Valentin De Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’m hungry – take me to the food pairing!

When I visited Italy many years ago, I particularly remember a visit to the Galleria Borghese in Rome, where I made my first acquaintance with the works of Caravaggio.  When we continued on to Florence, I was excited to hear that additional works were located in the Uffizi Gallery.  We spent the day visiting other sights, reserving a few hours at the end of the day for the museum.  We saved the best for last, only to discover that the Uffizi was under construction and that they had moved Caravaggio’s works to a different section.  And the section was located a distance away from where we were. @#$%!  So we ran, and luckily managed to get in a quick, breathy view of his pieces just under the wire.

While I do find Caravaggio’s works to be magnificent, his tumultuous life made his art all the more intriguing.  His story includes all the makings of a hit reality TV show: poverty, celebrity, violence, death, imprisonment, libel, poisoning.  But his influence on painters from then on has been undisputed, and Valentin De Boulogne is one of the many who have followed in his footsteps.

Valentin de Boulogne Beyond Caravaggio - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
St. Jerome by Caravaggio (1605-1606), one of my favorites. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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Better Late Than Never: 2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays

Whether you’re noshing on leftovers, watching Christmas Vacation again, or shopping the after-Christmas sales, we thought we’d help you eke out another ounce of holiday cheer with some pictures from the holiday window displays around New York City.  The amount of creative work that goes into the windows is always inspiring.  Making the pilgrimage has become one of our treasured holiday traditions, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here. 

Here are some highlights from the same route we shared in last year’s post:

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Manifesto by Julian Rosefeldt at the Park Avenue Armory

If there were a list of naturally aggressive words in the English language, it feels like “manifesto” would be at the top of that list.  But it’s really just a declaration of intentions, be it Marx’s or lululemon’s.  Each one carries weight, because once we verbalize or document a motive, we make a formal commitment to it.  And one person who seems to understand the power of a manifesto is filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt.

Roselfeldt’s 2015 film, Manifesto, premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and is finally being offered to New York City audiences at Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall.  In real estate-starved Manhattan, it’s hard not to walk into the space and be awed by its sheer size.  The dark, cavernous 55,000-square-foot room holds thirteen giant movie screens.  A lone bench sits in front of each one, and as you perch on it, a speaker delivers targeted audio for the piece of film you’re watching.

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Ralph Steadman Retrospective at Society of Illustrators

Lynn’s a natural-born planner, and I’m, shall we say, a little more “fluid” in my approach to life. She writes ruler-straight notations with breathtakingly symmetrical penmanship in composition notebooks and prolifically schedules our digital calendar with placeholders for upcoming events. I plan what I’m wearing 10 minutes before we head out for the day and am never more happy than when a pedestrian evening in the city takes a serendipitous left turn and we end up at strange locales we never would have considered in advance. After many, many years of marriage, I like to think that we balance each other out. She has opened my eyes to the fact that a little structure often leads to more frequent and more meaningful experiences, and I remind her that spontaneity in life is an important counterbalance to the weariness and monotony of everyday existence.

Recently, a bit of chance and calculation collided in our visit to Society of Illustrators where we ventured to take in A Retrospective: Ralph Steadman. In typical fashion, Lynn sent me a link to an article about the exhibit a few weeks beforehand and asked, “Interested?” I afforded the article a two-second, cursory examination and replied, “Sure. Why not?” I knew, of course, exactly who Ralph Steadman was, though, admittedly, more by his work and the company he kept than his name.

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Alfred Hitchcock in New York City

New York City is experiencing a seemingly unending heat wave which is taxing both our spirits and our wallets.  Many of us duck indoors, finding solace in brick-and-mortar purveyors where we trade goods and services we don’t really need for the air conditioning we desperately do.  But the brief reprieve often does little to slow the faucet of sweat rolling down our scalps and backs.  Raphael Pope-Sussman wrote a wonderful piece for Gothamist about the ghosts of heat waves past where he revealed that many New Yorkers once slept on their fire escapes to avoid the stifling heat inside their apartments.  I couldn’t help but immediately think of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.  The movie — one of my favorites — starts with the view from L.B. Jeffries’s Greenwich Village apartment in the midst of high summer.  It scans a courtyard and introduces us to his neighbors, the rising mercury level enabling our voyeurism,  since “nobody seems to pull their blinds during a hot spell like this.”

