Virtual NYC Museum Events – Stars, Cocktails, and Social Discourse

It’s a packed week with over 35 virtual events planned by New York City museums, featuring evenings with celebrities, conversations about society, the future of museums, and even an escape game. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Scandals recounted in the Tenement Museum’s Tuesday YouTube Live book talk

Tomorrow afternoon (January 12) at 6:30pm, the Fraunces Tavern Museum again collaborates with the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center to explore the role apples played in food, drink, and the economy of colonial and revolutionary America in the continuing “Tavern Tastings” series.

At 7pm, the Tenement Museum hosts Tyler Anbinder, to talk about his book, Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum.

Mystical transformation with St. Francis and the Morgan Library on Wednesday

 At 8pm, travel to the mountains of Arizona with the Newark Museum, whose planetarium experts host an evening of stargazing with Steward Observatory’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter.

On Wednesday (January 13) at 2pm, train fans can take a rare trip deep into the Transit Museum archives.

At 5pm, art fans can travel back to the 15th century with the Frick Collection to explore Bellini’s painting St. Francis in the Desert.

At 6:30pm, the Center for Brooklyn History (formerly Brooklyn Historical Society) hosts a discussion and book talk “The Authoritarian’s Playbook,” which links 20th century history with the events of the last week.

AMNH’s Neil deGrasse Tyson will summarize 2020’s important space news on Wednesday. R. Mickens/© AMNH

At 7pm, you’ll have to choose between three equally compelling events:

  • The astronomical year-in-review with Neil de Grasse Tyson at AMNH
  • A talk with David Byrne and Maira Kalman about their new American Utopia book at the Museum of the City of New York
  • The “standing ovation” meet-up at Poster House featuring an array of posters of the world’s most celebrated theatrical performers and five cocktails to match.

    MCNY hosts collaborators David Byrne and Maira Kalman on Wednesday. Photos: Jody Rogac, Cyndi Stivers

On Thursday (January 14) at noon, visit the Salman Toor painting exhibition at the Whitney, and at 3pm, see (and hear about) nature paintings in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

At 6pm, enjoy a delicious trip to Naples with the Museum of Food and Drink, and dip into the Poster House archives at 6:30pm. At 7pm, join the escape game at the Newark Museum’s historic Ballantine House.

Brian Clarke’s stained glass panels at MAD

There’s more on Friday and Saturday, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

On Saturday at 2pm, be sure to join MAD to meet acclaimed architectural artist Brian Clarke, whose work is on display for the next month. Don’t pass up this chance to encounter a legend and hear about the entire scope of his incredible international body of work.

And a reminder for Sunday (January 17): at 1pm, take a tour of the incredible costume exhibition at the Metropolitan, About Time: Fashion and Duration. Even if you’re in New York, it’s not easy to snag a ticket to this show, so the virtual visit is the next best thing.

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

At MoMA, 1923 Gum department store lightbulb ad by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky’s ad agency

Museum Updates

We visited MoMA this past week for last looks at the Felix Feneon, textile, and Judd exhibitions. The galleries were full of visitors looking at the Parisian posters, African carvings, Seurat and Matisse paintings, Anni’s loom, and Judd’s super-slick sculptures.

As hard as it is to say good-bye to these three terrific shows, we encourage you all to visit the latest at MoMA – Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented.

About Time: Fashion and Duration tour on Sunday

Lots of Russian avant-garde, typography and collage running wild, and branding in the early 20th century that you’ve never seen quite like this.  The extensive exhibition uses many works from the little-seen Berman collection, so you’ll be in for some surprises when you see it.

Although its virtual events are still happening, the Museum of the City of New York has announced a temporarily closure on Fifth Avenue for some emergency construction work.

Online Museum Events – Virtual Trips to the Sixties, the 20th Century Limited, and the Arctic

Poster by Bonnie McLean for Fillmore Auditorium July 1967. Courtesy: Bahr Gallery

New York City museums are kicking off the first week of the New Year with a look at music and transportation history, far-away places (on Earth and beyond), and artist hang-outs. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Tomorrow afternoon (January 5) there are two fun historical programs: at 4pm, you can take one last look at the New-York Historical Society’s great rock-and-roll extravaganza (which ended yesterday!), Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution. If you did not get to see the exhibition, don’t miss this … psychedelic posters, the story of the Fillmore East and West, how Bill’s artists got booked for Woodstock, how The Last Waltz concert happened, and lots of photos of the legendary stars he promoted.

