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 February 28.

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.

MAD History of Modern Art Jewelry

45 stories about modern art jewelry, such as Greenwich Village designer Arthur Smith

Sleek, modern, space-age, intricate, architectural, political, satirical, and comic – all descriptions of the array of modern-art jewelry selected by the Museum of Arts and Design exhibition, 45 Stories in Jewelry: 1947 to Now, on display on the second floor.

The second-floor space features a tour through modern-art jewelry’s evolution from a craft pioneered by studio artists like Art Scott and Alexander Calder to its current status as a respected and valued sector of today’s international art market.

MAD has shown art jewelry since it was founded in 1956, and its full collection now numbers 930 pieces. After redesigning its art jewelry exhibition area, MAD decided to mount a show to honor the extraordinary scope of its collection and place selected artworks into the broader context of art history.

1966 sterling silver body ornament by Arlene Fisch

Two rings of white cases offer visitors opportunities to peer into each story, see a spectacular or provocative piece, and read about its designer and context.

In every visit to this show, we saw jewelry lovers fully engaged, pouring over every detail of the craftsmanship.

The first case that drew our attention was a Constructivist pin by Margaret De Patta, a passionate California artist became immersed in modernism through her New York art studies in the Twenties, but really hit her stride in the Forties after training with Moholy-Nagy in Chicago. (This spectacular pin is prominently depicted on the museum’s timeline of modern art jewelry.)

John Paul Miller’s 1969 molten gold Armored Polyp

The museum highlights the stories of Forties artists working in studios, like Art Scott, who created body-conscious pieces for the jazz artists and modern dance innovators who visited his Greenwich Village studio.

Another early innovator honored in the exhibition is John Paul Miller, who created stunning gold pieces using ancient, forgotten techniques discovered in his archeological research.

Stories from the Fifties show how an entire generation of American designers was influenced by Danish design, particularly the sleek work of master silversmith Henning Koppel, whose work was featured internationally through the Georg Jensen brand.

Charles Laloma’s 1968 inlaid silver bracelet and 1960 bracelet with inner turquoise inlay

Art works from the Sixties include the way-out sterling body ornament by Arlene Fisch, space-age jewelry by Danish designers Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum, and modernist Hopi jewelry design Charles Laloma, a ground-breaking Native American artist.

Stories in the exhibition from subsequent decades show how designers used their work to tell stories, make clever social comments, turn recycled materials into wearable art, display technical virtuosity, make magic, and create conceptual wonders.

Gésine Hackenberg’s earthenware 2008 Kitchen Necklace

The timeline in the exhibition details how art jewelry grew in popularity, entered museum collections, and began being shown at international art fairs.

Take a look at some of our favorites in the exhibition in our Flickr album and be sure to visit MAD in person.

Meet the 45 Stories committee members, who selected which works in MAD’s collection that embody key developments in the evolution of the art form:

How Textiles Became Modern at MoMA

1977 Águila Beige (Brown Eagle) by Spanish artist Aurèlia Muñoz

Dramatic fiber sculptures welcome visitors at the entry to MoMA’s modern textile history exhibition, Taking a Thread for a Walk, on view on the third floor through January 10.

When the show initially opened back in 2019, visitors were greeted by Magdalena Abakanowicz’s imposing Yellow Abakan textile sculpture; today, it’s the wall-size Red Marca by Aurèlia Muñoz in its place. Inside the main gallery, Aurèlia’s Brown Eagle spreads out to fill the entire corner. But these fiber sculptures are really the finale to the exhibition’s story.

Yarn, prints, and fabric in Vuillard’s 1896 painting of his mother at home

Your journey through 20th century textile art is fleshed out using MoMA’s unparalleled collection of modern paintings, furniture, posters, film, and ephemera. Every time we’ve visited the exhibition, we’ve observed museum goers who are fully engaged, taking in every detail of the big story told by quiet works – how textile craft transitioned from small-time “women’s work” to statements within the big-time worlds of fine arts, commercial furniture, and interior design.

