Friday, January 18, 2008
New York, New York
Over the holidays, Annie, Alex, and I visited Annie’s parents and took advantage of being so close to New York City to venture out to see some of the great art on exhibition there. Leaving Alex with his Gung Gung and Pau Pau at their office in New York, Annie and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show promised all the great works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and others along with a bunch of works normally not on view. It was fascinating to see works such as Rembrandt’s Man in Oriental Costume (aka, The Noble Slav) (above, from 1632), but it was a bit disconcerting to see it with the name “VANDERBILT” hung prominently over it. If you didn’t know better, you’d have through that someone named Vanderbilt was the artist.
I enjoyed seeing all the great Dutch works together and seeing the “in the style of” works emulating Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals. One tiny “wannabee” Vermeer still had the “Vermeer” plaque on the gilded frame, a historical marker showing that some collector once paid for a Vermeer and didn’t get one. The Met separated the show into two parts, the first containing most of the famous works and the second the lesser works that seemed more like an unnecessary appendage. (I had more fun getting sidetracked by works by David and Thomas Lawrence while traveling between he parts.) Throughout, however, the obtrusive and downright fawning acknowledgement of the original collectors of these works (and later donators to the Met) rankled with me. Annie doesn’t appreciate Rembrandt’s works as much as I do, wondering why everyone’s nose is so unattractively done, but she, too, felt that the homage to the donors went overboard.
(Philippe de Montebello, the current director of the Met, recently announced his retirement. I’d like to take this opportunity to declare myself interested in the position. I would be willing to do it for half of what Philippe was raking in, too. If appointed, I promise that never again would a show at the Met fawn all over the donors like The Age of Rembrandt. The Age of Butt-kissing would be over. I’m sure the board of trustees, composed mainly of wealthy donors, would welcome my new approach. My e-mail’s over on the right, if the Met is listening.)
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907; Oil, silver, and gold on canvas; Neue Galerie New York; This acquisition made available in part through the generosity of the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer.
A few days later, Annie and I and friends Tatjana and Kyle headed out to the see the Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Neue Galerie. (My earlier review of the Klimt exhibition catalogue is here.) After touring Hoboken for 30 minutes in search of parking (finally winning a spot by basically intimidating someone else from taking it) and then descending into the labyrinth of New York public transportation, we finally arrived at the museum—a grand old mansion facing Central Park. I was surprised at how crowded the museum was on a Sunday afternoon, but Klimt’s appeal shouldn’t surprise me any more. Anyone who loves Klimt should venture to the Neue Galerie before the show ends this June. You’ll never have such a chance to see so many Klimt drawings, paintings, and artifacts in one place together.
Seeing a work such as Adele Bloch-Bauer I (above) in person made the whole trip worthwhile. Rightfully the focus of the show, Adele Bloch-Bauer I drew a huge crowd around her, all trying to get close enough to see the intricate workings in gold and silver that composed her dress, something no reproduction can do justice to. Fortunately, Adele Bloch-Bauer I will remain at the Neue Galerie after the show concludes, but seeing her in the context of Klimt’s other works only enhances the experience.
I had never been to the Neue Galerie before and loved the experience, so different from the feel of the larger survey museums such as the Met. We ate a quick, delicious lunch in the basement Café Fledermaus of authentic German food. I could have wandered around the amazing, sharply focused bookstore for hours, but left content with calendars of work by Klimt and Franz Marc for my office walls. The only bone of contention that Annie and I had with the Neue Galerie was their policy of no children under 12, which forced us to leave Alex again with his grandparents and uncles for the afternoon. It rankled even more when we saw two other couples with very small babies in tow, which I guess is allowed. (What are you going to do, make them put the baby in a locker?) I wish the Neue Galerie would reconsider their policy. If not, Alex will be visiting them in the Spring of 2018, and that’s just not right.
All in all, it was a wonderful time to be in New York City to enjoy family, friends, and great art.
P.S.—To the nice lady who approached me in the Neue Galerie with the words “You seem to know a lot…” before asking what the words “Gustav Klimt Nachlass” that appeared on many of the drawings meant. I didn’t know then, but I did some research when I got home. Those words were part of a stamp of authentication placed by the Gustav Klimt Estate on works left unsigned at Klimt’s death. After a famous artist dies, drawings are the toughest type of forgeries to fight, especially rough preliminary studies, unless you literally place a stamp of approval on the actual works.
[Many thanks, again, to Gung Gung, Pau Pau, and Uncles Johnny and Gary for taking care of Alex while Annie and I were at the museums. Special thanks also to Tatjana and Kyle for helping guide us through the arcane passageways of the New York subway system and for a great day in the city.]