The streamlined 1947 lounge car for the 20th Century Limited.

At 5:30pm, you go back a little further in time. Join New York Transit Museum educator Joe Hartman to hear the incredible story of the legendary 20th Century Limited luxury train that ferried celebrities between New York’s Grand Central and Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station in high style for decades. Learn all about how red-carpet obsessions were born.

On Wednesday (January 6) at 7pm, hang out with a few hundred science geeks at the monthly SciCafe at the American Museum of Natural History. This month’s topic is Arctic Dragonflies with museum curator Jessica Ware, who will explain how these little guys keep from freezing. The Q&A is always fascinating with this group, so stick around for that part of the program, too!

Reproduction of Orozco’s 1930 Prometheus mural at The Whitney

On Thursday, (January 7), delve into great art: at Noon, the Whitney presents a look at the three Mexican muralists – Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros – whose passion and techniques inspired a generation of socially conscious artists of the Thirties and Forties. Find out more about their work in the United States and hear how Pollack, Benton, Noguchi, Lawrence, and many others learned at the feet of the masters in this talk about the blockbuster Vida Americana exhibition.

Jesse Wine, 11:10 am / 15.10.1983 / 75 Heath Lane / Chester / United Kingdom / CH3 5SY, 2020, installation view

At 7pm, take a trip to the Sculpture Center to meet Jesse Wine, see highlights of his solo show in Long Island City, and hear about his past work and inspirations.

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

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:

Online Museum Events – Cheese Tetrahedrons, Exoplanets, and a Virtual Pub Crawl

Coqui is fun to make and delicious! Try it Tuesday with El Museo del Barrio

New York City museums are pulling out the stops on their pre-Christmas on-line offerings with craft workshops, food tastings, and pub history. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

El Museo del Barrio hosts several bilingual events this week as part of the new series, El Barrio en Tu Casa, including a cooking class (direct from Puerto Rico!) with Chopped Chef Santana Benitez (6pm today Dec. 14) and a coquito-making workshop  and social with Jonathan Rivera (Thursday, Dec. 17).

Join the Noguchi and Buckminster Fuller event on Monday

Why not mix food, architecture, and design? At 7:30pm today, the Noguchi Museum will host a session on the “Dymaxion Dining” cookbook that honors Buckminster Fuller, talk about baking Geodesicandy, and show how to make Cheese Tetrahedrons.  Bring your own knife, block of cheese, ruler, and cutting board!

MetLiveArts presents the beautiful Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 with the Handel and Haydn Society at 7pm on Tuesday (December 15), and follows up with its regularly scheduled Friday concert with ETHEL (virtual music on the balcony).

Kepler-1652 b, a super-Earth exoplanet [JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle/NASA]

On Wednesday (December 16) at noon, you can join the cool kids at the Hayden Planetarium in “Hot Takes on Cool Worlds” to find out the latest on exoplanets (4,000 and counting!).  The program will feature planetary atmosphere expert Laura Kreidberg of Heidelberg’s Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), who will discuss whether planets (like Kepler-1652 b) are habitable and explain approaches to future research.

Later that day at 8pm, you can join the Museum of Food & Drink and WNYC’s The Green Space for a super-fun holiday-themed Filipinx cooking demonstration, conversation, and a little Karaoke (a revered Filipino holiday tradition) – all part of MOFAD’s Food for Thought speaker series.

Serving it up at Charlie’s Tavern, New York in 1946

You can close out the week with a Friday night virtual holiday pub crawl with pub buffs from the New-York Historical Society. They’ll send you a list of libation recipes spanning New York’s 400-year history, and spin you off into hang-outs to discuss, compare, and tell tales of favorite bars.

Many more programs are on the schedule, so 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.

