Since we’re all looking for some fun activities for the holiday season, either for ourselves or our guests, I thought I’d share a quick roundup of shows to visit in New York City.
1. Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
(Upper East Side)
The Cooper-Hewitt reopened this week after an extensive three-year renovation. In reimagining itself and what a museum can be for 21st century visitors, it serves as an experimental lab for all cultural institutions. Based on recent reviews (here and here), it seems to be loaded with innovation and opportunities for hands-on interaction with objects, design, and even rooms. It will, of course, be packed – we all want to visit – but go anyway, and then stroll down the street to the Neue Galerie for a restorative lunch.
2. Egon Schiele: Portraits
Neue Galerie (Upper East Side)
Until January 19, 2015
The Neue Galerie is one of my favorite museums in New York City. Housed in a mansion across from Central Park, the museum focuses on early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design. Visiting is always a serene experience: the building’s small scale means the exhibitions are a manageable size, the curatorial approach celebrates both intellectual and visual engagement, and the well-regarded restaurant, Café Sabarsky, provides an elegant respite from gallery gazing.
I visited the Schiele show last month; while he is not my favorite artist, the show makes a compelling case for his significance in introducing modernism into portraiture. What surprised me was that he died at such a young age (at 28, of Spanish Flu); his artistic renown is such that I had envisioned a much older artist.
3. Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art (Upper East Side)
Until February 15, 2015
This show is a master class in Cubist art. Collector Leonard A. Lauder has promised these paintings, drawings, and sculpture (81 works in all) to the museum. The gift is a game-changer for the museum and a really interesting example of philanthropy: the collection was meticulously built by Lauder with a future bequest in mind. He has said, “Many people collect to possess. I collect to preserve, and no sooner do I have a collection put together than I am looking for a home for it in a public institution.”*
Give yourself time with this best-in-class show, and definitely get the audio guide. There’s a lot to see and learn, and it’s much easier and more interesting with the guide.
While you are at the Met, pop downstairs to the Costume Institute to see Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, which I wrote about here. This small show displays mourning fashion and includes wonderful quotes on the trial and tribulations of maintaining a mourning wardrobe. Through February 1, 2015.
4. The Power of Style: Verdura at 75
Verdura (5th & 57th)
Until December 23, 2014
Just two weeks left to see this dazzling show of gem-encrusted jewels and objets. Read my take here.
5. Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs
Until February 8, 2015
A beautiful, happy show. The stained glass window above, Nuit de Noel, was made for a Christmas display in Rockefeller Center in 1953. The show is well worth seeing despite the hordes of visitors that will be there alongside you; again, take advantage of the audio guide to get the most out of the show and quiet the distractions around you. Read my full write-up here; tickets can and should be purchased in advance.
6. Chris Ofili: Night and Day
The New Museum (Downtown)
Until January 25, 2015
This mid-career survey of Chris Ofili’s work left me eager to see what he does next. Ofili may be familiar to you from his first appearance on the art scene in New York City back in the 90’s, when then-Mayor Rudy Guiliani momentarily lost his mind over the fact that Ofili’s painting (on view in a group show at the Brooklyn Museum) incorporated elephant dung. Mind you, it was basically fossilized dung combined with resin, i.e. barely dung at all, as we think of it, but Guiliani’s sense of decency was so offended that he tried to pull all state funding from the Brooklyn Museum. As a result of this brouhaha, I learned about Ofili for the first time and have been interested in him ever since. You know the saying…there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
This show displays some the same series of paintings that were shown in Brooklyn as well as later works, and along the way we see Ofili exploring history, mythology and folklore. I was glad to learn about his process (start with something small each day before moving into the studio to work on the large-scale works) but enjoyed following his thinking, and seeing how he chooses to visualize it, the most.
7. Kara Walker: Afterword
Sikkema Jenkins & Co. (Chelsea)
Until January 17, 2015
Kara Walker’s installation of the Sugar Sphinx at the Domino Sugar Factory was one of my favorite shows of 2014, as you can tell from my review. With this exhibition Walker shares preparatory sketches for the installation, reactions to how the public experienced the Sugar Sphinx (she was filming the show) and also introduces new works, including video, that relate to the themes introduced by the Sphinx. I am really looking forward to seeing this show myself.
8. “Hard Hat Tour” of Unrestored Hospital Buildings on Ellis Island
The weather may not be ideal for this one, but this new tour of Ellis Island’s abandoned hospital buildings sounds like an offbeat, potentially spooky adventure that is just a ferry ride away. According the site “Guided tours will take you to select areas such as the mortuary and autopsy room in the 750-bed Ellis Island Hospital Complex… At the time, this was the largest Public Health Facility in the United States.” Perfect for those who need a more active outing, and a great opportunity to use those photography skills. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
What would you add to this list?
Note: Leonard Lauder quote can be found here.