Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Jim Dine, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Frida Khalo and New Artists

Jim Dine talking drawings online at The Morgan on Wednesday

This week, NYC museums are offering 35 on-line events (mostly free) on design, art, history, architecture, fashion, and performance.  See the full list on our virtual events page.

But we want to alert you to several events in connection with some of the brand-new exhibitions in town:

On Wednesday (March 10) at Noon, the Morgan Library is sitting down with Jim Dine to talk about classical and contemporary drawing. The program is being held in association with the Morgan’s new exhibition, Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection. Register here for the on-line session (free, but limited seats). Jim will be talking about his own work that’s in the show and how his commitment to drawing relates to work by other artists included, such as Rubens, Ingres, Picasso, and Matisse.

Niki de Saint Phalle arrives at MoMA PS1. Interior view of Empress, Tarot Garden, Italy

On Thursday (March 11) at 1pm, join MoMA PS1 for the launch of the catalogue for its newest exhibition, Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life. Although Niki’s work was everywhere in the latter part of the 20th century, this exhibition marks her first New York retrospective. Curators, admirers, and artists come together at this panel to discuss the exhibition and her daring, provocative installations, ideas, and work.

At 2pm, the Cooper-Hewitt will host another conversation in honor of Willi Smith’s passion for making art outside of the dressmaking atelier – Art, Fashion, Performance: Seeing Through Creative Collaboration.

1939 portrait of Frida by Nickolas Muray. © Nickolas Muray Archives

At 6pm, the Museum at FIT is debuting a pre-recorded video with the curator of the acclaimed exhibitions in Brooklyn in 2019 on Frida Khalo’s style and art. Fashion curators from FIT will be running a live Q&A during the YouTube premiere of Curating Frida Kahlo: Fashion & Prosthetics.

On Friday (March 12) at 6pm, join the curators at El Museo del Barrio for an on-line tour of their important, new show on emerging artists – Estamos bien – La Trienal 20/21. The pandemic delayed the in-gallery opening of this important survey of new art, so El Museo put the work on line, and is just now welcoming in-person visits to its Fifth Avenue home. Check it out and see what’s new.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s story in Grief and Grievance at the New Museum

At 7pm, join the New Museum to meet with another incredible artist participating in Grief and Grievance, the exhibition that has all of New York buzzing. LaToya Ruby Frazier, who has a compelling, wall-sized autobiographical work in the show, will be talking with Margot Norton – a discussion that you shouldn’t miss.

And in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, the Tenement Museum will be hosting a special on-line tour of the Moore family’s flat on Saturday (March 13) at 7pm and on Sunday (March 14) at 4pm.  Next week, too!

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

KAWS: WHAT PARTY © KAWS. Photo: Michael Biondo

New York has some exciting new shows coming on line right now! Last week, the Brooklyn Museum opened its big art-commerce-culture exhibition, KAWS: What Party, to celebrate 25 years of audacious work by Brooklyn’s own Brian Donnelly.

On March 11, Japan Society finally reopens its exhibition space with When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan. In honor of the earthquake’s tenth anniversary, the exhibition is a tribute to the resilient spirit of Japanese architecture and craftsmanship.

On March 14, MoMA opens Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. We saw the workmen putting on the finishing touches on the third floor when we swung by MoMA this week to check out the other new show in the design galleries – Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America.

Big Sixties Color at The Guggenheim

Detail of 1964 Trans Shift acrylic by Kenneth Noland

If you need a pop of color, head over to the Guggenheim and spend some time inside The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting, on display through March 15.

The Sixties were a time when painting was going through a big shift, and the exhibition will take you back to a time when up-and-coming painters were going big, seeing what lay beyond expressionist brushwork, and taking a cool, cool approach to color.

Helen Frankenthaler’s 1963 Canal

Although the world knew that Jackson Pollack was splattering oil paint across canvas on the floor of his East Hampton studio, other abstractionists in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and art hot spots around the world were trying radical approaches to painting, too – exploring the expressive and expansive use of color.

Acrylic paints were new on the scene, and could be applied thick or thinned out like watercolor. Canvas was often laid out without primer, allowing the paint to soak into the canvas or blend in watercolor-like ways.

Helen Frankenthaler was the inspirational innovator in this regard, saturating her canvases with big washes of color. Although she began as a gestural painter, her big experiment was to work directly on the floor and spread paint around to eliminate any gestural marks. The results are spectacular.

1959 Saraband poured acrylic work by Morris Louis

Morris Louis, for example, experimented further by pouring paint on the unprimed canvas and letting gravity do the work of spreading it in different ways.

His 1959 work in the Guggenheim exhibition is a perfect example of his innovation ­– the “new” medium of acrylic washes, monumentally sized work, and a grand veil of color.

