I remember when I first read and fell in love with The Great Gatsby, and I’m sure you do too. Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan captured our collective imaginations, and we continue to romanticize the period described so vividly by F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, the term “Gilded Age” originates from Mark Twain’s book of the same name, which was a scathing commentary on the excesses of the time. “Gilded Age” alluded to the shiny veneer that masked underlying poverty and social ills. California artist Liz Glynn bring us a fresh interpretation of this juxtaposition in her latest piece, Open House, for the Public Art Fund.
At the southeast corner of Central Park in Doris C. Freedman Plaza, you’ll find reproductions of sofas, chairs, footstools and arches that once inhabited the William C. Whitney Ballroom. William C. Whitney was an elite political figure and financier, and his luxurious home once sat at 871 Fifth Avenue. The reproductions are from the period after the mansion was renovated by Stanford White in 1900. But Open House artist Liz Glynn makes one small tweak in her reimagining: each piece is made out of concrete. Concrete is a common building material, hence creating accessible versions of the opulent pieces.
Let’s sidebar for a second here. Does the name Stanford White sound familiar? Sure, he was a well-established architect and an equally prominent figure of the time. But you’re more likely to remember that he was brutally murdered on the roof garden theater of Madison Square Garden in 1906 due to his scandalous relationship with a young model and actress. We talked about that juicy morsel in our Flatiron post here.
Discussions of widening income inequalities, rising costs of living and a disappearing middle class are pervasive today. While the issues exist everywhere, one could argue that the disparities can be more prominently felt in an expensive metropolis like New York City. So Open House might feel particularly relevant in its little piece of Central Park. Come out and grab a seat. Rest your feet after a long park excursion. Perch on a concrete sofa while you nosh on the crepe you bought from one of the food vendors nearby. Or just hang out and watch the horses and traffic go by. But come soon, it looks like the pigeons of New York City are already claiming parts of it for themselves.
Open House will be on display through September 24.
Doris C. Freedman Plaza
Pair it with:
Dinner at Fowler & Wells
When we posted this picture on Instagram, our friend Saba noted that it was giving her Gatsby vibes, which mirrored our feelings exactly. But it wasn’t a coincidence. The building was originally built in 1881, when the Gilded Age was just blossoming. The Beekman Hotel’s opening last fall was easily one of the most celebrated. The atrium is enough to make you swoon, but the revamp is triumphant in that it gives one a sense of the borrowed past mingling ever so coyly with the present.
You can enjoy drinks and snacks in the Bar Room, or splurge on a meal at Fowler & Wells. Both are under the purview of Tom Colicchio. But Fowler & Wells is his first new restaurant in Manhattan in six years. The menu at Fowler & Wells is meant to replicate the marriage of old and new, featuring classics with a contemporary feel. On our visit we found the dishes were executed to perfection, and the service was impeccable. If you’re hankering to play Jay Gatsby for a day, this might be a great place to do it.
5 Beekman St
6:30am – 10:30am, Monday – Friday & Sunday
6:30 – 11:30am, Saturday
12:00pm – 3:00pm, Monday – Friday
5:30pm – 10:00pm, Sunday – Wednesday
5:30pm – 11:00pm, Thursday – Saturday
11:00am – 3:00pm