Part 3: Spring in Manhattan

The following day began at the Met, one of my favorite museums. It’s got an incredible collection but is rather overwhelming. I try to get into my head that we are only going to visit a few things because seeing the entire museum would be impossible.

Our first stop was a Seurat and circus exhibit. The exhibit featured Circus Sideshow, one of Seurat’s masterpieces, along with circus posters, other contemporary circus paintings, and sketches. It was nice to see some great circus posters from Cheret, a nice follow up to the Driehaus museum’s current exhibition. I was hoping for more of Seurat’s circus paintings since I’d had seen some really amazing works elsewhere but alas.

We then went to the rooftop garden at the Met. Every year they have an artist do some outdoor installation, which is always neat. This year’s piece was spectacular. Adrián Villar Rojas took 3D scans of pieces all over the museum, printed them, and created these sculptural collages. THey are laid out throughout the garden, some on tables, some freestanding. It’s called “The Theater of Disappearance.” I love juxtaposing things, like ancient Egyptian busts with animal parts or Ancient Greek torso. All while overlooking the beauty of Central Park and the NYC skyline. It could also be a great scavenger hunt, tracking down the pieces in the collection!

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We also visited the exhibit on ancient China featuring some incredible terracotta soldiers. Seeing them is always a treat. Someday I’ll make it to Xian to see the site! What I liked in particular about the exhibition was the sheer number of other artifacts that were included. There was a series of beautifully carved women dancing or playing instruments while another room featured animal sculptures. Wondrous!

After our brief visit to the museum, since any visit is brief at the Met, it was time to head to Broadway for a matinee of War Paint. To get there, we ended up passing by the Tax Rally (it was 4/15) and we saw some amazing puppets and signs. We had $1 pizza at a joint just off Times Square. Tasty tasty pizza.

War Paint is a musical about make up rivals, Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, and their decades long feud. It was interesting to see corporate sabotage and competition played out in a musical. I’m not sure if I loved the message of the musical (you’ll just have to see it) but it definitely had some pretty neat scenes and dances.

After the play, we decided to head to a new place for us: the Morgan Library. I had come across it a few months prior and it seemed like our cup of team. It turned out that it was JP Morgan’s library. What an astonishing collection. The main library room is breathtaking. Rows and floors of books with two secret staircases taking you to the upper floors. Also, we found some pretty neat books that make you wonder about their contents!  There were some exhibitions as well on display including works by Emily Dickinson and Symbolist poets. But the rooms themselves were well worth it. It’s a research library and it made me appreciate how awesome Chicago’s own Newberry library is. Here, it’s free to check out books etc. Morgan Library requires a hefty entry ticket.

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Dinner turned into a bit of an adventure! We had reservations to Tao, a fashionable Asian cuisine place near the hotel. When we walked in, the loud overhead music enveloped us. It was all very hip looking and made me feel a bit out of place. When we sat down to eat, we learned that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, on the menu that my mom could eat. Apparently, they premake things like steaks. :-/

So we left. We found a tiny quiet Italian place called Montebello where we were the only people at the beginning of the evening. The food was tasty, we could talk, and the staff were extremely nice. They overheard me talking about how my glass of Prosecco was such much better at their place than the place from the night before so they comped us limoncello! And there were cookies too. So go to Montebello, skip Tao.

Then more adventure!  had tried calling the number on the black card from the night before but couldn’t get through for an hour. At 5pm (an hour after they opened and I started calling), I was informed that there were only taking walk-ins; they were catering to a larger party. Boo. I found the name of a speakeasy called Bathtub Gin in Chelsea that took reservations.  Bathhouse Gin was going to be the place.

We entered through a hole in the wall coffee place, serving as the coatroom. As soon as we stepped in, the noise rose up like a wall. Loud pounding music. But we trekked on. We had a little table and ordered from their cocktail menu, which is always a hit or miss. One thing was a sure fire hit though: s’mores. It wasn’t going to be high quality chocolate or marshmallows but we couldn’t resist. They actually brought us an open brazier with Hershey’s chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. It was amazing. We even convinced the table next to us to do it too.

Plus there was a golden bathtub that you can get into. And we totally took photos lounging in the bathtub. Because golden bathtub!

That’s all for now!

Part 2: Spring in NYC

On the second day in NY, we went to the farmer’s market at Union Square. It’s one of the advantages of staying in that area. Vendors sell a variety of organic meats, cheeses, fresh and dried flowers, baked goods. Nothing like a good farmer’s market! It’s simply lovely to walk by all the different vendors from all over the state and area. My favorite name for a vendor is the Flying Pigs Farm. The next time I go, I’m going to try the ostrich jerky that one vendor sells. They also sell ostrich eggs but that would be a little harder to deal with without a proper kitchen. But ostrich jerky I can handle.