Holiday Season Virtual Museum Events with Food, Drink, and Discussion

Everyone loves chocolate. Here, a Staffordshire chocolate pot (1755-1770). Collection: The Met

Ramp up for the holidays by joining in some special (and delicious) virtual events hosted this week by New York City museums. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Tomorrow (December 8) at 6:30pm, come to a tavern tasting with chocolate! Join the program by Keeler Tavern Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut (co-hosted by Fraunces Tavern Museum), who will explain the history of chocolate in the colonies (and beyond!) and share a recipe you can make and sip during the program.  Be sure to sign up a day ahead of time.

Illustration of 19th c. holiday food to be discussed at Merchant’s House Museum

On Wednesday (December 9) at 6pm, travel back to 1843 with the Merchant’s House Museum to see how holiday food cited in A Christmas Carol was adapted to 19th century American kitchens. In “From the Kratchit’s Kitchen,” you’ll not only meet a food historian but hear selected readings by Mr. Dickens himself!!

Poster House virtual event held inspired by  The Swiss Grid exhibition

At 7pm, take a winter break with the crew at Poster House, featuring a scintillating blend of mixology and posters!  In honor of the exhibition, The Swiss Grid, you’ll be whisked away to fabulous Alpine ski chalets (via posters), while you learn how to create four great cocktails. Everything you need to mix cocktails is posted on the event page.

Also at 7pm ­– the Museum of Food & Drink hosts “A Sweet Mexican Hanukkah” with chef Fany Gerson (the artist behind Fan-Fan Doughnuts), who will share the culinary connections between her Mexican and Eastern European heritage, and show how to make strawberry jelly doughnuts.

1930s Macy’s Christmas truck toy at NYHS

Are you wishing you could visit New York for the holidays to see the decorations?  At 8pm (December 9) sign up with the New-York Historical Society and let the Bowery Boys lead you on a virtual tour to explore how people celebrated the holidays in old New York at all the familiar places – department store windows, ice rinks, and Times Square.

If you want to participate in virtual events on a more serious note:

Today (December 7) at 5pm, the New-York Historical Society is hosting a discussion on how revising “American history” while the American revolution was happening affected the course of events.

Climate change wall at AMNH, which hosts a panel on the Paris accord on Wednesday

At noon on Wednesday (December 9), the American Museum of Natural History hosts an international powerhouse panel on climate change, climate goals, and the Paris agreement. Don’t miss this global discussion with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, and performance by music icon-activist Patti Smith.

Many more programs are on the schedule, so 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.

1928 Demuth painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, part of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at The Met – which resisted modernism for a long time

Museum Updates

This week online, we went to the premiere of the film that portrays Washington’s farewell at Fraunces Tavern, and got to meet the director and from three amazing Revolutionary actors who portrayed Washington, Knox, and Tallmadge.

We also attended the Tenement Museum’s program discussing the lives of an Irish family living on the Lower East Side in the 1860s, the Met’s Making the Met discussion on 1929 and modernism (now on YouTube), and a special members-only event on the Rubin’ Museum’s new online digital collection of Himalayan art. Check it all out.

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

150 Years of Splendor at The Met

Entrance with Noguchi’s 1945 Kouros and Rodin’s controversial 1876 sculpture

The Met has pulled out all the stops on its 150th birthday show, Making the Met, 1870-2020, on view at Fifth Avenue through January 3 – incredible installation, intriguing stories, and a phenomenal digital showcase. So even if you can’t come to New York to see it in person, the Met website has it all!

The exhibition tells the story of the Met over the last 150 years – from its first incarnation in a house on 14th Street to its ever-expanding footprint in Central Park – shows the incredible art that benefactors donated, and relays the stories of the men and women who made it happen.

Head of a Hindu god, Bhairava, made by 16th c. Nepalese artists 

Walking into the dramatic exhibition entrance, you’re surrounded by figures from different eras and cultures – a little girl from 5th century Greece holding two doves, a gilded mask of a Hindu god beautifully crafted by Nepalese masters of the 16th century, and Avedon’s 1957 portrait of a pensive Marilyn Monroe.

