November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving in New York

"Dora the Explora" Floating down Central Park West

It takes more than a little wind and rain to keep the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from marching and rolling and most of all floating down Central Park West en route to Herald Square on Thanksgiving morning. And the thousands of fans who lined the route were thrilled with the bands and floats and of course the balloons that highlight this 80 year old tradition.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday.

November 18, 2006

EHON: The Artist and the Book in Japan

Visitors to the New York Public Library, on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, are in for a treat. Guest curator Roger S. Keyes has drawn upon the Library's extensive collections to present for the first time an in-depth look at the development of "ehon" or "picture books". Not just a medium for the dissemination of information, these books are works of art in themselves.

In this exhibition, Mr. Keyes traces the history of ehon from 764 up to the present day. He focuses on both the art of creating the book as well as the art contained within the covers. The visitor to the show is struck by the beauty and complexity of the design of the wrappers, cases and covers which the reader must carefully open to discover the treasures within. Once the interior is revealed, the conversation between the elegant calligraphy, the accompanying images, and the viewer, begins. It is a tactile and intimate experience.

Asian tradition divides the cosmos into three distinct parts - Heaven (the sky, weather and spirits), Earth (land, sea and creatures), and Humanity (the living bond between Heaven and Earth). Ehon tradition calls for a bond between artists and artisans to create these small gems that pay homage to life and creativity.

This exhibition is free to the public and will remain on view until February 4, 2007.

November 12, 2006

The Mount

Autumn at "The Mount", Edith Wharton's Estate in the Berkshires
as photographed by Kevin Sprague

Although born into the quintessential Victorian "Old New York" family, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) managed to overcome this heritage to become one of the most influential women writers of her time. Indeed, her masterpieces "The Age of Innocence", "Ethan Frome" and "The House of Mirth" continue to be reprinted - their popularity perpetuated by full length feature films that created an entirely new audience for her work. Her output of over 40 books in 40 years put her firmly in the category of major American writer, an honor enhanced by academic achievements including a Pulitzer Prize, an Honorary Doctorate from Yale and a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

But it is one book, a collaboration with the designer Ogden Codman Jr., entitled "The Decoration of Houses" published in 1897, that established her in an entirely different field. Firmly believing that the "design of a house [and gardens] should be treated architecturally and should honor the principles of proportion, harmony, simplicity and suitability" she stood in direct contrast to the decorative excess' of the Victorian era. To this end, she began the construction of her beloved estate "The Mount" in Lenox, Mass, in 1902. Here she practised the design principals she preached, while writing her best selling novels and works of non-fiction.

In 1911 Edith Wharton divorced her husband, Teddy Wharton, and moved to Paris to live full time until she died of a stroke in 1937. Like many proto-feminist American women of the era, she found the artistic freedom she craved in Europe. There, she was not obliged to be simply a "wife", but could pursue her intellectual and creative impulses with abandon. She studied languages, literature, theology, and architecture, she travelled widely, she had a passionate love affair with Morton Fullerton, she lived life.

"The Mount" is now operated as a foundation dedicated to promoting Edith Wharton's writing and her theories of design. The house and gardens are open to the public and are slowly being restored to their former glory after suffering from years of neglect. The news that "The Mount" was able to re-purchase Miss Wharton's original library from a British book dealer and bibliophile is considered one of the "100 Top Treasures" of 2006 by Art and Antiques Magazine. The 2,600 volume library offers not only special copies of her own works, but rare and valuable editions by writers she admired. Thanks to a very generous benefactor, the library at "The Mount" will now look just as it did when she lived there and scholars will have a new window into the mind of this extraordinary woman. Scholar or not, a visit to "The Mount" has always been fascinating, and with this new acquisition, even more so.

November 09, 2006


The Christies Evening Auction of Impressionist and Modern Art took place last night at their Rockefeller Center salerooms. Although the stars of the sale were the 4 remaining Klimt paintings restituted to the Bloch-Bauer family, there was an 11th hour drama involving another painting, a blue period Picasso entitled "Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto", 1903, that was being auctioned by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. A last minute legal action blocking the sale was filed on behalf of the original owner, Paul von Mendelssohn-Bertholdy, a wealthy Jewish banker, whose heirs now claim that this painting was sold under duress in Nazi Germany. Although a Federal judge had dismissed the case the day before, Christies and Mr. Lloyd Webber's Foundation ultimately decided to withdraw the painting from the sale last evening.

The loss of this magnificent painting from the roster did not seem to impede the results of the auction. The evening's sales totalled a record shattering $491 Million, including Christie's commissions. The Klimts performed as expected: "Birch Forest" $40,336,000, "Houses at Unterach on the Attersee" $31,376,000, "Apple Tree I" $33,056,000, and the spectacular "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II" $87,936,000! Not a bad night's work!

November 05, 2006

The Saga of the Klimts - The Final Chapter

The on-going drama of the 5 Gustav Klimt paintings stolen from and recently restituted to the Bloch-Bauer Family of Vienna is coming to a conclusion. Readers of my blog ("Crazy for Klimt"), and indeed of any newspaper, are familiar with this story that sprang into the public eye this spring with the purchase of "Adele Bloch-Bauer I" by Ronald Lauder from the heirs of Adèle and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer for the staggering sum of $135 million. This summer, New Yorkers were treated to the once in a lifetime opportunity of seeing the 5 paintings reunited for the last time at the Neue Galerie before being put up for sale and dispersed to the far corners of the world.

Well, this Wednesday evening, November 8th, Christies Rockefeller Center, will be auctioning off the 4 remaining paintings. They are currently on view, in a specially decorated and heavily guarded gallery at the auction house and judging by the crowd on Sunday, there are a lot of interested parties. To be sure, many are like me, voyeurs intreagued by the story and drawn by a last chance to see these magnificent pictures together again, but there are a lot of wealthy art lovers in the world and the competition to possess a masterpiece will be intense. The combined estimate for the 4 works ranges from $93-$140 million. Stay tuned - I'll bring you the results on Thursday!

Above Left: "Birch Forest", 1903 Center: "Portrait of Adèle Bloch-Bauer II", 1912 Right: "Apple Tree I", 1912