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.

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.

Anarchist Revolutionizes Modern Art at MoMA

1890 pointillist portrait of Fénéon by Paul Signac

He wasn’t an artist, but MoMA has given him a show that has everything – joyous post-Impressionist canvases, Moulin Rouge posters, color wheels, African masterworks, Italian futurists, street riots, manifestos, explosions, and mug shots. 

Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde – From Signac to Matisse and Beyond, an exhibition on view through January 2, will introduce you to a writer, critic, anarchist, and dealer living in turn-of-the-century Paris who championed Seurat, gave Matisse his start, coined the term neo-Impressionism, and went to jail for a few months after he was accused of setting off a bomb in a restaurant frequented by government big shots.

1891 painting by Paul Signac, Setting Sun, Sardine Fishing, Adagio, Opus 221

This gorgeous show was inspired by Signac’s pointillist portrait of Fénéon, which features swirling color wheels referencing their shared passion for Japanese design, pattern, and the science behind art. Books and ephemera by influential color theorists are displayed nearby, but it’s hard to keep your attention there when paintings by so many modernist masters are vying for your attention around every turn.

1894 Bonnard poster for the avant-garde journal Fénéon edited

Fénéon used his critical bullhorn to turn many artists into household names. Think Seurat and Signac, two of Fénéon’s early favorites. The first gallery is full of their beautiful seascapes and figurative work. Read the curator’s essay about the artists he promoted, and see our favorites in our Flickr album.

The curators let us know that these peaceful images and exuberant dance-hall posters were made at a time of serious social unrest and profound economic hardship for working-class Parisians by interspersing Fénéon politics-charged writings and socially conscious works by Vallottin and Pissarro.  Disruptive protests, nightlife, zines, and art all went hand-in-hand during the 1890s.

1905-1906 painting by Matisse Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)

Fénéon spent several years as the editor-in-chief of a leading avant-garde journal, orchestrating contributors such as Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vallotton, and collecting their work along the way.  So, it came as quite a shock to everyone when the independent critic announced that he was taking a full-time job with a prestigious but conservative gallery in Paris.

Entering the second gallery of the exhibition, you see immediately how Fénéon used his notoriety and avant-garde chops to build up a contemporary art business and lure old-line clients into taking a chance on something new and modern.  He signed contracts with artists he had long championed, and gave an up-and-comer named Henri Matisse his first show in 1910.

Late 19th-c mask by a Guro artist from Cote d’Ivoire with 1920 Bonnard. Private collection; Musee d’Orsay.

It’s exciting to see a room full Matisse’s early work (including three that were in that initial show) and work by other artists that Fénéon both collected and sold, including a wall full of ethereal Seurat drawings.

Like many others in the avant-garde, Fénéon was a passionate collector of art from Africa and Oceana, and it’s thrilling to see so much of his original collection – now scattered throughout the world – reassembled inside MoMA.

Fénéon hated colonialism and railed against calling this portion of his collection “primitive art.” He lamented that the names of the artists who created such dynamic, inventive work were unknown and disliked having such evocative pieces relegated to ethnographic museums. 

19th-c cap by Tin Dama artist from Papua New Guinea (Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac) and Balla’s 1910-1911 futurist work.

He hoped that one day “art from faraway places” could take its place in the art pantheon right up there with works in the Louvre.

It’s satisfying to examine dramatic, powerful sculptures and masks from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Democratic Republic of the Congo against the backdrop of Modigliani, Matisse, and Italian Futurist paintings.

The worlds of ancient mythic power, modernism, and emotive color seem to be spending their time at MoMA having an active conversation – just the way Fénéon would have wanted.

Enjoy MoMA’s fast-pace introduction to this revolutionary modernist:

And now meet MoMA director Glenn Lowry and Starr Figura, curator of the exhibition, who show works from the exhibition and discuss why they mounted this show:

If you can’t get to MoMA, listen to the audio guide here, and enjoy the “colors”  playlist that MoMA designed.

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.

Weekly NYC Virtual Museum Events on What Came Before

Recreation of Manhatta by the Welikea Project, presenting virtually with NYPL

On Tuesday November 10, New York museums and cultural institutions have packed the digital schedule with events that look to the past to inform our understanding of nature, the history of fake news, and the sometimes-forgotten participants in Veteran’s Day – the millions of WWII home-front workers:

At 1pm, the New York Public Library hosts a session with the ground-breaking Welikia Project, which recreates ecosystems that existed in New York City before Henry Hudson sailed into the harbor 400 years ago. The program will explain how the city’s current built environment syncs with the marshes, ponds, rivers, and hills that the Lenape knew so well.

“A Warning to Libellers”, an 1804 broadside attacking vice-president Burr. Collection: NYPL

At 6pm, the New-York Historical Society is taking the long look at the relationships between presidents and the press, going back to the time of the Founding Fathers, investigating how their surrogates spread fake news, and comparing then and now.

At 6pm, the Brooklyn Historical Society will take you behind the gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard to present the stories and voices of everyday New Yorkers who kept up the riveting, launching, and maintenance of the Atlantic fleet during WWII.

1942 Brooklyn Navy Yard worker. Collection: Brooklyn Historical Society

Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Poster House is having all sorts of virtual get-togethers this week centered around its Chinese and Swiss poster shows, so look through our list. On other days of the week:

  • On Wednesday November 11 at 7:00pm, the Museum of the City of New York explores the history of celebrations in the city – parades, marches, and spontaneous outpourings of emotion on the streets.
  • On Thursday November 12, the Museum at FIT presents a conversation on sustainability in fashion at 6pm, and the International Center of Photography will present the five young photographers it commissioned to make work in response to the COVID crisis at 7pm.

    David Hockney, Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003. © David Hockney. Photography by Richard Schmidt. Courtesy: The Morgan

  • On Friday at 3pm, there’s another chance to go on a virtual tour of the Morgan Library’s David Hockney portrait show.

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

Last week, we dropped into the Metropolitan Museum to see if we could take a quick peek at the “rediscovered” painting in the Jacob Lawrence American Struggle series, but that didn’t happen, since the lines through the 20th-century wing stretched all the way back to the Rockefeller Wing. Anyone needing to get their Lawrence fix can see his historic Migration series on MoMA’s Fifth floor, and his WWII War Series in its own gallery at The Whitney.

Donald Judd installation at MoMA

Anyone needing to chill out in a clean, white space can have the Donald Judd show at MoMA all to themselves weekdays (MoMA is open 7 days a week).  We swung by last Thursday and found a peaceful garden, empty Matisse Swimming Pool room, and acres of space around Persistence of Memory. Get there now!

If you missed the Museum at FIT conversation last week on Native America Fashion with designer Korina Emmerich and Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson, who currently has a three-gallery exhibition in Brooklyn, the conversation is now posted here on the museum’s YouTube channel.

Selfies for the 99%

1800 black-ink portrait of Alexander Hamilton painted by itinerant silhouettist William Bache

Before cameras or iPhones were invented, Americans yearned for a cheap, quick way to record an image of themselves.  Enter the 18th-century physiognotrace invention and masterful cutter, who could produce a likeness in just a few seconds with a flick of the scissors.

It’s the story told by the New-York Historical Society in its exhibition, In Profile: A Look at Silhouettes, on display through November 29.

Drawn from the NYHS collection, the show tells the story of how the mania for classical images (think Greek urns) morphed into a democratic art form practiced by itinerant artists, French Revolution expats, showy raconteurs, and everyday people in the early part of the 18th century.

510-510 B.C. Greek amphora – a classical inspiration for 18th c. artists in a new democracy.

Silhouettes were cheaper than having your portrait painted, so nearly everyone could afford to have one.  In the beginning, 18th-century painters painted black-on-white silhouettes, but later moved toward cutting profiles into white paper and backing the cut-out with black paper. The show’s first gallery presents a who’s who of early America – Alexander Hamilton, Colonel Henry Luddington on horseback (who helped create General Washington’s “secret service”), and memorials of the General himself.

But a close read of the label copy reveals a greater surprise – the artists creating the images, including Robert Fulton (later inventor of the steamship) and Major John André, the popular party-circuit man-about-town in British-occupied New York and Philadelphia who was famously hanged as a spy by the Continentals.

1795 painted portrait by French expats Valdenuit and Saint-Mémin, pioneers in using the physiognotrace

The emphasis here is on inexpensive, everyday art for the 18th and 19th-century home. A contraption invented in France by a court musician, and brought to America by two noblemen-engineers fleeing the revolution in their home country, captivated the attention of the newly democratized land.

The physiognotrace machine illuminated the shadow of a sitter’s profile on a wall. Using a pantograph, the artist could quickly scale down the life-size image, trace it, and deftly cut four silhouettes at once from folded paper.  What a performance!