At the press opening, senior researcher associate Laura Corey explained that these were chosen to encourage visitors to think about the people behind the Met – collectors, curators, artists, restoration experts, and other staff. According to Laura, the African power figure from the Republic of Congo was one of the first artworks chosen for the welcome gallery.  He’s looking right across to Marilyn, and they are sharing a similar expression and mood.

1906 photo of The Great Hall 

At Noguchi’s Kouros sculpture, you can look left or right down a “street” lined with arches – portals that beckon you to step into different chapters of the Museum’s history. Each arch proclaims the decade and the theme. In between, there are huge slideshows from the museum’s past ­– how the Great Hall used to look, ladies in turn-of-the-century hats taking their art appreciation classes, Fifties moms and kids looking at art.

We’ve included our favorite artworks in our Flickr album, but the Met has produced a spectacular multimedia walk-through (posted on Google Arts & Culture), where you can experience all ten stories through photos, films, and links to blogs. Definitely watch the silent 1928 “Behind the Scenes” film showing museum shops, painters, gilders, and photographers at work. No surprise that the museum was into multimedia way back then!

Houdon’s 1778 bust of Franklin and reflection of Manet’s Young Lady in 1866

Through the first arch titled “The Founding” (the 1870s), you pass a huge Cypriot head (the first director was into archaeology) and the first paintings donated by the founding trustees. Houdon’s spectacular Ben Franklin gazes quietly (and slyly) at Manet’s Young Lady in 1866 – the first contemporary painting in the Met’s collection. It depicts a life-size, modern gal in her dressing gown – an image that shocked early visitors to the Met’s classical galleries! Of course, Ben looks on approvingly.

Next, you’ll see a 15th-century Turkish turban helmet and 17th-century Japanese armor. The story here is that the Met green-lighted Bashford Dean, a zoologist and world traveler working at the AMNH, to begin the arms and armor collection. Other curators began collecting works on paper, textiles, lace, wallpaper, musical instruments, and contemporary designs. In the Twenties, curators headed straight to the UK to scoop up samples from Morris & Company.

1479-1458 B.C. statue of Hatshepsut, and Cleopatra’s Needle (1450 B.C.) in Central Park

Around the corner is a tribute to the deep-pocketed donors like Morgan and B. Altman, who gave the Met lots of upscale, princely treasures ­– paintings by Vermeer and Ingres, fancy furniture, and tapestries. A treasure trove gifted by generous benefactors fills a wall – pistols for kings, cosmetic cases for Egyptians, bedazzled tablewear, and Middle Eastern glass.

Back into the main “street,” you’re right next to an imposing, reconstructed sculpture of Egypt’s female pharaoh Hatshepsut with a stunning view of Central Park’s Egyptian obelisk through the window.

These lead to the stories of how the Met collected art via excavations of archaeological sites – the Kharga Oasis (1908), Egypt (1880-1931) with Wah’s tomb stuff, Nimrud (Iraq), and along an ancient trade route (1934). The intrepid Bashford Dean enters the story again – excavating a Crusader castle, but only bringing back “dismal finds,” such as Crusader lamps, melted chain mail, and shards of stained glass, and (our favorite!) a projectile from a Crusades-era catapult (1250).

1864 A Gorge in the Mountains by Sanford Robinson Gifford

Apparently, it took a lot for a fancy museum to turn its attention from Europe to collecting art from the Western Hemisphere, but wealthy patrons had the goods. The American room features Sargent’s best-dressed “Madame X” and an enormous 1830 honeycomb quilt by Elizabeth Clarkson, the first quilt to enter the Met’s collection in 1923. There’s also a gorgeous Catskill Mountain landscape by Sanford Robinson Gifford, once owned by AMNH’s long-serving president, Mr. Jessup.

A gallery packed with work by Degas, Monet, Cassatt, Cezanne, and their Japanese masters tells the story of the Havemeyers, the Met patrons who lavished the museum with Tiffany glass (likely picked out by Mr. Tiffany himself), impressionist masters (picked out by Ms. Cassatt herself), and much more.

