Art & Museums

My brief (hour-and-a-half) visit to the Museum of Modern Art today was not what I expected. I was looking forward to the temporary exhibition Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store (on view thru Aug. 5). I thought Oldenburg’s 7-foot-wide “Floor Burger” (1962) would make me smile. Instead it reminded me that I hadn’t eaten lunch.

If I were a slave to fashion, I might be wearing items from designer Walter Van Beirendonck’s Summer 2006 collection (pictured): a raffia coat, white organdy shirt and fitted orange cotton trousers. But it’s July 16, 2013, and I’m not a slave to fashion, much less a fashionista. The temperature is above 90 degrees, and I’m in a striped button-down and nondescript khaki shorts. Blah as my outfit is, if I were in Van Beirendonck’s threads, I would be shvitzing. Instead, I’ve just spent some time in the air-conditioned comfort of The Museum at FIT, looking at Van Beirondonck’s clothes and scores of other garments and accessories made by the world’s top couturiers, then and now.

Modern subways are terrific. They are speedy, air-conditioned and super-plastic. It's hard to imagine life without them. On a Nostalgia Train, however, through New York Transit Museum, I got to see things a little bit differently. Subway cars replicas of 1930s trains, with rattan seats and ceiling fans (thank god open windows, too!) and rolling signs for passenger info—along with old-fashioned ads selling fancy oyster meals for $1 take passengers on an old-fashioned journey.

Audacious. Spellbinding. Playful. Breathtakingly beautiful. James Turrell at the Guggenheim is “the” art show of the New York summer. It fills the museum’s rotunda (and several antechambers) with light and color as never before. The exhibition’s centerpiece is “Aten Reign,” Turrell’s monumental site-specific installation. Suspended from the rotunda’s ceiling and filling the entire central void, “Aten Reign” consists of a multipart aluminum frame over which thin white fabric has been stretched. Five interlocking elliptical rings (or cones) mimic the five rings (bands) of the rotunda.

Call it serendipity: Two West Coast artists, Ken Price and Llyn Foulkes, receive their first solo New York museum retrospectives this month. Both have flown under the New York radar. Until now. They couldn’t be more different. Price brings a smile to the face; Foulkes whacks you in the solar plexus.

There is a certain expectation in a visit to the American Museum of Natural History. Somewhere along the line, no matter what the exhibit is at this glorious museum, you know you are going to run into skulls, or bones, or some fossilized remains of an ancient creature/human. It is of course what defines this museum, devoted to human and animal cultural artifacts.

Everyone harbors a touch of Peeping Tom deep within. Whenever you steal a glance at that distracted yet desirable subway rider across the platform or gaze out from the hotel balcony onto the gallery of illuminated NYC windows, open and glowing like portals into strangers' personal lives (this is your cue to rise from your seat and go close the blinds), that's Tom rearing his big, fat head.

The brilliant exhibition Old Masters, Newly Acquired proves (as if proof were needed) that The Morgan Library & Museum’s permanent collection of drawings made before 1900 is alive, well and growing—thanks to important gifts, generous bequests and judicious purchases. More than 100 drawings are on view, and these include late-19th-century French works from Eugene V. Thaw, both gifts and promised gifts made since 2010.


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