On the Museum Trail in New York City

New York is home to some of the world’s finest examples of Ancient, Old Master, Impressionist, Modern and bleeding-edge contemporary work and there’s a museum for every taste and every interest. New York is especially rich in museum holdings of art, with something for everyone, even little bears!

You can usually expect a shoving-match just to catch a momentary glance at Van Gogh’s Starry Night at MoMA, but little Puffles and Honey got it all to themselves!

The Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh (1889) at MoMA
The Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh (1889) at MoMA

“This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” wrote van Gogh to his brother Theo, describing his inspiration for The Starry Night (1889). The window to which he refers was in the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy, in southern France, where he sought respite from his emotional suffering while continuing to make art.

Known the world over as MoMA, the glassy Yoshio Taniguchi-designed Midtown building for the Museum of Modern Art houses one of the most influential collections of modern art in the world. Van Goch, Cézanne, Matisse, Magritte, Picasso, Pollock and Warhol are all here. But aside from the painting, sculpture and photography galleries there is also performance art, architecture, design and a collection of 22,000 films.

MoMA
MoMA

Founded in 1929, the MoMA is home to more than 150,000 pieces of Modern and contemporary art, from paintings and photographs to sculptures and films. It houses one of the world’s finest collections of art from the 18th century through today and some of Modern art’s most recognizable works: van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí (1931)
The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí (1931)
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, by Pablo Picasso (1907)
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, by Pablo Picasso (1907)

You could spend a day getting lost in the permanent exhibits, which showcase all manner of priceless pieces from renowned artists. But just as essential are this museum’s other elements, including an attached cinema that combines art-house fare and more accessible offerings, and a sculpture garden with works by Picasso and Rodin.

Sculpture Garden, MoMA
Sculpture Garden, MoMA

The bright, clean architecture of MoMA – all glass, open spaces and high ceilings – is a gleaming masterwork of contemporary design, and the perfect setting for viewing the greatest collection of modern art in the world as well as MoMA’s revolving series of retrospectives of past masters and shows from the leading artists of today. An $858 million expansion and renovation of the Midtown headquarters of the museum by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi was completed in 2004, doubling its size and adding an elegant granite, aluminum and glass façade and loftlike galleries.

The entrance to the Museum of Modern Art is tucked beneath a demure facade of granite and glass in Midtown Manhattan.

MoMA
MoMA

Its clean, regular planes mark Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 addition to the MoMA’s sequence of facades, which he preserved as a record of its form. Taniguchi’s contribution sits beside the 1984 residential tower by Cesar Pelli and Associates, followed by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone’s original 1939 building, then Philip Johnson’s 1964 addition. Taniguchi was hired in 1997 to expand the Museum’s space and synthesize its disparate elements. His elegant, minimal solution presents a contemporary face for the MoMA while adhering to its Modernist roots.

Up the concrete staircase, on the second floor, is the true heart of the new MoMA – the four-story-high Marron Atrium, which the New York Times called the “most prominent sign of the museum’s giddy embrace of the new and the next, of large-scale installation and video art, as well as performance art, generally of art as entertainment and spectacle.” Upstairs, there are architectural and photo exhibits and video installation rooms, which periodically showcase major retrospectives of master modern artists or comprehensive thematic exhibitions like Abstract Expressionism in New York.

MoMA, Atrium
MoMA, Marron Atrium

The fourth and fifth floors house the permanent collections, featuring such famous works as Jasper Johns’ Flag, van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, as well as a broad selection of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings and Rothko’s mood-altering canvases of pure color.

One: Number 31, 1950, by Jackson Pollock (1950) at MoMA
One: Number 31, 1950, by Jackson Pollock (1950) at MoMA
MoMA, Rothko Room
MoMA, Rothko Room

While moving through the galleries, visitors encounter unexpected views of New York’s streets and skyline.

On the Museum Trail in New York City

The MoMA Store is a curated treasure trove of products from top designers and a must-visit for cool souvenirs and gifts!