Getting close to this giant canvas lets you appreciate that this was not a sloppy or haphazard approach. It was masterful manipulation of chance on a large scale.

Detail freehand work in 1971 Wheelbarrow by Gene Davis

Other big canvases in the show exemplify other process experiments of the time: Jules Olitski used spray-paint techniques to eliminate gesture while giving the canvas bits of texture.  Getting close to his 1970 canvas lets you see the tiny, grainy splatters and the straight-line color bars he places at the edge; step back, and colors blend into a subtle, uninterrupted haze.

The gigantic Gene Davis canvas appears to be uniform pinstripes, but closer inspection allows you to appreciate the fact that he painted each tiny vertical mark freehand. The marks aren’t “gestural” but the full work is a monument to a hand-crafted, exacting process.

The curators also give us a chance to enjoy works by artists that we haven’t seen in a while ­– the saturated, thick geometric marks by Japan’s Toshinobu Onosato and the mesmerizing, oscillating presence of color created by Wojcietch Fangor, a Polish artist that the Guggenheim honored with an exhibition in 1970.

Oscillating 1969 M 37 oil by Wojcietch Fangor

See some of our favorite works in our Flickr album, and listen to the audio tracks about Sixties color painting and Helen Frankenthaler.

The Guggenheim is in the process of changing its primary exhibition on the ramp (farewell, Countryside!), so the museum discounting its admission price for this terrific color show and other shows in its smaller galleries.

Be sure to see Marking Time: Process in Minimal Abstraction, also open through March 15, which includes works by Agnes Martin and other kindred spirits. For fun, here’s a link to our album from Agnes’s 2016-2017 Guggenheim retrospective.

And if you want to read (and see) more color artistry in the collection of The Whitney and how NYC influences were being adapted by the new generation of contemporary Native American artists, read our review of the 2019 show at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe here.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Meditation, Museum March Madness, and Exhibition Tours of Acclaimed Shows

Meditate with the Rubin on Monday.

As you start the week, take a look at the range of on-line events, discussions, art tours, and previews being offered by NYC museum on our virtual events page. Mediate, check out the March Madness museum playoffs, and tour acclaimed shows at the New Museum and the Whitney. Some highlights:

Today (March 1) at 1pm, get centered with a meditation at the Rubin Museum. Join Lama Aria Drolma for a 45-minute program that begins with a discussion of an inspiring work of Himalayan art that will be used for the meditation, a 20-minute sitting session, and a closing discussion. Donations graciously accepted.

Will the Newark Museum win the March Madness playoff against Brooklyn?

Want to get in on the art museum playoffs?  On Tuesday (March 2) at 8pm, there will be an on-line “playoff” for you to help decide whether the Newark Museum or the Brooklyn Museum have the top art collection.  Each institution will be pulling out their top pieces to garner your votes to see who will proceed to the national finals.

The same day at 2:00pm, join the New Museum director for a conversation with Melvin Edwards, the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Listen in to hear him talk about body of work and his dramatic, moving installation in the Grief and Grievance exhibition.

Work by Melvin Edwards in Grief and Grievance at the New Museum

On Wednesday (March 3) at 4pm, go inside the New Museum to take a virtual tour of this must-see exhibition.

There are two opportunities this week to virtually tour two terrific exhibitions at the Whitney. On Wednesday (March 3) at 7pm, take a tour of the amazing photography show Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. On Thursday (March 4) at noon, take a tour of Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, an entertaining walk through the myriad of ways that artists have used traditional craft approaches to making a statement.

On Thursday (March 4) at 8pm, the Newark Museum is hosting another night of competition in the Museum March Madness – the Milwaukee Art Museum vs. Columbus Museum of Art. Weigh in on your favorite!

Liza Lou’s amazing kitchen in Making Knowing at The Whitney

On Saturday (March 7) at 7pm, join the Museum of the City of New York for a “hometown” conversation with acclaimed playwright Lynn Nottage about what it was like to come of age in Brooklyn in the Sixties and Seventies.

There’s a lot more art, history, and discussion, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

T Rex babies headed to Peoria after March 14

Have you ever wanted to go on one of the sleepovers at the American Museum of Natural History and have the whole place to yourself at night?  The sleepovers are on hold at the moment, but the next best thing is to sign up for an AMNH membership and take advantage of their Thursday Members Nights, where you can have a run of the place for two hours.

Last week, we had the Dinosaur Halls (and everywhere else!) to ourselves and were able to spend one-on-one time with old friends the Titanosaur, the starry-blue Coelacanth, Allosaurus, and Deinonychus. Maybe there were one or two other people wandering through, but you there is plenty of time and space.

