The Arts Seen in NYC (Pierre Cardin Is Totally Brilliant Edition)

Well the Missus and I trundled down to the Big Town the other weekend to spend some time a-museuming and say, it was swell.

After navigating the usual midtown Manhattan mishegas to get to our usual hotel, we took the 2 Flatbush train to the always engaging Brooklyn Museum, which offered multiple exhibits of interest.

For starters, we checked out Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper (through October 13), an exhaustive – if slightly exhausting – exhibit of “more than a hundred European drawings and prints from our exceptional collection, many of which are on view for the first time in decades.”

From the remarkably spontaneous etchings of Rembrandt, through the bold graphite lines of Pablo Picasso, the exhibition explores the roles of drawing and printmaking within artists’ practices, encompassing a variety of modes, from studies to finished compositions, and a range of genres, including portraiture, landscape, satire, and abstraction. Working on paper, artists have captured visible and imagined worlds, developed poses and compositions, experimented with materials and techniques, and expressed their personal and political beliefs. Other featured artists include Albrecht Dürer, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Francisco Goya, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, Käthe Kollwitz, and Vasily Kandinsky.

Except . . .

There was not a single etching or drypoint by James McNeill Whistler, one of the greatest artists ever to put needle to copper.

What . . . the . . . hell.

Other than that, a terrific exhibit.

Next we took in Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion (through January 5), an absolutely fabulous retrospective of a designer who revolutionized fashion, fabrics, furniture, and functional items like lighting.

Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion is the first New York retrospective in forty years to focus on the legendary couturier. Drawn primarily from Pierre Cardin’s archive, the exhibition traverses the designer’s decades-long career at the forefront of fashion invention. Known today for his bold, futuristic looks of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Cardin extended his design concepts from fashion to furniture, industrial design, and beyond.

The exhibition presents over 170 objects drawn from his atelier and archive, including historical and contemporary haute couture, prêt-à-porter, trademark accessories, “couture” furniture, lighting, fashion sketches, personal photographs, and excerpts from television, documentaries, and feature films. The objects are displayed in an immersive environment inspired by Cardin’s unique atelier designs, showrooms, and homes.

Cardin was an absolute genius, as this exhuberant exhibit duly notes.



A total knockout.

From there we wandered over to Garry Winogrand: Color (through December 8). Winogrand is mostly known for his black-and-white photography of New York icons



and New York streets.



But the Brooklyn Museum exhibit gives us a different look at Winogrand.

Garry Winogrand: Color is the first exhibition dedicated to the nearly forgotten color photographs of Garry Winogrand (1928–1984), one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. While almost exclusively known for his black-and-white images that pioneered a “snapshot aesthetic” in contemporary art, Winogrand produced more than 45,000 color slides between the early 1950s and late 1960s.

There are eight slide shows lining two sides of the exhibition room, and they are totally engrossing.



An excellent opportunity to spend some quality with Winogrand’s distinctive work.

• • • • • • •

Bright and early the next morning we subwayed out to Corona, Queens to visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which “sustains and promotes the cultural, historical, and humanitarian legacy of Louis Armstrong by preserving and interpreting Armstrong’s house and grounds, collecting and sharing archival materials that document Armstrong’s life and legacy, and presenting public programs such as exhibits, concerts, lectures, and film screenings.”

The Louis Armstrong Collection is Louis and Lucille’s vast personal collection of 1,600 recordings, 650 home recorded reel-to-reel tapes in hand-decorated boxes, 86 scrapbooks, 5,000 photographs, 270 sets of band parts, 12 linear feet of papers, letters and manuscripts, five trumpets, 14 mouthpieces, 120 awards and plaques, and much more.

The digital collection is fun, but the experience of being inside the house is really special. This New York Times piece captures some of it – including clips from those home-recorded tapes – as does this house tour/bio.



Totally worth the trundle.

Back in Manhattan we swung by the Guggenheim Museum to take in Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection (through January 12).

The first-ever artist-curated exhibition mounted at the Guggenheim celebrates the museum’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. Curated by Cai Guo-Qiang, Paul Chan, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Richard Prince, and Carrie Mae Weems—artists who each have had influential solo shows at the museum—Artistic License brings together both well-known and rarely seen works from the turn of the century to 1980.