The first thing you hear upon entering is the clacking sound of a working loom. The sound draws you right toward an actual loom. Nearby, there are fourth-century Coptic textile fragments that were the first textiles to enter MoMA’s collection and a delicate sculpture by Ed Rossbach that echoes weaving’s ancient origins.

1952 loom used by Anni Albers in Connecticut

The pristine loom was used by Anni Albers, who revolutionized how American artists began thinking about, making, and innovating with textiles. In a way, Anni’s educational philosophy is the “thread” that connects nearly every other section in the show – teach students to execute the basics but push them to experiment in unconventional ways.

Using fiber and weaving to “learn by doing” extends back to the 1850s and the beliefs of German early-childhood educator Friedrich Froebel, who suggested that parents and teachers use “playthings” – balls of yarn and colorful weaving slats to spur kids’ creativity. His ideas caught on, with toy manufacturers offering commercial creativity kits. MoMA has 1898 versions from Boston in the show.

Vienna: corner of 1905 tablecloth by Josef Hoffman and Berthold Löffler

Around the same time, the British Arts & Crafts movement and rampant industrialization inspired continental innovators to create new schools and interdisciplinary movements that elevated textile design in the design and art-school hierarchy.

MoMA displays a beautiful tablecloth by Hoffman and Loeffler that exemplifies the design direction Hoffman and colleagues took with the Wiener Werkstätte.  Fabric designs by Elena Izcue are nearby, showing how pre-Columbian textiles served as inspiration for artists and students exploring an “American” design direction.

An entire wall is devoted to the ground-breaking work by Anni Albers and others from the textile workshop at the Bauhaus, led by innovator Gunta Stölzl, who encouraged interdisciplinary students to experiment by incorporating unusual materials, proportions, and colors.

Bauhaus Weaving Workshop: 1923-1924 work by Benita Koch-Otte

A short black-and-white film that takes you inside the workshop is projected next to a dramatic large-scale woven modernist statement by Benita Koch-Otte.

The back wall tells the story of 20th-century textile production and commercialization – a Soviet children’s book to explain how cotton is grown and turned into mass-market fabric, and commercial brochures, posters, and catalogues created by graphic artists who founded branding agencies to help European manufacturers market stylish rugs, draperies, and furniture to buyers.

1964 wall hanging woven by Delores Dembus Bitterman, an Albers student at Yale

Like Anni Albers, many design innovators fled Europe in the Thirties, worked as educators in the United States, and influenced the next generation of textile modernists through Cranbrook, the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Black Mountain College.

MoMA shows plenty of expressive wall-sized works, fabric-covered modern furniture, and textile room dividers used to stunning effect by architects and interior designers in commercial spaces and open-plan homes in the Fifties and Sixties. A Seventies poster promoting furniture by Knoll reminds you that Brazilian and other Latin American designers were fully on board, too.

Stretch fabric: Bruno Manari’s 1964 hanging lamp and Pierre Paulin’s 1967 Tongue chair

Finally, the story comes back to where it began – liberation for textile artists in the Sixties and Seventies, like Sheila Hicks and others, to create large-scale sculptural work.

Walk through the exhibition with MoMA on its website and look at our favorites in our Flickr album.

To get an idea of how one contemporary master thinks about creating with textiles, here is a short video with Sheila Hicks, featuring her Pillar of Inquiry installation last year for MoMA’s reopening:

Folk Art Museum Tells 85 American Stories

Eliza Gordon, as she arrived in 1833 for her first job at a New Hampshire textile mill

When you enter the exhibition American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum Collection, on view at Lincoln Square through January 3, you may experience a nostalgic feeling seeing images of early Americans, spectacularly pieced quilts, and finely carved wooden relics of bygone eras.

But the purpose in bringing all of these small masterpieces together is to present the in-depth stories behind the creators and subjects, which adds a completely different, lively layer to the journey through the three galleries – tales of itinerant portrait painters, stagecoaches along America’s first turnpikes, independent women surviving husbands and adventures in the Wild West, and back-country singing masters making their own teaching tools from roots and berries.

1790 love letter drawn by Christian Strenge, a former Hessian mercenary who settled in Pennsylvania

The stories make each work come alive, taking you back to the founding of America, looking at how people moved around in the Nation’s early years, made social-justice and political statements through their art, and used their artistic skills to transform their lives. 