Alone with Allosaurus at AMNH on Thursday nights

We checked in on the special T Rex: The Ultimate Predator exhibition, closing March 14.  If you haven’t seen it, it will be your last chance to see the first full-size, scientifically accurate sculpted versions of T Rex as a baby, four-year-old, and adult.  Next stop on his tour: the museum in Peoria, Illinois.  Midwesterners should get ready!

The Met Asks What the Renaissance Thought It Was Worth

1608 chalice by Otto Meier, Germany. Value = 255 cows.

What kind of art and collectables were Northern Europeans buying in the 16th century? How much were they paying?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art answers that question in a highly creative way in its exhibition, Relative Values: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance, on view through January 2022.

The gallery is filled with a wide range of beautiful objects made in the Renaissance – ceramic containers, cups made from natural shells, bejeweled chalices, gorgeous drinking glasses, fancy sporting boxes, and portable desktop personal shrines. At a distance of 400 years, museums and modern viewers regard them as priceless treasures.

1530-1535 glass painted by Dirck Vellert, Flanders. Value = 12 cows

But the Met curators wondered how much these items cost in their day. How rare were these items in the collection? How much did collectors value them? And how did Renaissance makers market them?

The curators dug into assessments of royal holdings, craft guild price lists, and estate inventories. But understanding pricing was complicated because each price list used different regional European currencies (gilders, shillings, florins, and so forth). Then a light bulb went off.

Across Europe, the price of a cow was stabilized at 175 grams of silver. So, the cost of every item in the show is shown in cows!

15th c. British or French pilgrims’ badge with Saint Leonard. Value = ½ cow

It’s fun to view the museum’s treasures from this perspective – how many cows was each piece of art worth? Take a look at our Flickr album, which shows some of our favorite treasures from low to high value.

Two of the least expensive items in the show are the ceramic jug used for a silly drinking game (value = 1/8 cow) and the sought-after pilgrim pins that you could pin to your hat to show that you had actually made and completed your pilgrimage across Europe (value = ½ cow). The mass-produced traveler pins seem a little pricey, but probably not compared to the cost of the trip itself. In any case, the pin was probably the only piece of art owned by the lower classes.

Nobleman’s multi-game board made in 16th c. Spain. Value = 14 cows

Wealthy patrons were attracted to over-the-top virtuoso pieces made from high-priced materials – elaborate traveling game board sets with exotic inlays (14 cows) and silver utilitarian art pieces (10 cows). Commissioning a work from a well-known goldsmith, glass painter, or locksmith drove up the price, especially if you wanted upscale materials.

If you ordered something in solid silver, you could melt it down in a pinch if you needed the cash.

Just like the latest smart device, collectors went wild over buying the latest technological marvel, like automaton clocks (21 cows) or rare natural wonders.  Unusual natural materials and virtuosity really drove up the price. Coconut-shell cups with silver (11 cows) or ruby-eyed rock-crystal carved birds (275 cows), anyone?

1602 nautilus shell cup, Netherlands. Value = 18 cows.

High-end collectors created cabinets to store their “curiosities” and reveled in showing guests how their advanced mechanical wonders worked or talking about where in the world the unusual materials were sourced.

With economies booming, the merchant and the middle classes desperately wanted to emulate the upper classes, so over the course of the 16th century, demand for fabulous objects only grew. Some makers began using molds to decorate or replicate sculptures to create attractive, but less expensive works for middle-market buyers, such as decorative molded German stoneware (1/2 to ¾ cow).

Some cities began hosting annual art markets, drawing buyers from across Europe. Guilds enhanced distribution by setting up trading posts for their wares in key market towns.

1580 rock crystal bird ruby eyes, Nuremburg. Value = 275 cows

Different from today’s art market that sees paintings at auction in the millions, classical paintings during the Renaissance were relatively inexpensive (5 cows).  Works that emanated and reflected “divine light” were highly prized – painted glass (12 cows), alabaster sculptures (40 cows), and bejeweled chalices (255 cows). And tapestries, which took forever to make, were considered the ultimate luxury.

To capitalized on the demand, the design/art stars of the day worked across media, elevating value of less expensive works by putting their highly prized monograms on prints and ceramics as well as high-end masterpieces, channeling their inner Andy Warhol.

Take a look at all of the wonders in the show on our Flickr album and on the Met website, were you can click on each work and then click to see where it falls on the museum’s incredible, feature-rich Timeline of Art History.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Green Book Trip, Willi Smith, Ice Cores, Revolutionary Design, and Museum Scavenger Hunt

NYC fashion designer Willi Smith, ca. 1981. Courtesy: Kim Steele

Mark your calendars for any (or all) of fifty special on-line events sponsored by NYC museums, including a trip inspired by The Green Book, a tribute to a fashion designer who electrified runways in the Eighties, a look under Greenland’s ice, a Q&A on MoMA’s revolutionary design show, and a game-night trip to 18 American museums (with prizes!).