Each artist was invited to make selections to shape a discrete presentation, one on each of the six levels of the rotunda. With the museum’s curators and conservators, they searched through the collection in storage, encountering renowned masterpieces while also finding singular contributions by less-prominent figures. The resulting exhibition presents nearly 300 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and installations, some never before shown, that engage with the cultural discourses of their time—from the utopian aspirations of early modernism to the formal explorations of mid-century abstraction and the sociopolitical debates of the 1960s and ’70s.

Here’s an overview.



We especially liked Cai Guo-Qiang’s Non-Brand, the big wall on the first level that featured “figurative works [that] lack the ‘brand, or the sought-after, recognizable style associated with a famous artist,” such as Kandinsky, Joan Miró, Joseph Beuys, Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.

Then again here’s what Peter Plagens had to say in the Wall Street Journal.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Non-Brand” gathering is a mess. Its arcane-within-arcane concept throws up on the walls of one of the Guggenheim’s big galleries a plethora of small works by artists famously known for a different style. The salon-style hanging is cute but, barring available stepladders, visually counterproductive. Worse, the nominal curator includes several of his own really bad paintings.

Shows what we know.

(P.S. Roberta Smith was much more kind in the New York Times.)

Also at the Guggenheim is Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story (through November 6) but the waiting line was a half hour long so we about-faced and strolled up 5th Ave to the Cooper Hewitt.

Full disclosure: As I’ve mentioned more than once, the Missus and I have long longed for the days of mustard tin and pop-up book exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt, but those days are decidedly gone, as witness Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (through January 20).

Designers are forging meaningful connections with nature, inspired by its properties and resources. Their collaborative processes—working with nature and in teams across multiple disciplines—are optimistic responses at this moment when humans contend with the complexities and conditions of our planet. Compelled by a sense of urgency, designers look to nature as a guide and partner.

With projects ranging from experimental prototypes to consumer products, immersive installations, and architectural constructions, Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, co-organized with Cube design museum, presents the work of sixty-two international design teams. Collaborations involve scientists, engineers, advocates for social and environmental justice, artists, and philosophers. They are engaging with nature in innovative and ground-breaking ways, driven by a profound awareness of climate change and ecological crises as much as advances in science and technology.

We like the building, though – Andrew Carnegie’s old 64-room crib.

To clear our heads, we slipped back down 5th to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to admire Jewelry for America (through April 5).

Spanning three hundred years, Jewelry for America explores the evolution of jewelry in this country, from the early eighteenth century to the present day. Its five chronological sections reveal changes in styles, materials, and techniques, all woven into a sociohistorical narrative. Some one hundred examples from The Met collection—including recently acquired and rarely exhibited objects—are displayed.

Best for last: Relative Values: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance (through February 28, 2021).

Bringing together sixty-two masterpieces of sixteenth-century northern European art from The Met collection and one important loan, this exhibition revolves around questions of historical worth, exploring relative value systems in the Renaissance era. Organized in six sections—raw materials, virtuosity, technological advances, fame, market, and paragone—tapestry, stained and vessel glass, sculpture, paintings, precious metal-work, and enamels are juxtaposed with pricing data from sixteenth-century documents. What did a tapestry cost in the sixteenth century? Goldsmiths’ work? Stained glass? How did variables like raw materials, work hours, levels of expertise and artistry, geography, and rarity, affect this?

The exhibit is a total gas: It basically tells you how many cows it would take to buy each item (one cow = 175 grams of silver or 5,350 loaves of rye bread in Brussels).

Representative samples:

Kudos to Elizabeth Cleland, Associate Curator, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

• • • • • • •

On the way back to Boston we swung by the Wadsworth Atheneum, which New Yorkers would describe as “a nice little museum.” And it very much is, with plenty to see.

Start with the ongoing exhibition From Expressionism to Surrealism: Highlights of Modern Art from the Collection.

A special installation of treasures from the Wadsworth’s collection including works by Ernst, Munch, Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau. This intimate presentation of works of art made between 1900 and 1950 illustrates expressionist and surrealist approaches to painting.

After that we checked out another ongoing exhibition, The Bauhaus Spirit at the Wadsworth Atheneum, which “is expressed throughout the Wadsworth’s collection in art, furniture, and architectural design.”

Representative samples:


Yet another ongoing exhibition is Sport and Leisure: Sailing on the Sound, which is very, well, sporty. The marquee exhibit right now, through September 15, is Be Seen: Portrait Photography Since Stonewall, which “explores how artists have used portrait photography to challenge, subvert, and play with societal norms of gender and sexuality.”

After our nice visit to Wadsworth Atheneum, it was home again home again jiggedy jig.

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