The first section of the show has several works with early German immigrants, many of whom came to America as Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British and stayed as citizens, using their artistic skills to pen intricate love letters and embellish important documents.

Portraits come alive as you see the fresh face of a 20-year-old mill worker (Eliza Gordon) who just arrived to take on her first independent job after leaving the family farm, portraits of new arrivals from the East Coast (the Bosworth siblings) who were starting new lives in up-and-coming Illinois, or a wife (Mrs. Bentley) committed to abolition who ran a famous spa in upstate New York in the early 1800s.

1983 Freedom quilt by Jessie B. Telfair of Parrott, Georgia

It’s not always easy to tell just from looking when works were made, and many come from the 20th century, often from a period later in the artist’s life – the drawing made by a Romanian immigrant (Ionel Talpazan) who used his art to work out his experience with a UFO as a child, the artist (Jessie B. Telfair) who made quilts in the Eighties to channel her feelings about being punished for registering to vote in Georgia in the Sixties, and a painter (Lorenzo Scott) whose portraits cast Atlanta beauties as Renaissance royalty whose style impressed him when he hung out at the Met in the years he lived in New York.

1918 Coney Island carousel horse by Charles Carmel and 1965 Workers’ Holiday by Ralph Fasanella

In the stories told about artworks involving far-away destinations, we learn that sea captain portraits were used as substitutes for husbands gone for years at a time, that many 18th-century students learned geography by copying intricate maps of exotic animal habitats, and that overhead rail was the magical mechanism that brought working-class people to the over-the-top fantasy destination of Coney Island.  

The curators point out that the grand 1888 Grover Cleveland quilt was created by a woman who was a passionate political supporter. The quilt was her way of casting a vote for her favorite candidate, even though she did not yet have the right to vote. She even used the red-bandana campaign swag as the center!

Next to this, there’s a masterful “quilt” made out of wood by New Orleans artist Jean-Marcel St. Jacques, an Afro-Creole artist living in Treme.

Detail of 2014 wood “quilt” by Katrina survivor Jean-Marcel St. Jacques, Mother Sister May Have Sat in That Chair When She Lived in This House Before Me

The spectacular wall-sized work is pieced together from pieces of furniture that he salvaged from his home following his neighborhood’s devastation by Hurricane Katrina. Some of it pre-dated his residency, so the assemblage contains layers and layers of local history.

The final gallery contains works by people who used art to transform their lives ­– one of the thousands of abstract drawings made each night in West Virginia by Eugene Andolsek to relieve his workplace stress, and a large tiger with a personality carved and painted by Felipe Benito Archuleta, who was out of work in the Sixties and began carving animals to sell in Santa Fe.

1977 Tigere by Felipe Benito Archuleta

His whimsical creations not only led to a wildly lucrative art career, but jump-started an entirely new direction for the New Mexico art market.

These tales are only a few of the 85 told by this exhibition.  Download all the stories here, and enjoy some of our favorite works of art in our Flickr album.

Exhibition curator Stacy C. Hollander provides a virtual tour and shares some of her favorite stories about early-American artists and 19th-century travelers in this video below.

Stacy provides lots of background on Eliza Gordon and what her work was like in the textile industry. The video also tells the incredible story of Emma Rebecca Cummins (maker of the crazy-quilt trousseau robe), who was married four times, lived in five Eastern and frontier states (also Canada!), and worked as one of the first female Western Union telegraphers out West.

Enjoy getting to know the backstories of some of the incredible artists among the 85 featured in this tribute to American working artists, activists, and visionaries:

Genius Artist Reinterprets Brooklyn’s Native American Archives

Moccasins at the feet of 1904 Dying Indian sculpture by Charles Cary Rumsey. On Gibson’s mural, a study for Rumsey’s Manhattan Bridge buffalo-hunt frieze.

The Brooklyn Museum invited a MacArthur genius to dig through its vast Native American collection and archives, use it alongside his own thought-provoking contemporary art work, and take visitors minds for a spin. The colorful, creative, memorable results are on display across three galleries in Jeffrey Gibson: When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks, on view through January 10. Take a look in our Flickr album.