There are many other Black History Month events, discussions, art tours, and previews, so check the week’s listings on our virtual events page. For starters:

Sights along the road trip Driving the Green Book at MAD Museum Monday.

Today (February 22) at 6pm, hit the road with Alvin Hall, Janée Woods, and MAD Museum to learn about a 2,021-mile road trip that they took, inspired by the historic Green Book, which guided Black American motorists on family road trips for decades. The event will be an extension of their podcast, “Driving the Green Book” and feature lots of photos of what they found along the way.

CITIC Tower talk at the Skyscraper Museum

On Tuesday (February 23) at 12:30pm, join the Cooper-Hewitt in its tribute to Willi Smith, the beloved, exuberant fashion designer who dressed all the fun people in the Eighties. Since the museum has been shuttered nearly a year, few were able to see the Willi’s retrospective inside the Carnegie Mansion. So, our national design museum has declared “Willi Smith Day” so that it can shine a light on this historic Black designer for the world to see.

Get inside a supertall building. At 6pm, jet off to Beijing with the Skyscraper Museum and Robert Whitlock, the architect of the city’s tallest buildings. Hear about the design and construction of the CITIC Tower, whose shape is inspired by an ancient ritual vessel from China’s Bronze Age. This is just one of several upcoming talks at the museum on supertall buildings.

African Burial National Monument program at the Tenement Museum

Want to travel back a few centuries? On Wednesday (February 24) at 1pm, visit the Tenement Museum and the African Burial Ground National Monument for a talk on lifestyles of two African families living in old New Amsterdam. Using original source materials, you’ll get a fresh understanding of everyday life in mid-1600s Manhattan.

NYBG’s edible archway

At 6pm, take a trip around the country with a preview of the latest exhibition at the International Center for Photography. Join photographer-curator Paul Graham to walk through the exhibition But Still, It Turns: Recent Photography from the World. Celebrate unexpected journeys and enjoy the nondocumentary approach (no stories, just looking).

On Thursday (February 25) at 11am, start the morning with the New York Botanical Garden’s program with Leslie Bennett of Pine House Edible Gardens on creating gardens of sanctuary. Learn how she creates inspirational gardens that are organic and yield plenty of food, flowers, and medicinal herbs.

Icebergs now, but what happens if Greenland melts?

Thinking about climate patterns recently? Get a completely different perspective.  At 2pm, join a glacier scientist in Beneath the Ice at the American Museum of Natural History to learn what happens when Greenland’s ice melts. You’ll look at how ice core samples are taken, what they show, and how they are being used to predict what’s next with the climate.

Rodchenko’s 1923 Russian airline poster at MoMA

At 8pm, visit revolutionary Russia and see what role designers played with Jodi Hauptman, MoMA’s senior drawings and prints curator, and Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt’s senior curator. Angles, fonts, photos, montage, social issues, and politics will be flying fast and furious as Jodi and Ellen answer your questions about the lives and fates of the artists behind the hundreds of 1920s and 1930s ads, posters, brochures, and magazines showcased in Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented­.

Haven’t you been dying to take a vacation? On Saturday (February 27) at 8pm, join the New York Historical Society and Watson Adventures for a live, virtual scavenger hunt that will take you to 18 different museums across America to search for clues among the history, art, and design collections. Get a team! Have fun! Win prizes!! Co-sponsored by the Museum of the American Revolution and Missouri Historical Society.

There’s a lot more art, history, and discussion, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

2020 painting by Henry Taylor at New Museum

We were able to get a ticket to the New Museum’s acclaimed exhibition this opening week, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, and were happy to attend last week’s on-line curators’ panel (available here).

It’s a beautifully installed show, filled with top-notch painting, sculpture, music, performance art, and films that deliver on so many levels.

Still from Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr, a 2017 video by ©Theaster Gates. Courtesy: White Cube and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

We’ll be reporting on this show soon, but in the meantime, we want to draw your attention to the weekly (and bi-weekly) panels that New Museum is offering on-line with many of the participating artists. This week, New Museum is speaking with South Side Chicago artist Theaster Gates, represented in the show by a performance video recorded in a church in the process of being demolished. Viewers inside the video gallery were mesmerized.

We’ll be featuring New Museum’s upcoming events on our weekly listing, but check out everything coming up over the next six weeks here under Conversations.

