Summer Museum Preview, Part I

05/20/2015 11:34 AM |
The Whitney Museum of American Art

With so many wonderful museums in New York City, and with so many of them planning particularly intriguing exhibitions and events for summer 2015, we’ve decided to break up our Summer Museum Preview into two parts—not to attempt to be exhaustive, which is all but impossible here, but to at least be able to lay some sort of claim to relative thoroughness. Maybe? Anyway, here is Part I, featuring some of our favorite Manhattan institutions. Keep an eye out for Part II sometime in June.

The Whitney Museum of American Art
The general consensus on The Whitney’s new home, first and foremost, and on the museum’s inaugural exhibition of works from its permanent collection, is that the architectural cleverness, spatial verve, and abundantly lit openness all amount to quite a wonderful thing, and that many of the works with which you might already be familiar seem positively transformed by the same. Perhaps you were already aware of that because you’ve already visited it, or because you’ve read any number of reviews. Either way, we probably don’t need to tell you to visit the Whitney this summer. You recently have, or you soon will, or you will again. Yet for what it’s worth, we fully concur with all accounts of the venue’s freshness and splendor. One of the greatest cultural institutions in our city has a brand new home, and it’s a fine one. Given the Whitney’s mission, this is a great thing not only for art-related matters in New York, but for American art in all its breadth.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Plan to visit The Met as often as possible in the coming months, not only because it’s as full as ever of great exhibitions—Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, Piotr Uklanski’s photographs, and a new exhibition of Japanese art, for instance—but also because the museum’s rooftop garden, now featuring a new installation by Pierre Huyghe, is one of the most pleasant places in town. Start saving up your lunch money for a sunset cocktail or two up there some summery evening. Oh yeah, back downstairs, there’s also a new exhibit by an artist named Van Gogh, though perhaps you knew that already because the line of selfie-taking tourists stretches all the way to wherever the hell you live.

The Morgan Library & Museum
You still have a few more days to see Embracing Modernism, The Morgan’s exhibition of over a hundred drawings whose dates of creation, some very recent, span about as many years. But you might also want to add few forthcoming shows to your Morgan to-do list, including a survey of portraiture from Dürer to Picasso, a special exhibit of photographs and Morgan-sourced objects assembled by photographer Emmet Gowin, and a show built around the lovely fact that the Morgan will soon be the temporary home of the original manuscript of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This latter exhibit will clearly be fantastic on multiple levels.

The Frick Collection
If you aren’t familiar with the 19th century British artist Frederic Leighton, it’s probably only because you never quite knew the name of the artist who painted ‘that one painting’ of a napping girl all curled up in peaceful repose and placid, creamsicle orange. Well, that very painting, titled Flaming June, will come to The Frick’s Oval Room in the early days of its titular month, and it will be flanked by a selection of portraits by Whistler, all under the banner of works whose implicit statement relates to the maxim that art is perhaps most aesthetically enjoyable when it’s enjoyed “for art’s sake.” Go indulge in Leighton’s creamsicle orange. And if June outside is as flaming as June inside, you know what quiescent treat to look for when you’re back out on the streets.


Rubin Museum of Art
So excellently equipped to do so given the hundreds of objects from Nepal in their collection, The Rubin was quick to respond to the tragic earthquake that recently struck there with gestures both generous and reverential. On the one hand, they’ve filled their lobby with a selection of Nepalese works from their holdings, and the display is free and open to the public. On the other hand, they’ve also outfitted their interior galleries with #HonorNepal labeling to indicate just how much of their collection is of Nepalese origin. The Rubin has also been scheduling, and is still adding to, a series of educational and fund-raising events relevant to Nepalese culture, so check their website for updates.

Museum of Biblical Art
We’ve mentioned the Sculpture in the Age of Donatello exhibition in this magazine several times this year, as it truly is an exceptionally rare opportunity—outside of Italy, that is, and especially in New York—to see so many three dimensional works by major Renaissance figures, including Donatello, Brunelleschi, Nanni di Banco and Luca della Robbia, all in one somewhat uniquely intimate venue. We’re mentioning the exhibition again now, however, not only because you still have a few more weeks to see it, but also because it will be, according to unfortunate news received several weeks ago, the museum’s final show. If you’ve never been to the Museum of Biblical Art in the first place, now would clearly be an optimal time to schedule your visit.

More Warhol? Yes. And no. And sort of. In the sense of ‘again on exhibit,’ yes indeed. In the sense of ‘same old thing,’ no. Actually, yes. Anyway, it’s just such near-paradoxes of terms and imagery that make Warhol’s vast oeuvre consistently engaging for so many viewers, conceptually and otherwise, and his catchy ironies and commercially critical meta-commentaries are displayed with no greater frankness—at least sort of, or maybe—than in his Campbell’s Soup Cans, a series of 32 paintings from 1962. MoMA has made the excellent decision to display the pieces as they were originally exhibited so many decades ago at Ferus Gallery, in Los Angeles. As such, the variably familiar cans—immediately recognizable as grocery products, as a brand, as works by Warhol, as idea containers brimming with so many conversationally chewy worms—open themselves up anew, to some extent, as their patent consistency evidences inconsistencies, their uniformness subtly broken by a return to a prior format of uniformity. Warhol, more, yes. More or less. Also on view at MoMA, by the way, is a strangely controversial assortment of surprisingly vapid stuff, accompanied by music videos that are expectedly neat enough, by Björk.

The New-York Historical Society
Following many months of intrigue, debate and marginally entertaining hooha pertaining to a famously überchic restaurant, The Four Seasons, deciding to no longer desire to house—or something like that—a massive work by a famously überprolific artist, Pablo Picasso, it turns out that the piece in question, a monumental theater curtain designed for Diaghilev’s 1919 production of Le Tricorne, will soon be on long-term view at the New-York Historical Society, thanks in large part to the New York Landmarks Conservancy. It will be exhibited along with a selection of other European and American artworks from Picasso’s era. At The Four Seasons, meanwhile, you can treat yourself to an artichoke salad, some lamb chops and a bottle of wine for a mere $200, while enjoying the exquisite lack of an epic, indubitably unique piece of artwork that contributed to and witnessed over half a century of the storied establishment’s history. Unconfirmed, probably barely reliable reports allege that the restaurant is clearing out a bit of room for some sort of immaculately derivative, wholly uninspired, aesthetically depressing ho-hum-such, courtesy Jeff Koons.

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