterful artistic aesthetic.

As the repository of this and countless other artistic and historic gems, The Hispanic Society of America is truly one of the best kept secrets of the New York cultural scene.  Fair warning - they will be closing within the next year or so for massive, urgently needed renovations so, please, pay a visit before it's too late.  It's well worth the trip.

September 05, 2015

"Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life"

With Labor Day, and the inevitable end of this glorious summer, just days away, I took advantage of Mother Nature's last blast of heat to head to The New York Botanical Garden and a virtual trip to Mexico!  I'm referring to the NYBG's special exhibition "Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life" that explores the influence of horticulture on the art and life of this Mexican icon. 

 Frida Kahlo
"Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird", 1940

Probably one of the most recognizable and revered artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo's (1907-1954) short and tumultuous life has become the stuff of legend.  Thanks to innumerable books, articles, museum shows and even a biographical movie, Frida Kahlo's story is well known.  But this is the first exhibition to take a look at her relationship with nature - specifically, how she incorporated flowers and plants into her work and life.

While the exhibition extends throughout the grounds of The Garden, the centerpiece of this show is in the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.  Here visitors will find a recreation of Kahlo's garden at the Casa Azul (Blue House) the home she shared with her husband, Diego Rivera, outside of Mexico City.  As well as the trademark blue and pink walls, the curators have lined the paths with trees and plants that would have been growing at Casa Azul and were often reproduced in Frida Kahlo's paintings, like this bougainvillea...

or Swiss cheese plant...

or fuchsia...

Anchoring the greenhouse part of the show is a recreation of the four-tiered pyramid that Kahlo and Rivera built to display his collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts.

There were also many examples of succulents and cactus in their garden which were not truly native Mexican plants but must have appealed to her Surrealist aesthetic.

A detailed replica of Kahlo's work table gives visitors a feeling for her creative process and is a nice personal touch.

Exiting the Conservatory, we pass by several beautiful waterlily ponds and along a "Poetry Walk" where sign boards with poetry inspired by Frida Kahlo are posted throughout the gardens.  Eventually we came to the Mertz Library building where the art exhibition section of this show is on display.

Presented on several floors, this division of the show looks at the life and legacy of Kahlo and Rivera through art and artifacts.  The ground floor's panel exhibition gives a biographical and historic perspective to the couple with a focus on their Mexican roots.  The Rotunda features a specially commissioned installation by contemporary artist Humberto Spindola entitled "The Two Fridas", and the top floor is showing a small but very fine group of oils and works on paper by Frida Kahlo, including the iconic work "Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird" shown at the top.

Feeling a little peckish after all this Frida worship?  The NYBG has thought of that too and a special Cantina has been set up near their excellent gift shop to serve Mexican food and drink!  There are also special Frida Al Fresco Evenings with live music and extended hours.  Altogether it turns a short train ride to the Bronx into a cultural event and a whole lot of fun!