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Contemporary Crafts, William Blake, Lost Cities, and Tiffany Lamps

2018 furniture by Christopher Kurtz

With so many stuck inside during the deep freeze, why not tune into an ever-growing list of great virtual NYC museum events this week – meet curators that keep their finger on the pulse of great contemporary design, see works by William Blake and hear musical interpretations, find out why four civilizations were lost to history, and hear about the woman behind iconic Tiffany lamps.

There’s so much more coming out of our museums right now, so check the week’s listings on our virtual events page. Some highlights:

Glenn Adamson at MAD this week. Photo © Monacelli Press

Today (February 15) at 6pm and Wednesday (February 17) at 2pm, reserve a seat (virtually) at MAD Museum to hear Glenn Adamson speak about his downtown gallery exhibition at R & Company that showcases masterpieces of modern design and how it was inspired by the historic 1969 exhibition that introduced crafts as fine art in America. It’s a great chance to see what’s new in the context of art history.

On Wednesday (February 17) at 3pm, take a trip to the Morgan Library to see books and prints by visionary William Blake and new classical compositions inspired by it in Exuberance is Beauty: William Blake, the Viol, and the Book.

James M. Mannas Jr.’s 1964 No Way Out, Harlem, NYC

At 7pm, meet James M. Mannas Jr., one of the celebrated artists of the Whitney’s acclaimed exhibition, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. He and the panel will screen and discuss King is Dead, a documentary he shot in Harlem about the reactions of people in his community to the 1968 assassination. His photographs of this are unforgettable, so don’t miss this chance to learn more about how he captured a moment of historic importance.

Calling all archaeology and history fans! At 8pm, join a discussion with journalist Annalee Newitz at the New York Public Library on her book, Four Lost Cities. She’ll fill you in on the rise and fall of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, Pompeii, Angkor Wat, and the mysterious Cahokia in our own Midwest – a deep dive into the lessons to be learned about urban life.

Designed by Clara Driscoll, the head of Tiffany’s Women’s Glass Cutting Department

On Thursday (February 18), do you know about Clara Driscoll, the woman behind the Tiffany lamps?  If not, join the New-York Historical Society’s history happy hour at 6pm to find out one of the most amazing stories showcased in their stunning galleries of Tiffany lamps.

Do you want to ride a subway car deep into the ocean to see what’s there?  Did you even know that old MTA subway cars are providing homes for sea life off the coast of South Carolina? Join the New York Transit Museum on Wednesday at 6:30pm to hear about what it took to turn the cars into an artificial ocean reef.

Some museums are doubling up on programs this week, so if you’re looking to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, Fraunces Tavern is offering two opportunities – Wednesday at 7pm with the Morris-Jumel Mansion to hear about New York’s impact on him and Thursday at 6:30pm on his “final battle” to build a capital city.

There’s a lot more history, art, and get-togethers, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Fragonard is moving to Madison Avenue as part of Frick Madison.

This week, the Frick Collection announced March 18 as its official opening on Madison at the Breuer. While Mr. Frick’s Fifth Avenue mansion is being refreshed and renovations happen, the curators are reinstalling their classics in the former Whitney Museum building (and former Met Breuer) for the next two years. Here’s the news about what’s planned. Tickets on sale this week.

There were long lines of members at the opening preview for the Met’s new show, Goya’s Graphic Imagination. If you want to get a peek inside, join the virtual opening online this Thursday (February 18) at 7pm.

Tameca Cole’s collage at MoMA PS1’s Marking Time: The Age of Mass Incarceration

Despite the weather, MoMA PS1 had a steady stream of visitors to see the acclaimed show presenting works by incarcerated artists, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration. It’s a major show that The New York Times cited as one of the best of the year.  If you want to meet one of the artists, join MoMA PS1 on Thursday (February 18) at Noon in their program, “Chosen Family: Marking Time.”

MoMA PS1 is open five days a week, and its expanded book store is now so large that you should think of it as a destination all on its own. (And in case you were wondering…as of this weekend, the corner diner is open and serving inside.)

MoMA Drawings Show How to Reboot

Detail of Chryssa’s 1959 Drawing for Stock Page

How do you start over when life is disrupted, everything is rearranged, and the world seems upside down? How do artists respond? A quiet show at MoMA lays out the answers in 80 works in its post-WWII exploration, Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury, on view through June 5.

Drawn from the museum’s archive of works on paper, the show illuminates the ways artists were seeking new means of expression following the traumatic years of the world war – turning to contemplative traditions of Asian culture, channeling under-the-surface emotions through abstraction, embracing chance in the process, and trying processes that no one had tried before.

Kline’s 1952 ink and oil drawing on cut-and-pasted paper

Visitors always seem to be taking the time to study each work and consider the ways each artist responded during a time of profound disruption, change, and promise. The works in the show, from across disciplines and continents, provide a contemplative window into the expressive ideas germinating between 1948 and 1961.