Gibson, a big thinker whose heritage is Choctaw/Cherokee, does work that challenges people to think differently about Native Americans today and to question the assumptions about their “disappearance” from the national dialogue. Flying above art-world silos, he works at large and small scales, employs colleagues who are experts in beadwork and mural making, and shows art-gallery works as well as more conceptual projects.

Custom 19th and early 20th-century moccasins from the Brooklyn Museum collection.

His Brooklyn show begins by presenting a monumental 1904 “Dying Indian” bronze by Victorian-era classical artist, Charles Cary Rumsey, and an array of moccasins from the museum’s collections made by unknown tribal artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

To the right, there’s a giant stained-glass work that says, “Whose World Is This? It’s Yours It’s Mine.” To the left, there’s a colorful gallery packed with Gibson’s contemporary art work, and historic beaded, painted, and pieced items made by tribal artists.

Scores of museum visitors who exited Brooklyn’s Studio 54 show were captivated by Gibson’s dynamic installation, entered, and explored.

Gibson’s stained-glass Whose World Is This? It’s Yours It’s Mine. Private collection.

Below the massive statue, Gibson wants us to witness how carefully Native American makers created and customized footwear for specific practical purposes and ceremonial occasions for specific individuals. Unfortunately, the beautiful beadwork and deft, custom designs by tribal craftsmen are unattributed – a contrast to the society artist’s imposing vision of Native Americans who are sad, vanquished, and gone.

To change the statue’s narrative, Gibson asked contemporary Pawnee/Cree artist John Little Sun Murie to design moccasins for the figure atop Rumsey’s horse, so the rider is now presented as an individual member of an historic tribe – not just a generalized stereotype. Listen as Jeffrey talks about moccasins:

To drive home the point that Victorian-era artists and anthropologists incorrectly generalized and romanticized Native Americans, Gibson adds two other small bronzes and a study for Rumsey’s buffalo-hunting frieze made to embellish the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. (Just ignore the fact that the Lenape didn’t hunt buffalo on our shores!) His beaded works say it all – “I Don’t Belong to You” and “You Don’t Belong to Me.”

Gibson’s 2018, Tribes File Suit to Protect Bears Ears.

In the second gallery, Gibson shows his own recent creations with those bought on early 20th-century expeditions and added to Brooklyn’s ethnographic collection.

Gibson’s bright, geometric murals – which complement the museum’s vintage geometric-patterned tiled floors – provide a joyful backdrop for a brightly colored Seminole jacket, beaded hats, and other art. Gibson’s new paintings, sculptures, and patchwork garments use beads, colors, and messages on fabric – contemporary statements that hearken to the creativity and innovation of these unattributed artists. Take a look:

Ba:lawahdiwa, Zuni’s governor, and his family in 1890

The final gallery presents other artifacts and art that Gibson curated from museum’s vast Native American holdings, expedition records, and archives, and contrasts them with some of Gibson’s recent photography.

A large case displays a range of commercial, ancient, and ceremonial pots, expedition photographs, and drawings of Pueblo life made by expedition artists over 100 years ago. In one instance, Gibson reunites several photos of a Zuni family, normally stored apart from one another the museum’s archives.

Gibson relishes showing how Native American artists still thrive today and how over the centuries they have adapted their materials and creativity for both commercial art-markets and their own expressive purposes.

Gibson’s 2019 photo Regan De Loggans. Courtesy: Gibson & Sikkema Jenkins

For example, he features a photograph of a young early 20th-century Navajo weaver, creating traditional Indian” rugs for a trading post with new, more colorful materials that Mr. Hubbell supplied. Gibson also unearthed a tourist map on where to find different California tribes and buy their wares – a direct rebuke to the concept that all these people “vanished.”

Best of all, Gibson also features several gorgeous recent photographs, including tribal artist-activists.

Visit Jeffery’s studio in this video produced for the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Hear him talk about his evolution, his creative process, and his team up in Hudson:

ICP Reveals What’s Been Going On since March 2020

2020 photographs displayed by month

For months, people have noticed that days get blurred, months speed by, and time feels warped. Why is this happening?  The answer is on the walls of the International Center of Photography in a must-see exhibition, #ICPConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis, on view through December 31.   

