The Arts Seen in NYC (Long Day’s Journey Edition)

Well the Missus and I trundled down to The Big Town last weekend and, say, it was swell.

Except for the drive to get there, of course. We hit four – count ’em, four – major traffic jams on the way, not to mention the full hour it takes to get from the RFK (née Triboro) Bridge to 32nd and Fifth. Total travel time: Six – count ’em, six – hours.

Regardless, we almost immediately headed over to the Fashion Institute of Technology to catch Fairy Tale Fashion, described this way on FIT’s website.

Fairy Tale Fashion was a unique and imaginative exhibition that examined fairy tales through the lens of high fashion. In versions of numerous fairy tales by authors such as Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, it is evident that dress was often used to symbolize a character’s transformation, vanity, power, or privilege. The importance of Cinderella’s glass slippers is widely known, for example, yet these shoes represent only a fraction of the many references to clothing in fairy tales.

That’s right, perceptive reader: It’s gone.

But here are some representative samples interpreting Little Red Riding Hood from the late 18th century and from Comme des Garçons in 2015, respectively.


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The whole exhibit – from Manish Arora’s Alice in Wonderland . . .


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. . . to Thierry Mugler’s The Little Mermaid . . .


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. . . was a hoot.

You can’t catch it in person, but you should at least catch it online.

From there we moseyed up to the Museum of Arts and Design to see Studio Job MAD HOUSE (through August 21), described thusly on MAD’s website:

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Studio Job MAD HOUSE will be the first American solo museum exhibition of the work of collaborators Job Smeets (Belgian, b. 1970) and Nynke Tynagel (Dutch, b. 1977), who established their atelier, Studio Job, in Antwerp in 2000. Since then, they have developed a distinctive body of highly expressive and opulent work, characterized by pattern, ornament, humor, and historical, sociocultural, and personal narrative.

How personal? How about “Train Crash,” a table the pair designed in 2015.


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The backstory: Job and Nynke’s personal relationship eventually turned into a train wreck, but their professional relationship stayed on track.


Another example of Job Studio’s work:


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That’s Chartres Cathedral flipped on its side and turned into a cabinet.


Then it was on to the Walter Kerr Theatre for the revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible with Saoirse Ronan, Ben Wishaw, Ciarán Hinds, and Sophie Okonedo.




It was a unique theater experience for the Missus and me – not the play, but the audience.

We were sitting in the first row of the mezzanine, where the woman of a certain age next to the Missus decided to take her shoes off and plop her feet on the railing in front of us. She proceeded to wiggle her tootsies, give herself a foot massage, and generally insert her feet into every scene of the play. I half expected her to get a mani-pedi sometime during Act Two.

Anyway, we thought Saoirse Ronan was very good, Ben Wishaw was kind of squishy, and the production overall was interesting but not compelling.

New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley, on the other hand, thought it was fabulous, while Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout declared it dreadful.

So go figure.

Next day we started off at the Museum of Modern Art’s Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty exhibit (through July 24).

Edgar Degas is best known as a painter and chronicler of the ballet, yet his work as a printmaker reveals the true extent of his restless experimentation. In the mid-1870s, Degas was introduced to the monotype process—drawing in ink on a metal Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 1.30.59 AMplate that was then run through a press, typically resulting in a single print. Captivated by the monotype’s potential, he immersed in the technique with enormous enthusiasm, taking the medium to radical ends. He expanded the possibilities of drawing, created surfaces with a heightened sense of tactility, and invented new means for new subjects, from dancers in motion to the radiance of electric light, from women in intimate settings to meteorological effects in nature.

We liked it a lot, and we strongly recommend you use the magnifying glasses available for most of the exhibit. We also took in Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective (through May 15), but we totally didn’t get it.

So we walked up Fifth to The Frick for Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture (through June 5).