One of the first stories told by the beautiful, light abstract washes in the first gallery focuses on calligraphy-based experiments by post-war Japanese artists and their American counterparts. You’ll encounter beautiful, spiritual work by avant-garde Japanese artists that pay tribute to their culture’s calligraphic tradition.

Osawa Gakyu’s 1953 The Deep Pool, featured in MoMA’s 1954 avant-garde Japanese calligraphy show

In occupied Japan, students were prohibited practicing traditional calligraphy, so the surviving artists, such as Osawa Gakyu, took it underground, producing 100% abstract work inspired by the brushwork and style of the ancient tradition. Since New York artists were gaining global attention with their spiritual and expressive abstraction, the Japanese artists wondered if putting a modern spin on traditional techniques could gain them an international audience.

1956 ink and watercolor made by Pierre Alechinsky during his trip to Japan

They formed groups like Bokujinkai (People of the Ink) and began publishing a journal, Bokubi (Beauty of Ink). They found an eager international readership among forward-looking European and American artists who felt it was the right time to incorporate cross-cultural influences into their art.

In 1954, MoMA showcased avant-garde Japanese calligraphy in a special exhibition that brought wider recognition to the reinvention happening overseas.

1957 drawing by Kenzo Okada, done seven years after his move to The Village

Some artists, like France’s Pierre Alechinsky, were up front in his enthusiasm for avant-garde calligraphy and traveled to Japan to study. Others, like Franz Kline, eagerly absorbed exciting techniques from the new movement, but kept his enthusiasm quiet to avoid stirring up still-simmering anti-Japanese sentiments. Chryssa simply applied calligraphic strokes to the grid-like columns of newspaper stock listings.

MoMA also shows that influences were a two-way street, citing Kenzo Okada, who ultimately decided to move from Tokyo to Greenwich Village in 1950, give up realist painting, immerse himself in the AE scene, and set up a long, successful career in America. The show features one of his acclaimed abstract works.

1957 oil on paper by inspired abstractionist Joan Mitchell

The show also features works on paper by emerging abstractionists known for their hard-edge style, such as Ellsworth Kelly, Latin American modernist Willys de Castro, and Hungarian artist Vera Molnar.

In the latter half of the show, there’s an emphasis on joyous marks, color and process – a trio of crayon scribble drawings by Cy Twombly, gestural drawings (like mini-paintings) by Jackson Pollack and Joan Mitchell, and intense pastels by Beaufort Delaney. There are lots of examples of how visual artists used humble, small-scale materials to channel complex feelings onto a page. Often the results look just as epic as their big canvases elsewhere in the museum.

1953-54 Tomb by Sari Dienes, a gravestone rubbing with a flag

The process section of the exhibition features music notations by chance-master John Cage, but also showcases highly engaging work by artists who aren’t as well known today. Sari Dienes loomed large in the downtown experimental (Black Mountain/Fluxus) art scene of the Fifties and Sixties, and the presence of her large gravestone rubbing with flag explains directly why Rauchenberg and Johns felt they had learned from a master in their found-object forays through Lower Manhattan.

Experimental processes abound in the final gallery, evidence that artists everywhere were searching for new means of expression, letting chance take its course, and trying to usher in a new era of art making. Otto Piene’s dramatic drawing looks like he made tire track across the paper, but he actually created it by holding his paper over a candle flame and letting the soot make the marks.

Otto Piene’s 1959 drawing made by holding paper above a candle flame and letting the soot make its mark

Otto’s also the artist that founded Dusseldorf’s Zero group in 1958, stating “Zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new.”

Thanks to curator Samantha Friedman for taking his inspiration and creating such a satisfying, revealing show that’s perfect for making the transition from 2020 to 2021.

See our favorite works on our Flickr album and walk through the show with the curator here.

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Tarot, Japanese Pancakes, A Swiss Trip, and More Andre

Learn about tarot at El Museo del Barrio on Monday

Still snowing or freezing cold where you live? Escape with some great virtual NYC museum events this week – learning a little tarot, talking trends with celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, cooking soufflé pancakes, hanging out in a Swiss print studio, and joining MAD for a second night of conversation between Andre Leon Talley and Darren Walker.

Check the daily listings on our virtual events page. Here are a few highlights:

Marcus Samuelsson talks about art and cuisine at The Whitney on Tuesday

Want to see what the future holds? Today (February 8) at 4pm, see how to figure that out by popping in on Tarot 101 with Chiquita Brujita, courtesy of El Museo del Barrio.

On Tuesday (February 9) at 6pm, get in on a celebrity chef and art world mash-up when Whitney museum director Adam Weinberg speaks with culinary superstar Marcus Samuelsson about “Food, Culture, and What’s Next.” It’s free to listen in.