You’ll see images contributed from 70 countries between March and October 2020. ICP simply reached out to its network in March and April (when the museum had to close) to request images via the hashtag that showed was happening in their part of the world.

March images by Brooklyn’s Farras Abdelnour and NYC’s Claudine Williams

By April, 10,000 images had been submitted to ICP, mostly dealing with pandemic response, adjustments to routines, the need to quarantine, and at-home isolation pods. By May, the number of submissions had doubled.

But in the coming months, social-justice protests filled the streets, hurricanes swept shores, wildfires turned night skies orange, Beirut exploded, the pandemic kept grinding on, and the photos just kept flowing to the inbox at 79 Essex and onto the Instagram page.

Artists contributed thousands of photographs illustrating the ways COVID has changed life around the world, and images of hospital workers, families cocooning at home, and life in the public space. The exhibition is an affirmation how artists sustain creativity in troubled times and during protest.

Listen to David Campany, managing director of ICP’s programs, explain:

If you visit the museum in person at 79 Essex, you’ll experience why you’ve been feeling a little time-disoriented.  As you walk through the months, you’ll be amazed to see how many disruptive or charming events everyone has been experiencing on an extremely compressed time scale.

April images from Karen Epstein (Kingston, NY), Morfi Jiménez Mercado (Lima, Peru), René Treece Roberts (Ashville, NC), and Lisa Sorgini (Australia)

It’s enormously satisfying to look through the #ICPConcerned images on ICP’s website and Instagram feed, but visiting the exhibit in person is the only way to experience fully the time-compression effect – walking, seeing, reading, reflecting, letting your eyes scan floor to ceiling, noting the places and dates. By the time you hit August and September, you’ll wonder, “Did all of that really happen since May?”

Also, the playlist wafting in from Tyler Mitchell’s nearby show only enhances your journey through the participatory show.

September photo by Janet Sternburg of Los Angeles

See the ICP installation of 1,000 contributed photos in our Flickr album.

#ICPConcerned has such a simple installation, but walking through it has a powerful effect. The only other museum installation that offers this much temporal disassociation is the Met’s About Time, but that’s done with a giant pendulum, hall of mirrors, a Phil Glass score, and intonations by renowned actresses.

It’s quite a credit to the ICP and the thousands of sharing photographers that they’re able show the weight (and whimsey) of the world as we’re living it in such spectacular form with just a hashtag, a free-spirited community deep-dive, and a push-pin budget.

In October  – Teach Peace | Greenwich Village by Eli Haies-Grunwald and Keepers of the Land by Rehab Eldalil of South Sinai, Egypt

See all the captions and images on the exhibition website. Have fun looking at the submissions by country here.

Many photographers contributed stories about their images and experiences. See and hear them here.

Want to be part of it all? Share your own images on Instagram with the tag #ICPConcerned

Virtual NYC Museum Events about Women and Tiffany, Tenements, and Lace

Dragonfly Lamp (1900-1910), by Clara Driscoll of Tiffany’s Women’s Glass Cutting Department (Cooper-Hewitt)

With Thanksgiving festivities this week, the list of virtual live events happening at NYC museums is a bit shorter. Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Some of the highlights we think you’ll enjoy:

Have you heard the story about the women of Tiffany & Co, who were so integral to the success of the design lab in the early 20th century? If not, you owe it to yourself to join the Queens Museum today (November 23) at 12pm to hear the talk by the Queens Public Library on Women at the Tiffany Studios in Queens.

Gather the family around tomorrow (November 24) at 5pm for a special live event at the Tenement Museum. Meet Victoria Confino, a 14-year-old girl living on the Lower East Side in 1916. Hear about her story of immigration in 1913 and take a tour of her apartment on Orchard Street – all based on the story of the actual young woman who grew up there.

