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

Meditate with the Rubin on Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Museum Updates

T Rex babies headed to Peoria after March 14

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

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

Alone with Allosaurus at AMNH on Thursday nights

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

The Met Asks What the Renaissance Thought It Was Worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CITIC Tower talk at the Skyscraper Museum

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

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

African Burial National Monument program at the Tenement Museum

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

NYBG’s edible archway

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

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

Icebergs now, but what happens if Greenland melts?

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

Rodchenko’s 1923 Russian airline poster at MoMA

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

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

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

Museum Updates

2020 painting by Henry Taylor at New Museum

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

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

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

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

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

Walking into the Countryside and its Future at The Guggenheim

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

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

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

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

1909 photo of three peasant women in Kirilov, Russia

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

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

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

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

1,000 Koolhaas questions about the countryside and society

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

View part of the exhibition in our Flickr album.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese service that lets city dwellers select apples from trees

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

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

Humanoid PALRO robot from Fujisoft in action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Museum Updates

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

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

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

Get to the Guggenheim by February 14!!

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

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Women with a Message, Pop Shop History, and Toxic Titan

Gloria Steinem and Julie Taymor at Asia Society on Monday

So many virtual NYC museum events are happening online this week – an opportunity to meet amazing women, bring organization to your life, attend a premiere at The Met, and get the inside story on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Check the daily listings on our virtual events page to for these events and details on many, many others.

Today (January 25), at 6:30pm, you can join an exciting event at Asia Society – a conversation with Gloria Steinem and director Julie Taymor, followed by a panel of visionary activists discussing how visionary women are serving as agents of change as people in our world grows more interdependent.

Tuesday talk at Japan House

Is it time to pare down? Purge stuff? Feel more organized? On Tuesday (January 26), at 6pm, join Japan House to hear Fumio Sasaki talk about how to live a more ordered, fulfilling life – all included as part of the theme of his new book, Habit-Making: A Minimalist’s Tips for a Better Life.

At 7pm, enjoy The Met will debut a music and film collaboration on the life of Armenian-American abstract painter Arshile Gorky, who immigrated with his family in the early 20th century and influenced a generation of abstract expressionists. Watch the digital premiere of They Will Take My Island.

Curious about why Manhattan has such a big park in the center of the island?

Wednesday history of Central Park (NYHS)

On Wednesday (January 27), at 3pm, hear the New-York Historical Society talk about the origins of Central Park. You’ll get to see what’s in the NYHS archive, view the plans for its design, see construction photos, and learn about the shocking removal of Seneca Village, a thriving African-American community.

At 6pm, you can learn about more recent history with the Brooklyn Museum. Amy Raffel will talk about her latest book on the legendary Keith Haring, how he created New York’s most popular memes, and what he sold in his famed downtown retail experiment, the Pop Shop.

Composite infrared image of Titan from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (University of Arizona/University of Idaho/NASA/JPL)

At 7pm, join planetary scientists at the Haden Planetarium at AMNH to examine Titan, Saturn’s large but toxic moon. Understand the questions scientists are trying to answer, and whether Earthlings have lessons to learn from their solar-system neighbor.

Love gardening?  Why is that? On Thursday (January 28), spend the morning at the New York Botanical Garden with UK psychiatrist-gardener Sue Stewart-Smith, who will share insights revealed in her book, The Well-Gardened Mind – how people’s minds and gardens interact.

Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden

Get a perspective that you’ve never had before from people you’ve never met – participants in a ground-breaking filmmaking workshop. At 6:30pm on Thursday night, go behind the scenes at MoMA P.S.1 to meet the organizers of the workshop and watch films made by imprisoned artists in “Pens to Pictures” – a media showcase that accompanies P.S. 1’s art exhibition, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration that critics at The New York Times said was one of 2020’s best.

At 8pm, join the New York Public Library to hear Amber Ruffin, one of the funniest women in late-night TV, and her sister Lacey Lamar compare notes on hilarious and harrowing experiences with racism in New York City and Nebraska – all drawn from their new bestseller, You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey

Yes, it’s serious, but it’s also really, really funny.  Amber’s first African-American woman to write for a late-night network show, and if you’ve seen her with Seth Myers, you know what we’re talking about. Don’t miss this!

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

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.

Virtual Visits with a Fashion Icon and Rock History

Poster Inspiration with Anna Sui at Poster House

There’s no fashion designer more rock-and-roll than Anna Sui, who will be (virtually) at Poster House tonight (October 19) to show posters from the Sixties and Seventies and explain how they’ve inspired her eye-popping, fun, funny, and magical runway looks.  Take a peek at our Flickr album of her retrospective this year at MAD Museum, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

Poster House, New York’s newest museum, has one of the best line-ups of virtual events in the City, so get in on this special “Poster Inspiration” event with Anna tonight at 6:30pm. Tickets are only $5, so chip in a few dollars extra to keep their programming rolling.  This week, Poster house is also hosting “Lippert & Lowry: Fireside Chats” on Instagram (October 21) and a virtual tour of their fantastic poster archive on October 22.

Anna Sui channels Sixties Fillmore psychedelic in her MAD Museum show this year

Continue the rock-and-roll vibe with Thursday’s morning virtual tour of “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” by the New-York Historical Society (October 22). Revisit the legendary Fillmore East and West. Find the links to this and so many other great museum events on our virtual events page here.  Here’s a few:

  • A double header on Agnes Pelton’s show at the Whitney: On October 20, curator Barbara Haskell will answer your questions live, and she’ll be back on October 22 with the panel that had been postponed, “Seeing Agnes Pelton.”
  • On October 20, makers are invited to a panel at the Cooper-Hewitt on to learn how to launch a design project, which is part of National Design Month.
  • On October 23, the Met will host artist Dred Scott speaking about Jacob Lawrence.
  • On October 24, horticulturalists can get an insider’s look at the medieval gardens as the Fall season begins at the Met Cloisters.

    Gardens at the Met Cloisters

There are also more chances to catch the Morgan Library’s virtual tour of the Hockney show, a full line-up of paranormal goings on at the Merchant’s House Museum, and more tours at the Tenement Museum. Take a look and register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

Most events are free, but an extra thank-you donation helps everyone, big and small.

Reopening Update

Just a reminder to fashion fans that the Met will soon open its much-delayed fashion extravaganza, which should have debuted the first Monday in May.  It’s coming and we’ll keep you posted about a virtual event the Met has planned to give everyone a preview.

Agnes Pelton’s Meditation Chamber at The Whitney

Agnes Pelton’s 1929 Star Gazer, suggesting rebirth in a desert landscape. Private collection.

Have you wanted to enter a light-filled, spiritual place and be transported to another realm? Get a ticket to the Whitney Museum of American Art enter the Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, on view through November 1.

You’ll experience six decades of abstract paintings whose shapes fly, hover, and float above desert mountains and in deep space – another dimension that feels light, otherworldly, and pure. Take a look at our Flickr album.

She began developing her style in the early years of the 20th century when abstraction, the symbolic meaning of color, and spiritualism were being explored in the New York art world, and she took to heart what she read in Kandinsky’s influential 1910 treatise, On the Spiritual in Art.

1926 Meadowlark’s Song, Winter. Courtesy: Maurine St. Gaudens.

The exhibition opens with a figurative work in the style for which Agnes was first known to the New York art scene –  an ethereal artistic woman inhabiting a dreamy, semi-abstract, soft-colored landscape. Her work earned her inclusion in New York’s landmark 1913 Armory Show – the exhibition that introduced “modernism” to America – in Gallery D alongside other young American artists experimenting with bold color and abstraction.

But the Whitney exhibition (originally mounted by the Phoenix Art Museum) is actually focused on the next phase of Alice’s abstract work, which reflects her embrace of spiritualism, experience with New Mexico’s desert landscapes, and interaction with creative, like-minded thinkers in and around Taos in the Twenties. Although she often accepted commissions for portraits or landscapes throughout her life, she considered the abstract works the core of her artistic journey.

1934 Orbits. Courtesy: Oakland Museum.

Like her contemporary, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes found inspiration in the Southwest desert. However, Agnes had a different artistic approach, using color, natural form, and abstract shapes to lead viewers into another realm of consciousness that exists beyond the natural world.

Agnes’s journals and notebooks are filled with lessons from spiritual teachers and with sketches for paintings with notes on what the different forms and colors mean.

Visitors to the Whitney show move slowly, taking time to digest each canvas and to appreciate the artist’s care and thought. Swooping shapes, illuminated portals, and clusters of abstracted forms take center stage, posing questions, and leading you into another dimension.

1947 Light Center, evoking one’s ability to transform. Private collection.

The center gallery features work done after Agnes moved to her desert home near Palm Springs in the Thirties, where she was transfixed by the quality of desert light.  She loved incorporating water and light into her works – two natural phenomenon that symbolize transformation and change.

The dark walls of the center gallery enhance the glowing nature of her spiritual canvases. Her technique is masterful, with layers of translucent washes applied to give the white ovals nearly a three-dimensional feel, like looking into the void of an Anish Kapoor sculpture, except that Agnes achieves the effect with simply a canvas.

Here’s a talk recorded last year at the Phoenix Art Museum in which Notre Dame professor Erika Doss explains Agnes Pelton’s spirituality and puts her work in the context of the modernist movement:

Reopening News

 The Whitney has just announced that the large outdoor public project on the Hudson waterfront by David Hammons will open this fall.  The other big announcement is that a one-year Biennial postponement will give artists and curators more time to view and prepare work that was put on hold by the shutdown. Read more about upcoming shows here.

At 7:00pm on October 20, Whitney curator Barbara Haskell will take your questions about Agnes in an online “Ask a Curator” event. Check our Virtual Museum Event page for all of the museum’s nearly daily virtual tours, talks, and walks on this and other exhibitions.

If you’re in New York, you can visit the Whitney five days each week, Thursday through Monday, with extended hours every Friday until 9:00pm. All exhibition spaces are open, including the magnificent collection show, which features mini-shows by Jacob Lawrence, Hopper, and Calder. Here’s our previous post about this fantastic exhibition.

Building a Retail Empire on Wearable Art

Vera’s 1950 silk “Fish Scroll” scarf, featured on the cover Harper’s

So many of the great female entrepreneurial success stories begin at the kitchen table, and the story currently being told by the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann, on view through January 26, is no exception.

Fashionistas today may be too young to remember when the American height of chic was to sport a scarf by Vera. Back in the Sixties and Seventies, Vera pretty much had a lock on the retail market for bold, colorful silk scarves through major department-store behemoths.

The exhibition is a tribute to a woman who took her love of painting, travel, nature, and culture to the wardrobe and accessory drawers of all fashionable American households, and ended up partnering with many top manufacturers to push her aesthetic and flare into mid-century modern homes.

Vera’s silk scarves, based upon watercolors, hung as art at MAD

Although her name is not well known by young people today, MAD’s exhibition is a fitting tribute to a woman who virtually invented the concept of “lifestyle” brand. It’s hard to believe that an aspiring artist born in Connecticut in 1907 would grow up and develop her company to pack such a punch in retail.

A graduate of Cooper Union and Traphagen in the 1920s, during the Depression, Vera and her husband set up a silkscreen on their little Manhattan kitchen table and began printing her paintings on surplus parachute silk. Within a few years, her beautiful silks were being retailed at B. Altman, Lord & Taylor, and other nice shops in the city. Her joyous prints were a success!

Vera’s 1960-1965 silk blouses with paintings of blue poppies and woodland images

Building her business through the war years, Vera took her first foray into fashion in the 1950s, creating tops and blouses that she came to market as “wearable art.” Rather than simply printing yards of repeating patterns, she went a step further – engineering prints in panels, so when pattern cutters and sewers assembled her shirts, her beautiful patters would strategically appear in the final product, enhancing cuffs, collars, edges, and hems.

Of course, everything was priced for the widest possible market, so a woman seeking a bit of fashion flair could buy a Vera without blowing her budget. She followed the art-plus-commerce philosophy – a Bauhaus innovation – and maximized accessibility of mid-century modern design by expanding into home textiles, tabletop accessories, and dishes.

1979 “The Birches” china dining set for Mikasa with matching tablecloth

As her business grew, Vera came to rely upon the next generation (Perry Ellis got his start with her) to keep the design development chugging along while she traveled to Asia and other parts of the world to feed the constant demand for new inspiration for her collections.

MAD has assembled a beautiful, loving exhibition of Vera’s output, showing how her original watercolor work made its way into her commercial ventures – scarves, clothes, and home décor. Perhaps most remarkable is that this powerhouse kept traveling, painting, and channeling joy into her textiles well into her eighties – an inspirational lesson in love of life, art, craft, and culture.

1971 “Northwest Coast” silk scarf

Thank you, Vera! Long may your prints wave!

And thank you to MAD for sharing Vera’s lifetime of creations and inspiring story!

See more photos of this wonderful exhibition in our Flickr album.