Across the street from MoMA is the Baccarat Hotel where little bears indulged at the Grand Salon.

Dessert at the Grand Salon
Lemon cherry tart at the Grand Salon

All fortified, Puffles and Honey went to check out the Gilded Age home of Henry Clay Frick, now an intimate museum filled with European masters. The former home is a remarkable Upper East Side mansion with a Roman atrium, garden courtyard, and an outstanding collection of works by the likes of Goya, Velázquez, El Greco, Rembrandt and other renaissance masters. Most are still hung the way they were when Frick was alive.

Frick Collection
Frick Collection

Henry Clay Frick opened his New York City residence to the public on December 16, 1935. The Garden Court was created during the transformation of the mansion into a museum in 1935 by architect John Russell Pope.

Garden Court, Frick Collection
Garden Court, Frick Collection
Living Hall, Frick Collection
Living Hall, Frick Collection
Comtesse d'Haussonville, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1845)
Comtesse d’Haussonville, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1845)

“Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture” was a stunning exhibition of some 100 paintings, drawings and prints by the Flemish master on view at the Frick Collection.

On the Museum Trail in New York City

Henry Clay Frick had a passion for van Dyck’s work and was an early US collector of his portraits; the exhibition complements five outstanding subjects, including elegant women, such as the Genoese Noblewoman (1625-27) and Countess of Clanbrassil (ca. 1636), who are already at home at the Frick.

Genoese Noblewoman, by Anthony van Dyck ( ca. 1625–27)
Genoese Noblewoman, by Anthony van Dyck ( ca. 1625–27)

The collection also includes one of the finest groups of small bronzes in the world, 18th century French furniture and porcelains.

On the Museum Trail in New York City

Portico Gallery, Frick Collection
Portico Gallery, Frick Collection

A leisurely 15 minute walk along Fifth Avenue from the Frick Collection is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Museum Mile, as it is known, is a stretch of Fifth Avenue, across the street from Central Park, where one can find many of the best museums in New York City.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Known simply as The Met, this iconic museum on the eastern side of Central Park is so enormous you’ll be overwhelmed if you don’t narrow your focus. The collection features Greek, Roman, African, ancient Egyptian and Byzantine galleries, as well as modern American art, and paintings and sculptures of the European masters – everyone from Rembrandt and Vermeer, to Van Gogh and Picasso. There are also musical instruments, costumes, antique weaponry and body armour.

Dating from the time of Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar (ca. 15 B.C.) the walk-in temple is a stunning example of the period. It is beautiful from afar, but get closer and you’ll see the intricate carvings of lotus blossoms, vultures and deities. It is also housed in one of the Met’s most beautiful rooms, and is framed by floor-to-ceiling glass with a stunning view of Central Park.

The Egyptian Temple of Dendur
The Egyptian Temple of Dendur
Greek and Roman Art, Met
Greek and Roman Art, Met
European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Met
European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Met

Impressionist master Edgar Degas is known for his many paintings of dancers, but his bronze sculpture The Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer is a standout. His model and muse Marie van Goethem was a ballet student at the Paris Opera and it is obvious he took great care with her depiction, particularly her stance. It is a rare departure from paint for Degas, and in interesting mix of media, with the skirt made of cotton and satin hair ribbon adorning the bronze figure.

The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, by Edgar Degas
The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, by Edgar Degas

Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) is another perennial favorite at the Museum. Autumn Rhythm is evocative of nature, not only in its title but also in its coloring, horizontal orientation, and sense of ground and space.

Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) by Jackson Pollock (1950) at the Met Fifth Avenue
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) by Jackson Pollock (1950) at the Met Fifth Avenue

Little bears made a beeline for Brâncuși again.