Actress portraying Victoria Confino in her Orchard Street apartment

If you using the weekend to catch up on hand-craft projects, be sure to take advantage of this special behind-the-scenes tour of the lace collection in the textile department of the Met on Saturday (November 28) at 10am. Their collection spans centuries, and it’s a rare chance to poke through all the drawers with one of the curators. (If you want to see what we’re talking about, check out our Flickr album on a past Met exhibition on Fashion and Virtue that featured this amazing collection.)

1910-15 lace evening pouch by Callot Soeurs (The Met)

Check out this week’s schedule and register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

 This week, we got in to see the Met’s fashion exhibition About Time: Fashion and Duration, which was delayed for months by the citywide museum shut down. Fortunately, it gave Andrew Bolton time to tweak the display, which presents a mesmerizing, time-shifting look at the past and present of fashion. If you want to see this, be sure to get to the Met before 11:30am, since tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Plan to spend your day inside the museum, since your ticket may not grant you access until late in the afternoon.

#ICPConcerned – what photographers were seeing around the world in March 2020

There are two must-see exhibitions at the new Essex Street home of the International Center of Photography. If you are in New York, go down ASAP to experience Tyler Mitchell’s installation, I Can Make You Feel Good, and to look through the global response to #ICPConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis. The walls of images from around the world is a time-warp experience that is no less affecting than the more elaborate, theatrical About Time galleries at The Met.

We also attended the press briefing at The Whitney this week on its new photography retrospective, originally mounted by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond – Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop, which looks back at the work of its 14 founding members back in the Sixties at the birth of the Black arts movement in New York. Go see it.

Politics and rage all laid out in cartoony form in Peter Saul’s retrospective at New Museum

Congratulations are also in order to the New Museum of its two hit shows – Peter Saul’s first-ever NYC retrospective Crime and Punishment (two floors of off-the-charts social and political commentary) and Jordan Casteel’s first solo museum exhibition in NYC Within Reach, filled with her masterful uptown portraits. Visitors linger in the galleries in an effort to digest the rich experience.

And if you are binge-watching The Crown, we’ll again plug the Brooklyn Museum virtual exhibition with Netflix, where you can examine all the fashion up close in virtual reality.

Virtual NYC Museum Events Far Away and Right At Home

Enhanced image of Pluto’s ice plains from NASA’s New Horizons. Courtesy: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

If you’ve wanted to get far, far away but reckon you’re going not going anywhere for Thanksgiving, New York museums are offering some exciting virtual trips as well as comforting at-home activities:

Do you want to get away? Is Pluto far enough? At 7pm on Wednesday (November 18), join the astro-visualization crew at the Hayden Planetarium for a close-up look (using genuine images from the New Horizons spacecraft) to explore glaciers, mountains, and dunes on the little planet. Just a $15 ticket for a trip you won’t get anywhere else.

Behind the scenes with New York’s most celebrated dim sum restaurant with Poster House Nov 19

If staying near the kitchen is more your thing, this week offers a few different options for cooking and looking:

Want to visit New York to enjoy that amazing dim sum? Here’s your chance to do it virtually.  At 6pm on November 19, step into the world of Chinese cuisine at Poster House with the program, Stories & Recipes From Nom Wah. Get inside one of New York City’s oldest dim sum houses as part of the museum’s programming in honor of its exhibition The Sleeping Giant: Posters and The Chinese Economy.

On November 19 at 8pm, the Old Stone House and Brooklyn Brainery are offering an evening on the history of pies, including pumpkin pie, meat pies and baked “coffins.”

History of pies event on Nov 19, hosted by Brooklyn’s Old Stone House

Maybe you just want to look at kitchens and not cook.  On Tuesday (November 17) at 3:30pm, the Tenement Museum is offering a tour of a 1930s working-class family apartment. Or at 6pm, you can join Merchant’s House Museum to walk with an historian through New York City’s only intact nineteenth-century family home (much more upscale!). Tenement Museum is also offering tours into other eras (1910 and 1870) later in the week. Check out the listing.

Roseanne Cash performs with Met Live Arts Nov 17 in a tribute to the eye of the collector

Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Other highlights of the coming week:

Beautiful music from singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash from Met Live Arts tomorrow (November 17) at 7pm in honor of the Met’s exhibition (and gift) Photography’s Last Century. Hear the music and poetry reading streamed live free on the Met’s Facebook and YouTube channels (no advance registration).

