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!

Museums of the Midwest

Over the past few years, I have been on an informal tour of the fine arts museums of the Midwest. I am proud to say that of the places that I’ve gone so far, I’ve been rather impressed with their collections. I’ll briefly discuss them in chronological order of visit.

In 2011, I went out to the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was striking how much of it reminded of the Art Institute here at home due to its size and comprehensive collection. However, it’s situated very differently. Instead of downtown like the AIC, the Cleveland Museum is on a beautiful museum campus with lovely green lawns and picturesque flowering trees.  I’ll never forget wandering into the medieval/Renaissance room and seeing horse mannequins in full armor while heraldic flags fluttered slightly overhead. As much as I liked the armor room at the Art Institute, this one surpassed it with its majesty.

It has a wonderful impressionist and modern collection. They have several Picassos that I actually like. There is the woeful blue period piece “La Vie” and two portraits,  “The Artist’s Sister Lola” and “Woman with a Cape” that both feel very impressionist. There is a wonderful Andre Derain of “The Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge” which is quite charming. I’m not normally a fan of Derain but this work captures my attention probably because I’m a bit of an Anglophile. The red buildings remind me a lot of how bright buildings get as the sun goes down.

In the Impressionist and post-impressionist camp, there is a wonderful Seurat study of “Bathers at Asniéres” which is always fun to see since his work is not very common. There was also a wonderfully bright Van Gogh called “The Poplars at Saint-Remy” with a strong black line throughout. It made it look a little cartoonish. They also have some wonderful Rodin and other contemporaneous sculptors.

But I’ll never forget seeing a wall covered in what looked like stained glass in the contemporary art rooms. When I got closer, I discovered that what I had thought was stained glass was actually butterfly wings. It’s probably the first time I encountered Damien Hirst and I have to say that I liked it. I’m not entirely sure if it is still there but I hope so.

Sadly, many galleries were closed while I was there so I couldn’t see their famed indigenous art and more. But I’ll simply have to go back.

While we were in Toledo for a wedding, we decided to spend some time at the Toledo Museum of Art. There was a wonderful portrait of Queen Elizabeth I; I don’t remember seeing one in the United States before. (Maybe the National gallery has one in DC but I don’t’ recall). They have a lovely modern collection. My favorite was a painting of three abstract nudes and the Eiffel Tower in vivacious colors by Robert Delauney. There were some impressive antiquities itself including a silver drinking horn with a bull on the end. It’s definitely what I want to be drinking water from. Most impressive of all is a cloister set up in the museum. Three walls are from France and one was constructed in the 1920s. Two are Romanesque while the third was from the later Medieval period. Apparently, you can rent the room for your events after hours.

Two years ago, I visited Minneapolis Institute of Arts while at a conference for work. I had to run there between meetings so I had a whirlwind tour. I’ll remember it for one thing in particular. It wasn’t until I was on my way out that I discovered Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” was there. I’ll remember it because I didn’t have time to see it. Oh it aches!

What I did see was fabulous. I finally saw a Georgia O’Keefe that I liked but it figures that it is a depiction of the dark sky in the city. There was even a new Magritte painting showing a painting of a turret in front of a window of the turret. It’s gorgeous. I was really happy to see my second ever Lorena Carrington, who was Spanish and did her own take on surrealist work. She creates these mystical scenes, often times with people changing into inanimate or natural objects. One lovely feature of the museum were the period rooms. You could see what a Han period room looked like or a Renaissance sitting room.  And there was a giant Calder mobile in the lobby with a giant white dog sculpture nearby.

Last but not least, we went to the Detroit Institute of Art. I know it’s been in the news a lot these days with the city’s bankruptcy. I certainly hope that the collection stays together. I was particularly interested in seeing the Diego Rivera murals since I had studied them in college. And it was one of the most magnificent sites I’ve seen. The ceiling is made of glass so light pours into the building making these murals into a chapel of industry. It’s a must see in my book.

There was a little medieval French chapel that had been transported to Detroit after the war. In the center, there is a golden triptych, bright against the dark walls of the chapel. Another notable paintings is a Giorgio de Chirico of a lion eating a gladiator. Most of his work is notable for its absence of people so this was something new. It was eerie in the opposite way his other paintings are odd. There were some beautiful pieces of indigenous arts including wonderfully chubby dog pots by Mesoamerican tribes. And there was an entire wall of drums. Finally, the director is known for his bow ties so all director’s tour on the audio guide is signaled by a little bow tie. Charming!

So go see these wonderful museums when you travel the Midwest!