I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928) by Demuth

At the midpoint of the exhibition, you learn that Stieglitz had a rough time trying to convince the Met to honor contemporary photography. The Met also refused Ms. Whitney’s collection in 1929. Gertrude’s response was to start her own museum, which joined MoMA (which debuted in 1929) in celebrating modernism. The Met finally did accept modern works through Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1949 gift, and proudly displays a Demuth and Kandinsky in the show.

The Monuments Men story looms large, with Met curators playing a major role in discovering and returning art looted during World War II. There’s a 1945 model of an Army helmet prototype designed by the Met’s armor expert, hand-crafted in solid aluminum.

1965 Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress and 1966 Balenciaga coat

The largest gallery in the show tells the story of how the Met beefed up its collections and expanded gallery space during what it calls “The Centennial Era” – Islamic art, fashion, Asian and African art, and modern art from the 20th century.

The final story about the Museum’s current focus ­– adding works by artists and from regions that are underrepresented in its collections – is represented by a large El Anatsui piece, an embellished Tibetan saddle, a wall of art guitars, a large Faith Ringgold story quilt, and other intriguing works.

The museum’s done a tremendous job online telling all the stories via its digital primer.  Click here to hear in-depth stories on the Met’s audio guide with Steve Martin, check out this video with his narration, get the backstory on every artwork in the show, and definitely visit the multimedia walk-through .

And check out this exhibition video showing how the museum’s architecture evolved to house these growing collections. In the 1880s, Olmstead and Vaux assigned a spot in Central Park for the Met. It’s interesting that one of the initial designs (which no one liked) was not scheduled for completion until 1990!! It’s a microcosm of 150 years of architecture and history.

Virtual Visits This Week to the Guggenheim, Whitney, and a 19th Century Irish Home

If you can’t do an in-person trip to your favorite museums just yet, why not walk some terrific exhibitions with curators at the Guggenheim, Merchant’s House, Poster House, the Morgan Library, and the Whitney. The links to this program and other museum events are on our virtual events page here.

Chen Zhen’s 1999 Precipitous Parturition installed inside the Guggenheim in 2017

Some of the highlights we think you’ll enjoy:

Today (November 30) at 5:00pm, visit the Guggenheim for a conversation about art, exhibitions, and installations in the iconic building. The Zoom session will feature works by Hilma af Klint, Felix Gonzales-Torres, and Pipilotti Rist to get the discussion rolling.

At 7:00pm today, join the International Center of Photography to meet photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon, whose book documenting Lower Manhattan’s architectural past was named one of the best art books of the year by The New York Times.

Hear jazz on The Four Seasons guitars by John Monteleone December 1 at the Met

Tomorrow (December 1) at 7:00pm, you will not want to miss the guitar quartet concert from the Metropolitan Museum’s MetLiveArts. It’s going to feature four  acclaimed jazz guitarists playing the spectacular “Four Seasons” set of guitars made by master luthier John Monteleone, which are currently featured in the finale gallery of the Met’s 150th anniversary spectacular, Making the Met, 1870-2020.

Learn about 19th century lighting inside the Merchant’s House Museum on December 2

Of, if you haven’t had enough of feasting, join the Tenement Museum at the same time to hear from Leah Koenig about making holiday treats and her book Little Book of Jewish Sweets.

On Wednesday (December 2) at 6:00pm, take a trip back to the past with Merchant’s House Museum to experience 19th-century domestic lighting and talk about how home lighting has changed in the last 100 years.

Artists Kay WalkingStick and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith discuss contemporary art at NMAI on December 3

Thursday (December 3) events include:

A 6:00pm discussion of contemporary art at the Museum of the American Indian with Kay WalkingStick and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

At 6:30pm, an evening at Poster House that provides an insider’s look at collecting Swiss posters.

Photographers of Brooklyn’s Kamoinge Workshop, honored in the Whitney’s new show

At 7pm, a curator’s tour of the Whitney’s latest exhibition about the photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop in Brooklyn.

On Friday (December 4), get over to the Morgan Library at 12:30pm for a collections tour, and to MAD Museum at 3:00pm for a program on film-title design.