Young Hamilton featured on Nov 19 at Fraunces Tavern Museum  (Image: NYPL collection)

Ham fans can get their fix at his old hang-out, Fraunces Tavern on Thursday November 19, with a 6pm program, Hamilton: Man, Myth, Musical…Mensch. The talk will feature facts about his early life and a fun fact-check on the musical.

Or (same date and time), join young New York muralists to hear their reactions Whitney’s blockbuster exhibition, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945. See how the past influences their approach.

Take a look and register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

One of Salman Toor’s narratives at The Whitney

This week, we attended the Whitney’s virtual press conference on Salman Toor’s new exhibition. To get a preview and meet the artist himself, check out his conversation at 6pm tonight (November 16) with another New York/South Asian artist, Chitra Ganesh.

It’s good to see that our Revolutionary friends at Fraunces Tavern Museum are now re-opened in Lower Manhattan. They are hosting several Evacuation Day (outdoors) walking tours and upcoming virtual events depicting how the General said good-bye in the Long Room nine days after the British fled New York.

Cooper-Hewitt hosts Nov 17 working group on transforming museums

Are you a museum professional interested in the future of the visitor experience? Tomorrow (November 17) at 3:00pm, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt is convening a virtual working interactive event for you – Discussions on Transforming the Museum Experience. Small groups will convene to generate ideas and tools (to be published), led by an impressive roster of international museum representatives.

If you’re a student, thinking about going into museum studies, check out the same-day college-night get-together at Poster House at 6:30pm.

Virtual Museum Events on Meditation, Mao, and Met Music

Detail of 2019 watercolor and ink mantra by Charwei Tsai, displayed at the Rubin in last year’s exhibition The Power of Intention

For anyone needing a calm-me-down hour, the Rubin Museum is offering a wonderful service every Monday at 1:00pm, including today’s Mindfulness Meditation with Tracy Cochran. Next Monday (November 2), Lama Aria Drolma will be guiding you through the session.

You should know that the Rubin has lots of Himalayan tranquility available on its YouTube channel. Check out the Rubin Daily Offerings videos – short meditations on art offering lessons on navigating changing and challenging times – and last week’s virtual gala stream, Inside the Mandala.

Tonight, Poster House teams up with the China Institute to take you inside one section of The Sleeping Giant: Posters and The Chinese Economy. At 6:30pm tonight, listen as an expert on Chinese visual culture talks about Posters in the Mao Era, and then get down to 23rd Street to experience the full story on gorgeous posters from the Twenties through the 1990s.

Countertenor John Holiday performs Tuesday in a free program by Met Live Arts

On Tuesday (October 27), the Met Live Arts presents countertenor John Holiday in Hold On! Freedom is Coming!a special program featuring selections from classical Italian opera and Africa American composers of this century to honor the legacy of Jacob Lawrence.  This program will begin at 7:00pm on the Met’s YouTube channel.

Find the links to this and so many other great museum events on our virtual events page here. The schedule is tight, so plan wisely. For your consideration:

  • Tonight, get ready for Dia de Muertos with El Museo del Barrio’s 6:00pm event with Fanny Gerson, who will share her recipe for Pan de Muerto (“Bread of the Dead”) and the story behind it.
  • The preserved 1904 City Hall Station. Photo courtesy: New York Transit Museum

    On Tuesday (October 27) at 6:00pm, get in on a virtual tour of a spot on everyone’s bucket list in New York – the New York City Transit Museum is offering a look at the old, abandoned City Hall Station. It’s always impossible to get a ticket for the live underground tour, so donate $20 and see the treasured 1904 tiles and arches!

  • The same night at 7:00pm, NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is hosting the book launch for Red Rooster’s own Marcus Samuelsson, who has written on the rise of Black cooks and American food. Buy the book to donate to NYPL when you sign up.

Lattice Detour by Héctor Zamora on the Met rooftop

  • And with great fanfare on Thursday (October 29) at 6:00pm, the Met will fling open its virtual doors to recap John Holiday’s performance, zoom up to the roof for you to see Héctor Zamora’s installation, and preview About Time: Fashion and Duration with Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquiére. All free.