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Rear Window (1954)

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Summer Streets: A (Temporarily) Car-Free New York City

My love affair with New York City started out as a long-distance relationship filled with whirlwind visits, teary goodbyes and months of longing in between.  As my feelings for it grew deeper, the distance became unbearable and the decision to close the geographical gap became inevitable.  Once we were no longer apart, I endeavored to explore it more deeply, anxious to unearth all its secrets.  I was enthralled by its charms and blind to its flaws.  But alas, time is no friend to commitment.  Adorable quirks began to turn into grating annoyances.  Fortunately, New York City is a savvy lover: it realizes when it’s been too trying, too needy, too demanding.  So it does something special to remind you how great it is.  This past Saturday it pulled a little velvet box out of its pocket and gave me Summer Streets.

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Diane Arbus at the Met Breuer

There are artists that inspire other artists, and Diane Arbus is one of them.  Even if you’re not familiar with her name, you’re likely to be familiar with her work.  You might recall seeing her famous photographs, Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park or Identical Twins, Roselle, NJ (which happens to bear a striking resemblance to the twins from Kubrick’s The Shining).  You might also recall a movie starring Nicole Kidman based loosely on her life.  When her photographs were shown at MoMa in 1967, the Director of the Department of Photography at the time included Diane Arbus in a new generation of photographers which he believed varied from the photographers of the past in that they “had a belief that the world is worth looking at, and the courage to look at it without theorizing.”

Diane Arbus Met Breuer

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Unfinished at the Met Breuer

When the Met Breuer, named after its famous architect Marcel Breuer, opened in March, it promised to be the Met’s hip younger sibling — a response to the growing hunger for contemporary art.  However, its maiden exhibition, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, was greeted with a lukewarm response.  Comparisons were drawn to the space’s former resident, the Whitney, and other contemporary art museums like MoMa and LACMA.  I’m probably less discerning than an art critic, but I found Unfinished to be a fun reshuffling of the deck.  

There’s something compelling about the idea of unfinished business: it’s a universal concept we can all relate to.  We’re likely to have unfinished projects, unfinished relationships, or unfinished dreams ourselves.  At the Met Breuer the artwork on display could quite literally be unfinished in the sense of being incomplete, unfinished as a purposeful stylistic decision, or dealing with unfinished concepts like death and decay.  Some pieces are question marks: did the artists mean to leave them the way they were?  Some other pieces were left unfinished to create a more interactive experience by having the viewer figuratively finish the piece.  

Unfinished Met Breuer

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Bastille Day on 60th Street

Bastille Day is a French holiday that commemorates the Storming of the Bastille on July 14 1789, a crucial part of the French Revolution which eventually led to the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the abolition of feudalism and the transformation of France into a democratic and secular society.  The National Day is celebrated in France with a grand military parade that runs along the Champs Elysee, but here in New York City, the largest celebration is organized by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF): Bastille Day on 60th Street.  A city tradition for twenty years, the outdoor affair stretches over three blocks and offers Francophiles the 4Cs:

  1. Calories
Bastille Day 60th Street NYC
Croissants, canneles and DKAs at Dominique Ansel Kitchen’s booth

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Manus X Machina at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I have a confession to make: I am terrible at being a girl.  I’m tragically unromantic, I’m disastrously undomestic, and I’m really not much of a nurturer.  I pluck my eyebrows only when they’re one step away from becoming a unibrow, and I mostly sport unpainted, barely trimmed nails.  But I love fashion.  (I spoke a little about my fashion obsession in this post.)  When I find myself in the presence of pretty, pretty clothes, it’s the only time I feel 100% like a girl.  So I was thoroughly excited to finally make my way to the Manus X Machina exhibition at the Met to indulge my oft-neglected girly side.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute originated in 1937 and has since evolved, with the help of some of the biggest names in fashion, into a respected destination for fans of fashion design and history.  It’s near-impossible not to anticipate the annual Gala Benefit that takes place each May, as it draws celebrities of every ilk.  In a true visual feast, titans of film, fashion, music and business show up in fantastical outfits tied to the upcoming thematic exhibition.

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Wedding dress by Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel haute couture, 2014

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