Thursday, April 08, 2010

NYC Museums: Openings & Closings Spring 2010

If I'd known they'd line up just to see him,
I'd taken all my money and bought me a museum.
--Steve Martin, King Tut

This spring marks the return of the boy king, Tutankhamun, to New York -- or, more accurately, the return of artifacts from King Tut's tomb. The new exhibit, "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," opens at the Discovery Times Square Exposition on April 23, following runs in Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities.

King Tut doesn't seem to have ignited the same cultural hoopla as on his first U.S. visit, from 1976 to 1979, when "Treasures of Tutankhamun" toured the country. That exhibit, which inspired Steve Martin's parody, drew 8 million people, breaking attendance records for a traveling exhibit. (In New York alone, 1.2 million people stood on long lines at the Met to see the show, according to The New York Times). So far the new U.S. touring exhibit has attracted 4 million visitors and has generated positive reviews.

The Met passed on hosting the new Tut exhibit here due to its policy of not charging a separate admission fee for special exhibits; however, it opened a complementary exhibit, "Tutankhamun’s Funeral," on March 16 that features about 60 objects used for Tut's mummification and burial. Most of these artifacts are from the Met's permanent collection and were instrumental to the 1922 discovery of King Tut's tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter. (For the full story, see the Met's exhibit Web page.) The exhibit runs through September 6.

But King Tut, who will end his New York (and U.S.) run on January 2, 2011, is hardly the only show in town this spring. Exhibits at the Guggenheim and the International Center of Photography provide perspective on artists in Paris in the early 20th century, while the Museum of the City of New York's "Only in New York" collection of photographs from LOOK magazine brings to life our hometown in the mid-century. The upcoming Henri Cartier-Bresson retrospective at MoMa offers an in-depth look at the entire 20th century, while a triennial and a biennial spotlight emerging art and design in the 21st century. If that's not enough time travel, visit with the Victorians in an exhibit that elevates the craft of scrapbooking to fine art. And you have just a little over two weeks to squeeze into MoMA's "Tim Burton" show. Here's a sampling of exhibits opening and closing in New York between now and June 1.

Navigation Tip: The exhibition title links directly to the exhibit Web site; the museum name links to the home page of the institution's Web site. All links will open in a new window or tab.


Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century
Opening: April 11 (members preview on now)

The first retrospective of the iconic photographer's work since his death in 2004, MoMA's exhibit will feature about 300 photographs spanning Cartier-Bresson's entire career. His early work "helped define the creative potential of modern photography," notes the exhibit's Web page, and his "uncanny ability to capture life on the run" has influenced photojournalism ever since, crystallizing the idea of "the decisive moment." It's fitting that MoMA should host this retrospective as it was the site, in 1947, of Cartier-Bresson's first major exhibit. The show, which runs through June 28, should be universally appealing given that "the vast majority of his photographs describe things that happen every day, for his essential subject was society and culture — civilization."

Museum of Modern Art: 11 West 53rd St. (between Fifth & Sixth Aves.); 212-708-9400.
Hours: Mon., Weds.-Thurs., Sat.-Sun.: 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Fri.: 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Tues.: Closed; MoMA is open until 8:45 p.m. on select nights in April -- check the Web site for details.
Admission: Adults: $20; Seniors (65 & over): $16; Students: $12; Children (16 & under) & members: Free; Guests of members: $5.

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs
Opening: April 23

Most of the 130 objects featured in the exhibit had never been seen outside of Egypt before the current tour started and were not included in the 1970 tour, according to the exhibit's organizers. Advance ticket sales started on March 23; you can buy tickets for a specific date and entry time at the exhibit Web site. A slideshow preview of the exhibit is available on The New York Times' Web site.

Discovery Times Square Exposition: 226 West 44th St. (betw. Broadway & Eighth Ave.); 866-987-9692.
Hours: Sun.-Thurs.: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. (last ticket sold at 6:30 p.m.); Fri.-Sat.: 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. (last ticket sold at 7:30 p.m.)
Admission: Adults: $27.50; Seniors (65+): $25.50; Children (4-12): $17.50; Children under 4: Free; A "Golden Ticket" promotional admission including the exhibit, Mummies 3D film and audio guide tour is available for $37 Mon.-Thurs. and $40.50 Fri.-Sun. (must be ordered in advance).

National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?
Opening: May 14

Cooper-Hewitt's fourth Triennial -- the series launched in 2000 to spotlight "the most innovative designs at the center of contemporary culture" -- features works by designers exploring human and environmental problems across architecture, landscapes, fashion, graphics and new media. All of the featured projects were created between 2006 and 2009.

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum:
2 East 91st St. (@ Fifth Ave.); 212-849-8400.
Hours: Mon.-Fri.: 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Sat.: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Sun.: 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Admission: Adults: $10; Students & seniors: $5; Children under 12 & members: Free; The museum is offering free admission through April 23.


Only in New York: Photographs from LOOK Magazine
Closing: April 18

On view since November, this collection of photographs from the pages of LOOK magazine chronicles New York from the mid-1940s through the early 1960s, a time when, notes the exhibit Web site, "New York was both a newly emergent international capital of world-class museums and glamorous nightclubs as well as a hometown for millions who rode its subways and thrilled to its baseball teams." Extract "newly emergent" from that observation, and you have an apt description of New York for the ages.

