The Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue

Those early buildings, assured and unassuming. Their understated beauty is not eye-catching; you can walk past them day after day, without ever noticing them. Perhaps because they are overshadowed by their more famous neighbours, like the one here. CUNY Graduate Center sits diagonally opposite the Empire State Building so, obviously, there’s no comparison. But once you do notice the wavy art nouveau canopies, the adorned columns, the wood carved doors, you’ll inevitably begin to wonder what took you so long.

365 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan

November 19th, 2017

Attaining Perfection

Imagine living in a world where these treasures were household items – not museum objects.

1/ Maurice Sterne
The Awakening, ca. 1926
Bronze

2/ Kem Weber
Vanity with Mirror and Stool, 1934

3/ John Vassos
RCA Victor Special Model K Portable Electric Phonograph, c.a 1935

4/ Emilie Robert
Pair of Gates, ca. 1900 (detail), France
Iron

Brooklyn Museum

July 22nd, 2017

A breath of fresh spring air

A breath of fresh spring air from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., in spite of the 6-10 inches snow accumulations we have been warned to expect today in New York City!

Kenyon Cox, An Eclogue, 1890, oil on canvas
Robert Reid, The White Parasol, c. 1907, oil on canvas
Robert Reid, The White Parasol, c. 1907, oil on canvas (detail)
Arthur F. Mathews, Spring Dance, c. 1917, oil on canvas

”Arthur Mathews led a group of progressive Californians who believed that fine art and design served the public good. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he and his wife, Lucia, also a designer, led the effort to rebuild the city’s fine public spaces. The pastoral scene in Spring Dance evokes civic murals created for museums, libraries and concert halls. But Mathews had more on his mind than ancient Greece or Rome. His Arcadia is the luminous landscape of California, and the planes of color and the graceful postures of the dancers show the artist is also looking across the Pacific to Japan for inspiration. The ornate frame is a reproduction of the original. It repeats the colors in the painting, reflecting Mathews’ commitment to designing complementary furniture, art and architecture to create an aesthetic whole.”

Eastman Johnson, The Girl I Left Behind Me, c. 1870, oil on canvas
Childe Hassam, The South Ledges, Appledore, 1913, oil on canvas

”Childe Hassam spent many summers on Appledore Island off the coast of Maine. Every year, he and a circle of musicians, writers and other artists gathered as an informal colony based at the home of his friend, the poet Celia Thaxter. In Thaxter’s gardens and on the rocky beaches, Hassam used the flickering brushwork and brilliant colors he had adopted in France to capture the dappled light of Appledore’s brief summer. This painting evokes the leisurely, seasonal rhythms of America’s privileged families in the last years before the Great War. A beautifully dressed woman shields her face from the sun; she looks down and away, as if absorbed in the song of a sandpiper, the island bird that inspired Celia Thaxter’s most famous children’s poem.”

Childe Hassam, Tanagra (The Builders, New York), 1918, oil on canvas

”In Tanagra (The Builders, New York), Childe Hassam painted a complex image of modern life. At the turn of the twentieth century, the skyscraper symbolized all that was dynamic and powerful in America. Architects praised the new towers as symbols of mankind’s reach for the heavens. If the skyscraper represents worldly ambition, the other vertical elements in the painting – the lilies, the Hellenistic figurine, the panels of a beautiful oriental screen – suggest delight in the sophisticated cultural aspirations of American Society.

But as the United States grew in power and prestige, the workers who provided the nation’s muscle also seemed to threaten Hassam’s orderly and prosperous world. The artist had built his career picturing New York’s moneyed class; the art, music and fine manners surrounding what Hassam called a ”blond Aryan girl” are a world apart from the immigrants laboring to build the city’s future.”

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, In the Garden, 1892-94, oil on canvas
Thomas Wilmer Dewing, In the Garden, 1892-94, oil on canvas (detail)
John La Farge, Wreath of Flowers, 1866, oil on canvas

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th, 2017

L’eau de Voyage

Because no voyage is complete unless accompanied by fond memories.
And nothing evokes fond memories faster than an exquisite fragrance in an elegant glass bottle.
As delicate as our very existence. As enduring as the spirit of a true traveller.

***

Louis Vuitton perfume bottles designed by Camille Cless-Brothier in early 1920s.

L’Arbre pleureur, enameled crystal perfume bottle; design by Camille Cless-Brothier, 1922.


Volez
Voguez
Voyager

at the American Stock Exchange Building, through January 7th, 2018.

Admission is free

November 12th, 2017

Klimt and the Women of Vienna’s Golden Age, 1900–1918

It was a very cold day with breathtaking, eye blurring strong wind gusts, the first after an unusually long and mild autumn and it caught me unprepared. Then, there was a queue outside the Neue Galerie which, considering it was a weekday, also caught me unprepared. It was my second visit at the premises but the first one to the galleries, the last being a coffee break at the Vienna-inspired Café Sabarsky – for which there is a separate queue given its popularity which competes with that of the Galerie itself.

A staircase (or elevator) brings the visitor to the high-ceilinged reception rooms with their wood floors and wall panels, where Gustav Klimt’s Ladies await to welcome guests into their fin-de-siècle golden world of art nouveau, showing off their costumes, accessories, decorative objects and furniture. All this tends to feel a little cramped – this is a private mansion after all and the guests are eager and plenty – but it’s only a small inconvenience quickly brushed off once guests are made to feel at home by the charming Ladies.

Consisting of 12 paintings, 40 drawings, 40 works of decorative art, and vintage photographs of Klimt the exhibition is of a smaller scale compared to what we’re becoming used to in The City and certainly far smaller than the extensive collections I had the chance to experience in Vienna.

Having said that, I’m always surprised – with mixed feelings – when I finally get to see a work of art, like the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I for example, in the gallery that actually owns it and learn about its long trip home; a home sometimes to be found in the most unexpected places.

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Photography is strictly not allowed in the galleries and hallways but here is a photo of the elegant black-and-white staircase, the only place I could take one away from the accusing eyes of the guards.

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Klimt and the Women of Vienna’s Golden Age, 1900–1918 runs through January 16th, 2017 and while, as already mentioned, small and in no way representative of Klimt’s work it will certainly be an hour – or two – spent in good company. After all, we can all use some Golden Age glamour this holiday season, cant we all?

November 21st, 2016