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), one of the most celebrated and influential portraitists of all time, enjoyed an international 20161587_0career that took him from his native Flanders to Italy, France, and, ultimately, the court of Charles I in London. Van Dyck’s supremely elegant manner and convincing evocation of a sitter’s inner life — whether real or imagined — made him the favorite portraitist of many of the most powerful and interesting figures of the seventeenth century. This is the most comprehensive exhibition ever organized on Van Dyck’s activity and process as a portraitist and the first major exhibition on the artist to be held in the United States in over twenty years.

The exhibit features about 100 works of the Flemish portraitist (see a bunch here) and provides this splendid introduction video.



We never expected to like the show as much as we did, but we did.

From there we shuffled up to the Jewish Museum for Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History (through August 7), which was all sorts of fun. There are the clothes, of course:




And there’s the irrepressible Isaac Mizrahi himself. A sampler:



Very encouraging about the sweatpants.

After that we made a quick stop at the Cooper Hewitt, where the exhibits lately never fail to disappoint. This time around it was Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (through August 21) that left us cold, while Thom Browne Selects (through October 23) just left us laughing.


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For the next installment of the museum’s Selects series, fashion designer Thom Browne explores ideas of reflection and individuality with an installation that includes more than 50 of the museum’s historic and contemporary mirrors and frames.

Full disclosure: The Missus and I much preferred the old Cooper Hewitt of pop-up book  and button exhibits to the current trendoid version with The Pen and various other high-tech gimcracks. But that’s just us.

Then it was off to the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (through June 26).

Elegant in its simplicity yet limitless in its scope, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is the tale of an ordinary summer’s day with extraordinary consequences. Drawing so heavily from the author’s personal history that it could only be produced posthumously, the story of the Tyrone family and their battle to unearth—and conceal—a lifetime of secrets continues to reveal itself to audiences as one of the most profound and powerful plays ever brought to the stage.

The cast:


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Michael Shannon and John Gallagher, Jr. were fine, but Gabriel Byrne was terrific and Jessica Lange was absolutely riveting.

And no bare feet – in the audience, at least – were involved.

Next morning it was up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France (through May 15)and, man, it is a knockout.

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (French, 1755–1842) is one of the finest 18th-century French painters and among the most Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 1.40.32 PMimportant of all women artists. An autodidact with exceptional skills as a portraitist, she achieved success in France and Europe during one of the most eventful, turbulent periods in European history . . .

She was remarkable not only for her technical gifts but for her understanding of and sympathy with her sitters. This is the first retrospective and only the second exhibition devoted to Vigée Le Brun in modern times. The 80 works on view include paintings and a few pastels from European and American public and private collections.

Vigée Le Brun painted more than 600 portraits and became the most famous female artist in Europe. Helpful thumbnail clip:



At that point we went from the sublime to Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play (through July 31), which “explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime, from 19th-century ‘rogues’ galleries’ to work by contemporary artists inspired by criminal transgression.”

Such as “John Dillinger’s Feet, Chicago Morgue” (artist unknown) . . .


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. . . and Weegee’s “Human Head Cake Box Murder.”


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You can see a bunch more here.

From the Met mothership we wandered down to The Met Breuer, née the Old Whitney at 75th and Madison, to finish our grand tour with Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible (through September 4).

This exhibition addresses a subject critical to artistic practice: the question of when a work of art is finished. Beginning with the Renaissance masters, this scholarly and innovative Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 2.09.24 PMexhibition examines the term “unfinished” in its broadest possible sense, including works left incomplete by their makers, which often give insight into the process of their creation, but also those that partake of a non finito—intentionally unfinished—aesthetic that embraces the unresolved and open-ended. Some of history’s greatest artists explored such an aesthetic, among them Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, and Cézanne.

The painting above – “Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, duquesa de Huescar” by Anton Raphael Mengs – clearly needs some more work, but other Unfinished pieces in the exhibit aren’t as, er, clear-cut.

More clarity, perhaps, here:



(Ian Volner takes a good look at the Breuer transition in the May edition of the New Republic.)

At that point we decided to leave behind the snaphappy hordes taking cellphone pix of the art instead of actually looking at it, and head home. Made it in four hours with two stops.


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