Visit Dafi Kuhn’s print studio in Switzerland with Poster House

At 7pm, if more practical kitchen projects are your thing, join Japan Society to learn how to make Japanese Soufflé Pancakes and be ready to whip out a special Valentine’s Day treat.

On Wednesday (February 10), why not run off to Switzerland and spend time with seeing the old-fashioned presses used by a cutting-edge designer to make astonishing work. At 6pm, join Poster House for a letterpress studio tour with Dafi Kühne.

At 8pm, join the Museum of Food and Drink for an evening of “Black Smoke,” a history of African-American barbeque. You know you want to meet these BBQ historians and find out why it’s all so good!

Tour PHOTO | BRUT at American Folk Art on Thursday

On Thursday (February 11) at 1pm, take a tour of the new photography show that is getting raves at the American Folk Art Museum – PHOTO | BRUT: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie.

At 2pm, go behind the scenes with scientists at the American Museum of Natural History to learn what’s in the bone collection – one of the largest repositories of prehistoric life in the world.

Talley and Walker meet again at MAD on Thursday

At 7pm at MAD Museum, it’s an encore performance!  Everyone thought the previous conversation between fashion icon Andre Leon Talley and Ford Foundation president Darren Walker was legendary.  So, the duo is back for a follow-on talk, with Leon asking the questions. See what everyone was talking about.

There’s a lot more history, art, and get-togethers, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Kusama opens April 10 at NYBG

In case you haven’t heard, the New York Botanical Garden has just announced its opening date for its outdoor extravaganza withs the Queen of Dots – Kusama: Cosmic Nature opens April 10!  You’ll be able to see her new monumental works, her outside Infinity Room, and floral arrangements through October 31.

Walking into the Countryside and its Future at The Guggenheim

An innovative, continuous exploration about rural areas along the futuristic ramps

Want to go for a trip around the world? Visit out-of-the-way places? Meet interesting people?

There’s no better trip than hanging out with Rem Koolhaas and his think tank, AMO, in their all-encompassing exhibition, Countryside, The Future, on display at The Guggenheim through February 15.

It’s a colorful, engaging, data-driven, and provocative show that began as a response to the fact that population projections show indicate that in the not-too-distant future only 20 percent of people will live in the countryside.

1909 photo of three peasant women in Kirilov, Russia

Rem, Samir Bantal of AMO, and their university collaborators believe that many of the most important, exciting, and radical innovations are happening outside cities, and this is their way of taking you there.

You’ll zip into the past, zoom into current village experiments, watch videos, and meet robots as you swirl your way up the Guggenheim’s ramps.

Listen to famed architect Rem Koolhaas explain the context for the project and research that make up this extraordinary experience:

As this promo notes, this exhibition opened just a few days before New York City and all the museum shut down to mitigate the pandemic. The team did not foresee the impact that the pandemic would have, but the exhibition could not be more of the moment.

1,000 Koolhaas questions about the countryside and society

In the audio guide, the curators say that you can view the exhibit like a buffet (just snacking on this and that) or dive in and read/see everything.  When we experienced Countryside, everyone was digging in, reading, watching, absorbing, and interacting with everything.

View part of the exhibition in our Flickr album.

The show begins with Rem’s 1,000 questions about the world and the future. He makes it clear that he and the team are not there to provide answers – that’s up to you.

How “countryside” has been equated with leisure since Roman times

There’s a walk through history on the next level by way of fun floor-to-ceiling collages filled with Romans from murals, Chinese people from scrolls, quotes, and fun facts – all to drive home the fact that for 2,000 years, major urban sophisticates have seized upon the idea that city people need to visit the country for peace, quiet, contemplation, leisure pursuits, and artistic inspiration.

The history walk continues by exploring Marie Antoinette’s decision to create a rural “hamlet” on the Versailles grounds, the desire of Sixties Hippies to create communes in the country, and the emergence of today’s rural “wellness” spas and retreats.

Qatar’s solution to achieving national food security after the June 2017 border closure

The story continues by presenting details about efforts by famous political leaders to “redesign” their countries rural regions on a large scale – Jefferson’s adaptation of the 640-acre grid for developing the West, how the Soviets scaled up collective farming, FDR’s “shelterbelt” policy to minimize soil erosion in the Thirties, and the agricultural emphasis in Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

The most startling story is how Qatar, which imported the majority of its food, did years of research into ways it could be self-sustaining. When the Saudis jammed Qatar’s border in 2017, the country already had a plan. Within 36 hours, it airlifted in 4,000 cows and milking machines, a move that immediately (and successfully) started its domestic dairy industry.

