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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
With income inequality becoming one of the defining challenges of our time, it’s not difficult to understand the increasing democratization of art. In a refusal to cede control to the art world hierarchy, street artists delivered their message wherever they could — public walls and subway cars became means of expression. It’s unclear when graffiti became mainstream, but there’s no question that it has. Christina Aguilera bought a Banksy original for £25,000 in 2006. The Tate Modern in London invited some artists to do outdoor pieces in 2008, and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Los Angeles ran an “Art in the Streets” exhibition which was billed as “the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art” in 2011. A majority of street artists never leave their urban canvas, but Chris Ellis, also known as Daze, is one of the few artists who has managed to successfully transition his work into museums and galleries.
Before the rise of DC and Marvel superhero blockbusters, with their visual effects extravaganzas, there was the original source material — the under-appreciated, often ridiculed comic books and graphic novels — from which their inspirations were drawn. In fact, prior to bellwether films such as The Dark Knight, Sin City, The Avengers and The Walking Dead, the only examples of this broad medium to garner even a modicum of respect were the iconoclastic satire of MAD Magazine and The New Yorker. And more than any other, the cartoons of The New Yorker epitomized the astonishing breadth of this art form, pushing its boundaries and demonstrating its wealth of profundities.
I’d be hard pressed to name a favorite museum in New York City — it would be like naming a favorite child (if you have over a hundred of them). But I can assure you that the Frick Collection would be hovering near the top of the list. It’s such an intimate and warm space, and although many other residences have been converted into museums or galleries, this one still feels like a home.
First, a little bit of history: the museum is named for Henry Clay Frick, a Pittsburgh industrialist who came into his fortune during the Gilded Age from his endeavors in coke and steel (he partnered with the likes of Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan). Frick used his means to accumulate art, and when he moved to New York in 1905, a lot of it came with him. He eventually built his home where the Frick Collection currently stands on East 70th St with the intent of turning it into a museum upon his death.
It’s Sunday. An unseasonably warm morning in December. And, regrettably, you’ve neglected to make reservations for brunch. Suddenly, the grim specter of laundry, errands and preparations for the upcoming workweek threaten to hasten the conclusion of your weekend. What to do? Sure, it’s not quite an existential crisis but it’s a serious dilemma, nonetheless. Fortunately, you have New York City at your disposal, with its staggering abundance of cultural institutions and historical sites. With a quick search, you note that one such institution, Cooper Hewitt, the nation’s preeminent design museum, offers an intriguing lineup of programs and exhibitions. And, voila, you have something on your Sunday agenda.
“The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” – John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios