While many cities in the world are bigger, older, grander and more populated than New York City, none really showcase art quite the way that the Big Apple does. I’m never disappointed when I travel there. I always see an exhibit, a show, some street art or something to ponder, enjoy and savor.
The art can be innovative and shocking or classic and comforting. It’s inspired, weird and sometimes nurturing. A recent trip was no exception.
The Steins Collect at the Metropolitan is right at the top of my list for pure enjoyment.
Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael and Michael’s wife Sarah were important patrons of Modern Art in Paris during the first decades of the 20th century.
The exhibit contains two hundred works of art, demonstrating this dynamic family of collector’s “eye” for the new and avant- garde like Matisse, Picasso and Cezanne. It also highlights the role they played by hosting the legendary Saturday Salons where they introduced this forward thinking art to visitors in Paris.
The exhibition goes way beyond the traditional “pictures hanging on a wall” of most art shows. It takes the viewer into the lives of this fascinating family, their tastes, their finances and their squabbles. Colorful tidbits tantalize and give life to the show. Even drawings of the Le Corbusier house that Michael and Sarah had built outside of Paris is documented, showing their predilection for forward thinking aesthetics.
I loved the peek into the life of American expats in Paris in early twentieth century—a time that fascinates me. This show brings together the art and the lifestyle is an absolutely charming way. Worth popping into if you happen to be in New York before it closes on June 3.
My favorite Gertrude Stein quote: “American is my country, and Paris is my home town.”
And then there’s Cindy Sherman.
I went to the Cindy Sherman exhibit at MOMA because I thought I “should.” After all, she’s a photographer and I’m enthralled with photography. She’s alive and considered one of the most influential and important contemporary artists today. So, like, I should go, right?
Wow. I’m glad I did. I hung around the exhibit almost two hours, going back and looking at it twice. Why? One time I went through to look at the images, often hard to understand and needing interpretation. On the second run though, I focused on the changes in photography–from the small black and white stills to the huge Photo Shopped murals at the end. It’s a history of modern photo technology right in the sixth floor MOMA exhibit rooms.
The exhibit brings together of more than 170 of Sherman’s photographs and introduces her murals. Tracing her career–an exploration of personal identity and use of costume, make up and photography techniques–it is fascinating.
The question comes to mind: Will the real Cindy Sherman please stand up? All of the images in the show are of Cindy. Dressed as society ladies, clowns, Holllywood actresses, historical figures and in fashion shoots. Man, it is mind boggling.
And her statement about photography sure fits. She says, “I think people are more apt to believe photographs, especially if it is something fantastic. They are willing to be more gullible. Some times they want fantasy. Even if they know it is fake they can believe in anything.”
I hope this show travels around the country so more people can see it.
I popped into two other shows worth mentioning. Weegee Murder is my Business at the Center for International Photography and Shelley’s Ghost at the Library. Amazing contrast. Weegee, the street tabloid photographer of the 30’s who captured the seamier side of city life, contrasts with the gentle and romantic poetry of Percy Shelley and the work of his wife, Mary.
“Murders,” Weegee claimed, “were the easiest to photograph because the subjects never moved or were temperamental.” Hmmmm, on that note I’ll sign off.
As I said, New York is the place to see a vast array of art, without really trying, really.