There are also more chances to catch ghostly goings on at the Merchant’s House Museum. Register for as many of the topics and events that fit into your schedule.

Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates
We want to make sure everyone’s read the news about the recent discovery of one of missing paintings in the series by Jacob Lawrence on display at the Met. A museum visitor saw the show and realized that one of the missing paintings was hanging in her neighbor’s apartment!  Read this lead story in last Friday’s culture section of The New York Times.

We attended both Agnes Pelton presentations by The Whitney this week, and we just want to remind New Yorkers that the last day to see her show is Sunday, November 1. Her beautiful work next travels to her home town of Palm Springs.

Studio 54 Designers Turn Swimsuits into Evening Wear

Studio 54 fashion: Fiorucci blouse by Antonio, Stephen Burrows dress, and Zandra Rhodes gown. Courtesy: Pat Cleveland

The Seventies fashions in Studio 54: Night Magic, on display through November 8 at the Brooklyn Museum, slip, slide, drape, glitter, and sometimes seem like they’re not even there.

The entire point of going to the Studio 54 nightclub – assuming you could get in – was to shimmer, startle, reveal, exude fabulousness, and shine, shine, shine in the crowd and on the dance floor.

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition, a masterful curatorial achievement, pumps the music, flashes the lights, and runs the videotape while showing off the wunderkinds that made the Seventies 54 scene drip with glamour – Halston, Calvin, Kamali, and Burrows.

See our photos in our Flickr album.

Norma Kamali’s swimsuit top and skirt made for dancing

Although Halston and others made custom gowns for clients (and there are plenty for Liza and Liz in the exhibition), the show highlights one of their other fashion innovations that the 99 percent adopted in the Seventies ­– the swimsuit. If you had a great body, fantastic hair, and dramatic make-up, you could just throw on a bathing suit, tie on a net skirt with little sparkle, and you were ready for the club!

Designers like Kamali and Sant’Angelo partnered with fabric companies to innovate body-hugging solutions, and turned out sexy bathing suits that doubled as disco-ready separates.

One of the galleries features the fun, transparent dance skirts Antonio designed for Fiorucci that he featured in the 1977 “Fiorucci Fantasy” event he staged at Rubell and Schrager’s Queens club, The Enchanted Garden, which predated Studio 54. A video shows how Antonio’s supermodels set the New York fashion and nightlife scene ablaze.

Studio 54 coverage in the Daily News, May 4, 1977. Courtesy: Ian Schrager

For all of its influence in pop culture, it’s hard to think that Studio 54 had a lifespan of only 33 months between 1977 and 1979. The exhibition explores all of facets of the phenomenon – paparazzi, the daily tabloid fodder, Grace Jones, Andy Warhol’s goings-on, disco jeans, Interview magazine, fashion shows, and product launches.

It’s surprising to think that Doris Duke, Alan Greenspan, Lillian Carter, and Bella Abzug were just as likely to be in the club as street performance artists, Bianca Jagger, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Halston’s 1979 beaded chiffon ensemble for Liza Minelli.

To transform the old Twenties theater and TV studio into Studio 54, Schrager and Rubell tapped into the technical and artistic community to figure out how flying disco poles, set changes, and special effects could be orchestrated into a continual surprise for the partygoers. When the musical Chicago closed, designer Tony Walton repurposed his dramatic neon “Roxy” sign as a centerpiece for 54’s stage.

Some of our favorite items are the opening night guest list, Ron Galella’s celebrity photos, Antonio’s costume sketches for opening-night show by the Alvin Ailey dancers, the slideshow of their rehearsal by Juan Ramos, and the giant sapphire that Elizabeth Taylor famously wore to the club in 1979 (it’s in a safe).

Original celebrity photo portraits and Richard Bernstein illustrations for Warhol’s Interview magazine covers

Congratulations to the Brooklyn Museum staff who found and presented this amazing exhibition that lets everyone into Studio 54 to celebrity-watch nearly 40 years after the door closed on the party, and to show us how its influence still reverberates today.