The Met - Bird in Space, 1923 (Marble)
The Met – Bird in Space, 1923 (Marble)
The Met - Sleeping Muse, 1910 (Bronze)
The Met – Sleeping Muse, 1910 (Bronze)
The Met - Nancy Cunard, 1932 (Polished bronze)
The Met – Nancy Cunard, 1932 (Polished bronze)

🙂

"Smiling" figure Metropolitan Museum of Art Mexico; Remojadas 7th-8th century
The Met – “Smiling” figure
Mexico; Remojadas
7th-8th century

Another short walk along Fifth Avenue and Puffles and Honey reached Frank Lloyd Wright’s concrete edifice, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The iconic spiral is considered as much a work of art as the paintings it houses. In addition to pieces by masters such as Manet, Picasso and Chagall, the institution holds the most Kandinskys in the US, as well as one of the largest collections of Mapplethorpes in the world. The Guggenheim always presents interesting and innovative exhibitions, and the museum’s layout is like no other, as visitors experience the artwork along a huge ramp that spirals up around the entire interior of the cylindrical building. Apparently Wright intended that the visit begin at the bottom and wander around to the top.

Puffles and Honey decided to start from the top!

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Another Brâncuși!

Guggenheim Museum - Muse, 1912 (Marble)
Guggenheim Museum – Muse, 1912 (Marble)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

This month, the Guggenheim a toilet in one of the restroom with a fully functional replica cast in 18-karat gold, making available to the public an extravagant luxury product seemingly intended for the one per cent. The extravagant piece is a social commentary on the disparities between and the “haves” and the “have-nots” of the world — which visitors are invited to reflect upon whilst they “make use of the fixture individually and privately”.

America, by Maurizio Cattelan (2016)
America, by Maurizio Cattelan (2016)

Cattelan’s work has been compared to Marcel Duchamp’s piece Fountain (signed R. Mutt 1917), a porcelain urinal which caused ripples in the art world when Duchamp submitted it for the annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917. It was rejected, but is now regarded as one of the most iconic pieces of 20th century art and on display at Tate Modern, London.

Across Manhattan in the Meatpacking District is the brand new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Whitney Museum of American Art Entrance
Whitney Museum of American Art Entrance

Planted at the foot of the Highline along Ganesvoort Street, the new Whitney building boasts some 6,000 square meters of both indoor and outdoor exhibition space. Founded in 1931 by sculptor and art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt, the Whitney is dedicated to presenting the work of American artists. Its collection holds about 15,000 pieces by nearly 2,000 artists, including Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper (the museum holds his entire estate), Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg. Still, the museum’s reputation rests mainly on its temporary shows, particularly the exhibition everyone loves to hate, the Whitney Biennial. Held in even-numbered years, the Biennial remains the most prestigious (and controversial) assessment of contemporary art in America.

White Snow #3, by Paul McCarthy (2012) at Whitney Museum of American Art
White Snow #3, by Paul McCarthy (2012) at Whitney Museum of American Art
Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection
Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection

Human Interest: Portraits From the Whitney’s Collection is an enormous, dizzying mishmash of a show that’s big on weird and basically all about ego.

Standing Julian, by Urs Fischer (2016)
Standing Julian, by Urs Fischer (2015)

A larger-than-life wax portrait of the artist Julian Schnabel by Urs Fischer is on the sixth floor, near the terrace. There Mr. Schnabel stands, hands in pockets, dressed in painter’s duds, regarding his own reflection, along with that of Manhattan behind him, in an enormous mirror. Easy to miss at first is the small flame, a real one, burning atop his head. The spark of inspiration? The fire of genius? The sculpture is a giant candle, lighted daily, and slowly melting. Before this collection show finishes its run, comes down and is replaced by another, the portrait will be, if not entirely gone, melted beyond recognition, like a selfie snapped in bad light. So much, the piece seems to say, for the power of personality and the permanence of art, and its fashions and values, which is a healthy message for the Whitney to deliver in its new home.

Standing Julian, by Urs Fischer (2015)
Standing Julian, by Urs Fischer (2015)

Little Puffles and Honey thought the best thing about the museum was the view!

Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art

And even better is the best cherry pie at Bubby’s across the street 🙂

Best cherry pie in NYC at Bubby's High Line
Best cherry pie in NYC at Bubby’s High Line

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