We’re particularly excited about the special free program that the Tenement Museum is hosting next Saturday (December 5) at 1pm with I.NY, a virtual celebration of connection between Ireland and New York, featuring a tour of an Irish family’s home on the Lower East Side in 1860 and a discussion with the University of Limerick’s Professor David Coughlan.

Visit the Moore family home with the Tenement Museum and I.NY on December 5

Many more programs are on the schedule, so 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

Just a reminder that MoMA has just reinstalled its permanent collection in its new building. When the museum re-opened a year ago, the intent was to keep its collection moving, with refreshed galleries several times a year.  Be sure to visit and see what’s new!

 

The Man Who Revolutionized US Rock

Bonnie McLean poster for Fillmore Auditorium July 1967. Courtesy: Bahr Gallery

It’s a trip back to the birth of Sixties youth culture, guitar virtuosos, the Fillmore, and multimedia extravaganzas in the New-York Historical Society exhibition, Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution, on display through January 3.

The show, originally organized by LA’s Skirball Cultural Center, tells the story of the man who created the Fillmore, catapulted legendary bands to fame, grew concert audiences to stadium size, and gave back to society by organizing once-in-a-lifetime benefit concerts televised throughout the world.

Photos, show posters, videos, rock and soul music, and even a wall from the legendary Joshua Light Show bring the story of Bill Graham to life.

Bill Graham in 1968 Fillmore Auditorium office. Gene Anthony photo in Graham collection

Graham’s life was saved by Kindertransport during World War II – a dramatic story told inside the entry to the exhibition. He was adopted and grew up in the Bronx, moved to San Francisco, and had the right skills in the right place at the right time to bring bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Hendrix, and Big Brother and the Holding Company to a larger audience.

In preparing the exhibition, the curators did original research into Graham’s early life and pulled artifacts, paraphernalia, and stories related to each decade of his concert-promotion career – leasing the Fillmore Auditorium in a largely African-American neighborhood, creating events that interspersed rock-and-roll acts with poets and new-age philosophers, securing larger venues in the Bay Area, opening the Fillmore East in 1968 in New York inside a former Yiddish vaudeville house on Second Avenue.

Joshua Light Show backs 1968 Mothers of Invention at Fillmore East. Courtesy: Joshua White

The show has plenty of the Fillmore’s promotional posters, and pays tribute to the artists who created them, such as Wes Wilson and Graham’s wife, Bonnie McLean. The curators also provide a few side-by-side displays of the original ink drawings for the psychedelic broadsides with the full-color printed versions. See some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Despite the legendary status of the Graham’s two Fillmore stages, they only lasted until 1971. Although they were highly profitable, the writing was on the wall – the demand (particularly after Woodstock) to see the Stones, The Who, Santana, and other frenzy-inducing performers was too big to be satisfied inside the constraints of traditional theaters.

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Paige in 1977 and 1985 Metallica fans. Photos: Michael Zagaris and Ken Friedman

Through it all, Graham managed some stars, like Santana; created festivals featuring bands like Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, the Eagles in the Seventies; organized Dylan’s historic 1974 tour; and produced The Last Waltz for The Band’s farewell.

The exhibition lets visitors savor these memories and moments through behind-the-scenes stories about Bill’s relationships with the artists, who often said yes to Bill’s ideas because they knew he was a perfectionist who would deliver his promises, understood what made fans happy, and always saw the epic, historic perspective behind that moment in culture.

1986 Live Aid T-shirt with Ken Regan’s photo of US benefit stars. Graham and Regan collections

The exhibition puts special focus on Bill’s willingness to tackle the monumental challenges of producing nationally televised benefit concerts, such as Live Aid, and taking tours and bands to places in the world that had never seen super-sized rock events before – Moscow’s 1987 concert for peace and the 1988 five-continent tour for Amnesty International with Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, and Sting to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Watch the trailer for the show:

If you’re in NYC, go over to hear the music and see the show before it closes January 3.  If not, take this “Curator Confidential” walk through the exhibition with the people behind the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, who talk about the life of Bill Graham and the history they lived with him – a Zoom session produced by NYHS last August while the museum was still closed.