Then we went to Midtown to run some errands. I mostly wandered around, taking in the luxurious stores lining 5th Avenue and Madison avenue. I did wander up to Jacques Torres Chocolate since I wanted to try some of their truffles. In the past, I had only had their hot chocolate. So I got three truffles. One had chili spice in it; the other two had Chai tea and Earl Gray tea. The chili one didn’t have as much of a kick as I was hoping. The Chai was white chocolate but not overly sweet for me. The Earl Grey was not distinctive. Of the three, the Chai was the best. Go figure. I’ll keep trying different truffles when I go back. I really love their hot chocolate.

After lunch, we decided to head up to my other favorite bookstore Crawford and Doyle. It’s a small shop on Madison near the Met but it’s always got an excellent selection of books. It’s not the place to get bestsellers unless they are really of quality. This is a place where the art of bookselling is alive and well. These folks know good books.

Then we went to my favorite place of all: the Metropolitan Museum. Yes, it’s huge and super crowded but I can never get enough. It just doesn’t feel the same without a trip to the Met. We made a beeline for the Temple of Dendur, which has to be one of my favorite rooms in a museum ever. It’s simply magnificent. There is the temple surrounded by a reflective pond next to windows on Central Park. It’s the best tribute to Ancient Egypt you could ask for. I heard that my former favorite band actually played a concert there several months ago. So jealous.

Then we wandered into the American room where the amazing stained glass windows live. I love Louis Comfort Tiffany; he really takes his stained glass into a new world. I also love saying hello to the Louis Sullivan staircase that used to be here in Chicago. We miss you!

Then we meandered through the medieval era where I was distracted by amazing door jams and locks. I love the artistry that some metalworkers put into their work. They make some impressive looking creatures for these functional pieces.

Then we spent some time in the South American civilization room. I love seeing the amazing pottery shaped like animals and plants. The Moche and Nazca pottery is simply magnificent. I also took a closer look at some of the textiles they had, which is fairly impressive considering the material and age.

Nearby the Metropolitan was a gallery space that I wanted to check out. I had read in Hyperallergic, an online magazine/news source about the art world, had mentioned an exhibition called “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics” at the NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. It’s a very small museum, just two rooms, but I really enjoyed it.

The exhibition was interested at looking at ancient objects and their lives after discovery. It focused on the ancient Sumerian culture. It showed some beautiful sculptures along side notes and photos by the archaeologists who found them. It also had a wall of newspapers about one spectacular find of Puabi,  a possible Sumerian queen who had been bludgeoned to death and found with twenty of her ritually sacrificed attendants. An amazing headdress was found. It was interesting to see how interpretation of her changed from powerful queen wrongly put to death to cruel queen who made her servants die ritually after her. Very interesting.

The other room had a more modern view of the objects. It paired objects by William de Kooning, Henry Moore, and some ancient objects for inspiration. It had some sketches by Alberto Giacometti too. Most interesting for me were the two most recent pieces. One was a series of twenty small photos by Jananne al-Ani that were a reaction to the first Iraq war. The photos show ancient artifacts, portraits of family members who’ve survived the war, and common images in the press about the war. It was a powerful look at how war impacts daily life and families.

The other was the piece “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz. I’ve talked about this piece before in last year’s MCA and more recently in my adventures at the British Museum. It was smaller display that at the MCA and definitely bigger than the British Museum.  Lying on a simply unfinished wooden table are various artifacts made from disposable consumer paper (like candy wrappers) that replicate artifacts that have been lost from the looting of the Baghdad Museum. Each piece has its own placard talking about the piece, its status, and a quotation relevant to the event. Most are quotations by Rumsfeld and his lack of compassion/comprehension at what the looting meant.

The piece keeps revealing itself to me. I got see a part of the work that I had previously missed. I noticed this series of drawings on the wall behind it that had  text about the ancient sites and some of the people who worked at them. It talked about one archeologist/curator who ended up having to flee Iraq because of death threats. Very poignant. I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to see this work several times.

That evening, we had Spanish food in Greenwich Village. We strolled through Washington Square Park on our way home. It’s always beautiful at night (well, during the day too). There was one guy who had found some spotlights meant for the archway and he was showing off his moves. Only NYC!

That’s all for now!