Famed portraitist, naturalist, and museum-creator Charles Wilson Peale, whose natural history museum was located on the second floor of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, just had to have it.  From 1802 on, crowds flocked to the museum, paid 25 cents admission, and created their own selfies amidst the mammoth skeleton, minerals, wax figures, Indian artifacts, and fossils on display.

1802-1815 album from the Peale Museum

Mr. Peale charged one penny for the paper, and if you wanted a professionally cut small silhouette, you paid an additional 6 cents to Moses Williams, one of Peale’s sons, or a visiting silhouette virtuoso. Museum visitors would gather to watch the show and marvel at the furiously fast likenesses. In his first year, Willliams cut about 8,000 silhouettes, providing a really decent income for the former slave.

1824 portrait by famed freehand scissors artist William James Hubard

Since four images were made at each 6-cent sitting, the Peale Museum often asked to keep one of the duplicates. A full album of these is displayed in the second gallery, with names, dates, and likenesses of what could be called America’s first selfies.

Before photography’s invention in the 1840s, silhouettes were considered the way to go for inexpensive likenesses, and several cutting virtuosos received national acclaim, commissions, and fame.

Master Hubard, a renowned child-artist prodigy, built a highly successful gallery business cutting silhouettes and painting portraits, and William Bache, who roamed from Maine to New Orleans, offering a sliding scale of options to patrons from the most basic silhouette portrait to embellished works in gilded frames.

1841 Édouart portrait of congressman Millard Fillmore, later the US president

NYHS devotes an entire gallery to the master silhouettist of all time,  Augustin Édouart, who specialized in cutting full-length silhouette portraits freehand. His artworks placed the figures into painted settings, and the most spectacular works depicted rooms in the grand salons of America, populated with up to a dozen figures, including visiting celebrities.

The illusions and details were celebrated by art critics and the public, and ranked on a par with the most skillful portrait painters of his day. Unfortunately, just as he was concluding his US tour, photography was catching the public’s eye and the mania for black-and-white likenesses began to fade.

1870 machine-cut silhouette created for tourists flocking to Saratoga Springs

The exhibition concludes with a nod to the last wave of silhouette-making in America ­– a revival of interest in European folk-art paper cutting, the introduction of inexpensive black-on-white machine-cut silhouettes for the tourist trade, and work by contemporary artists who use silhouettes.

Enjoy looking through our Flickr album to see some of our favorites, including the epic wall-sized silhouettes of the five NYC boroughs cut by Béatrice Coron.

1870 machine-cut silhouette created for tourists flocking to Saratoga Springs

NYHS is to be congratulated on this fun, revealing presentation of this forgotten art form in the context of country’s growth into a vibrant democracy – likenesses of everyday people that could be had by anyone with either a penny or 25 cents to spare.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events in Music, Fashion, Science, and Dance

Ed Ruscha’s “Our Flag” in Brooklyn Museum. Photo: Jonathan Dorado

Since it’s been serving as one of New York City’s early-voting site, the Brooklyn Museum is kicking the week off (today at noon) with a lively conversation on the role art plays in a democracy with artist Ed Ruscha, music entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine, and music producer/art collector Swizz Beatz.

Find the link on our events page.

On Thursday, Brooklyn follows up with another live power panel to wrap up the final week of its Studio 54 exhibition.

2019 Norma Kamali ensemble in Studio 54 at Brooklyn Museum

At 6pm, meet its creator, Ian Schrager, to look back with fashion innovator/icon Norma Kamali on the music, style, theatrics, and people that made the club an international sensation.

Also on Thursday, the Museum at FIT will host a conversation on Native America Fashion with designer Korina Emmerich and Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson, who currently has a three-gallery exhibition in Brooklyn. Although FIT pre-recorded this panel, YouTube viewers will be able to participate in the live Q&A.

Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Some serious science, history, and discussions are also happening:

2018 “Tribes File Suit to Protect Bears Ears” by artist Jeffrey Gibson at Brooklyn Museum

  • On Wednesday (November 4) at 7:00pm, the American Museum of Natural History hosts its popular monthly SciCafe. This month, a geophysicist will explain what happened when a comet hit the Earth 65 million years ago, weigh in on Cretaceous extinction theories, and explain how life recovers after a ground-zero impact.
  • At 8:00pm, the Tenement Museum will host a program explaining how Lower East Side immigrants dealt with the 1918 flu pandemic.
  • To round out the week on Friday (November 7) at 5:00pm, the Rubin Museum is co-hosting an online Himalayan heritage event in honor of Diwali, the Festival of Lights. At 7:30pm, the Guggenheim team will host a rough-cut viewing of some of the dance projects commissioned and developed during the pandemic in its Works & Process series.