Chinese service that lets city dwellers select apples from trees

The exhibition takes you to villages in China where interesting things are happening – a dying farming town that transformed itself into a “wellness” tourist destination, and an apple-growing region that uses livestreaming on mobile phones to let city-dwellers pick out the specific apples that the villager will pick and ship to them overnight.

The exhibition includes mini-galleries on the move to “preserve” nature, presenting facts and posing land-use questions related to mountain gorilla habitats in Central Africa, permafrost melts that are exposing mammoth fossils, and American billionaires buying and preserving Patagonian land.

Humanoid PALRO robot from Fujisoft in action

The top floor is alive with roaming robots powered by Roombas, who invite you to enter mini-theaters to see worlds beneath the ocean, developments of industrial facilities run completely by robots, and vast expanses of industrial-level agriculture. You’ll even meet PALRO, Fujisoft’s humanoid robot who hangs out with seniors in Japan, and Prospero, a little robot farmer that’s designed to work in swarm teams.

Hear all about the research and collaborations behind the exhibition and how the exhibition design brings it all to life:

To take a leisurely stroll through the future, listen to the audio guide.

For the full report, purchase the book (a steal at $12).

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Harlem Heavyweights, Design Disrupters, Rap History, and Gulla Cooking

Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC talks with Kevin Burke at MCNY

Despite the massive nor’easter moving through New York, we’re assuming that the virtual NYC museum events are happening as planned – an opportunity get behind the scenes of New York’s hottest photography show, visit a West Coast design archive, meet a Rock legend, and dive into historic Southern cuisine.

Check the daily listings on our virtual events page to for these events and details on many, many others.

The Kamoinge workshop show at The Whitney. Meet the artists this week.

We want to alert you all to the upcoming opportunities that the Whitney is offering to showcase the photographers and work featured in Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. On Wednesday (February 3) at 7pm, you can meet the Kamoinge artists live and hear them talk about how Harlem influenced their work. On Friday (February 5) at 3pm, see which artists used “the body” for inspiration and which contemporary photographers take on similar themes.

Two tours of the Morgan’s David Hockey show this week.

Also, just a reminder that there are two opportunities to walk through the Morgan Library’s David Hockney life-drawing show – on Wednesday, February 3 at 3pm and on Thursday, February 5 at 12:30pm.

Here’s how the rest of this week will shape up, with just a few suggestions (see the entire list here):

On Tuesday (February 2) at 4pm, take a trip to California with the Poster House to hear Letterform Archive’s Stephen Coles talk about (and show examples of) what happens when graphic designers break the rules of what typically constitutes good design.

Close-up of Swiss grid at Poster House. What happens when designers ignore it?

At 7pm at the Museum of the City of New York in the Your Hometown series, meet Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC who will talk about growing up in Queens during the Sixties and Seventies and how the lessons learned contributed to becoming a rap icon atop the music industry.

On Wednesday (February 3), you can join two programs that take you inside museum collections and exhibitions to ask questions about how indigenous cultures and artists are represented, and what is changing.  At 6pm at Bard Graduate Center, hear about “Indigenous Arts in Transition” from two Native American curators in Minnesota and Oklahoma.

Boy’s hide shirt made by female Crow artist in 1870-1900 displayed at the Met in 2017

At 7pm, join the SciCafe crowd for a talk and Q&A on “Museums and Race” at the American Museum of Natural History that has a long (and current) history of grappling with these issues. Anthropologist Monique Scott will focus on African objects in the collection in New York and other museums around the world.

At 8pm, join the Museum of Food and Drink (collaborating with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) for a fun dive into regional cooking in “Sustaining Gullah Geechee Cooking across Land and Sea.” You’ll hear a fascinating migration story told through food and learn how to make crab fried rice.

There’s a lot more music, science, and get-togethers, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Toxic Titan program at the AMNH Hayden Planetarium last week was a hit

We dropped in on fun virtual events last week at the AMNH, Fraunces Tavern Museum, and the NYPL’s discussion with Amber Ruffin, and couldn’t have enjoyed them more!

The Toxic Titan show with the Hayden Planetarium crew had nearly 400 viewers from around the world!  Congratulations to the virtual team, who even un-muted everyone to give the crazy-good speaker a live round of virtual applause!

Get to the Guggenheim by February 14!!

Before the storm hit, we were able to visit the Guggenheim to see Countryside, the Future, the spectacular show by AMO/Rem Koolhaas. Although the curators say you can either breeze through or read through it slowly, the crowds were definitely making the most of their time and digesting everything – the history of our obsession with country and leisure, the ways 20th-century leadership tried to reshape vast swaths of their countries, and the efforts going on today to reimagine non-urban environments in Africa, the Middle East, the Arctic, and everywhere.  It’s a must-see. Two more weeks.