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

Entrance to Making the Met exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you missed, the Met’s event last week that previewed its current exhibitions and live events, the YouTube is available here, featuring short tours of Making the Met and About Time: Fashion and Duration.

This week at the Met, there were long lines of people waiting to get into the Jacob Lawrence exhibition on the last day and into the new fashion exhibition in its first week.

Screenshot of The Queen and the Crown online exhibition on the Brooklyn Museum website

If you don’t want to wait in line to see fashion, check out the Brooklyn Museum’s new on-line exhibition – The Queen and The Crown: A Virtual Exhibition of Costumes from “The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Crown”. Take a look at the way you can walk through Brooklyn Museum’s gallery and take a 360-degree view at each of the costumes. It’s really a lot of fun!

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.

Jacob Lawrence’s Modern Lens on American History

The Battle of Bennington, painted in 1954 – …again the rebels rushed furiously on our men. – a Hessian soldier

Nearly 65 years ago, a young WWII veteran immersed himself in history books up in Harlem and envisioned a modern way to bring key episodes of early American history to life on canvas.  Today, visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art are pouring over his 60-panel series – reassembled for the first time in decades – in the remarkable exhibition, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, on view through November 1.

Known for his enormous body of work chronicling the African-American experience, Lawrence’s American history series is largely unknown. That’s why attending the show and working your way around the room to learn about each episode is such a revelation.  Which episodes did he pick? How did he use modern, angular style to depict the struggle for independence and economic progress?

Sacagawea and her brother reunite

His series “Struggle: From the History of the American People” brings forgotten pieces of history to life and depicts many from a new angle – Patrick Henry’s rousing revolutionary rhetoric, regional skirmishes against mercenaries, the enlisted man’s view of the perilous Delaware River crossing, and treasonous whispers that risked undermining the Continentals.

Inspired by the Mexican muralists, WPA storytellers, and the city around him, Lawrence chose dynamic composition, symbolic colors, and an everyday person’s experience of historic events to create an intriguing, historic, and emotional narrative. Take a look at some of our favorites in the exhibition on Flickr.

1940s American history book opened to map of Lewis & Clark’s 1804-1806 expedition

Inside the gallery, the Met presents two of the books that Lawrence consulted as he planned the series as well as his funding proposal to produce a much more expansive work from the American Revolution through World War I. The notes on display show that Lawrence had the parts of history that could tell the full American story all thought out. Unfortunately, the series wasn’t funded.

The panels on view are hung in the order they were presented at Charles Allan’s gallery in 1956-1957, beginning with the lead-up to the American Revolution. Lawrence tells the story his way through conflicts, close-ups, and long shots, working in stories of Black combatants and women, like Margaret Corbin who manned the guns at Fort Washington.

1956 painting of the Battle of Lake Erie – if we fall, let us fall like men, and expire together in one common struggle – Henry Clay, 1813

Many of the events he depicts from the early 1800s have largely been forgotten –impressment of sailors by the British, the Battle of Lake Erie, and the destruction of Washington D.C., and the Battle of New Orleans. The series ends with epic undertakings by everyday Americans – the building of the Erie Canal and the westward migration to the Ohio and beyond. It makes you want to learn more.

If you are in New York, be sure to see this important show in person; otherwise, take a look through this series in the Met’s website. Click on each image to read the backstory of Lawrence’s take on that slice of American history and the quotes he selected for each work. Go on a visual journey with an American modernist master here.

Listen in to this recent program produced by the Met in association with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – the same library where Lawrence did his research in the 1950s.

Listen as the Schomburg’s director Kevin Young, arts curator Tami Lawson, and the Getty’s associate curator LeRonn P. Brooks discuss Jacob Lawrence, his scholarship, the WPA, Harlem, and the milieu from which his art emerged. Hear how a genius was made:

Other major works by Jacob Lawrence are on view at the Whitney Museum – he is a featured New York artist in Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art and his War Series, created after he returned from serving in the Coast Guard in World War II, has its own special gallery inside the collections show on the seventh floor.