Museum of the City of New York: 1220 Fifth Ave. (@ 103rd St.); 212-534-1672.
Hours: Tues.-Sun.: 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Mon.: Closed (except holidays).
Admission: Adults: $10; Seniors & students: $6; Families: $20 (max. 2 adults); Children (12 & under) & members: Free; If you live or work in East Harlem above 103rd St., mention "I'm a neighbor" for free admission.

Tim Burton
Closing: April 26

Pulling together more than 700 works from the filmmaker's personal archives, including drawings, paintings, photographs, moving image works, concept art, storyboards, puppets, maquettes, costumes and cinematic ephemera, this exhibit has possibly gotten more hype than King Tut. The New York Times reported that as of mid-March, the show, which opened in November, had already had 450,000 visitors, despite lackluster reviews. Times art critic Ken Johnson called it "a let down" and "monotonous," and Ben Walters, writing for The Guardian's film blog, noted, "The peculiar thing about [the show] ... is how little effort its curators have made to glance backward or sideways to place Burton's work within a broader context."

Burton fans, however, writing on the "real-people-real-reviews" Web site, called the show "DEFINITELY worth seeing," "exquisite" and "AAHHMAAZINGGG!" (They also consistently complained about the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.) Only a limited number of tickets are available at the door; buy them in advance for a specific date and entry time.

Museum of Modern Art: 11 West 53rd St. (betw. Fifth & Sixth Aves.); 212-708-9400.
Hours: Mon., Weds.-Thurs., Sat.-Sun.: 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Fri.: 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Tues.: Closed; MoMA is open until 8:45 p.m. on select nights in April -- check the Web site for details.
Admission: Adults: $20; Seniors (65 & over): $16; Students: $12; Children (16 & under) & members: Free; Guests of members: $5.

Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage
Closing: May 9

The 48 photographic collages from the 1860s and 1870s in this quirky exhibit represent a trend among educated, aristocratic Victorian women that might be equated with today's "scrapbooking." Mixing photographs with watercolors (and without the help of Photoshop), the results are "whimsical and fantastical, combining human heads and animal bodies, placing people into imaginary landscapes, and morphing faces into common household objects," notes the exhibit Web site.

What makes this significant is that photocollage is generally considered one of the beacons of modernism, but these gals were creating their collages some 50 years or so before Cubism. The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote of the exhibit, "It suggests that women’s art history (a phrase I’m not entirely comfortable with, but never mind) is still only just beginning to be examined and understood."

Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1000 Fifth Ave. (@ 82nd St.); 212-535-7710.
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. & Sun.: 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 9:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m.; Mon.: Closed (except holidays).
Admission: Adults, $20; Seniors (65+), $15; Students, $10; Children (under 12) & members: Free; Students who attend New York City Public Schools & selected local colleges and universities: Free (with student ID).

Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris
Closing: May 9

This collection of 150 images, films, books, magazines and Surrealist ephemera cuts two ways, illustrating perceptions of Paris in the 1920s and '30s as well as surveying early Surrealism. Writing in The New York Times, art critic Ken Johnson noted that the photographers represented (such as Jacques-André Boiffard, Brassaï, Ilse Bing, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, Dora Maar and Man Ray) "were as preoccupied with what was being lost as with what might be gained by modernization." Nearly 100 years later, I find myself in a similar state of mind.

While the images no longer shock today as they did in the early 20th century, Johnson writes that the show is nonetheless "absorbing" for the way the images "set up poetic contrasts between the new and the old." He added: "Most straight photography registers an instant on the razor-fine edge between the past and the future, but in Surrealism that moment is more metaphorically loaded. The 'twilight' of the exhibition’s title has as much to do with the mistier regions of consciousness as with the borderlands of real-world time and space."

Tell your teen or tween that you're going to a Twilight exhibit and then introduce them to something truly surreal.

International Center of Photography (ICP): 1133 Sixth Ave. (@ 43rd St.); 212-857-0000.
Hours: Tues.-Thurs., Sat.-Sun.: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Fri.: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Mon.: Closed.
Admission: Adults, $12; Seniors & students, $8; Children under 12 and members: Free;
Admission is pay-what-you-wish Fridays, 5:00-8:00 p.m.

Paris and the Avant-Garde: Modern Masters from the Guggenheim Collection
Closing: May 12

The 30-odd paintings and sculptures on view here provide another look at the Paris art scene in the early 20th century, when artists "united in their defiance of academicism" converged in the cultural capitol. Curated from the Guggenheim's permanent collection, it features works by Chagall, Picaso, Miro, Brancusi, Calder and others.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: 1071 Fifth Ave. (@ 89th St.
Hours: Sun.-Weds., Fri.: 10:00 a.m.-5:45 p.m.; Sat.: 10:00 a.m.-7:45 p.m.; Thurs.: Closed.
Admission: Adults $18; Students & seniors (65 & over): $15; Children under 12 & members: Free.

The Whitney 2010 Biennial
Closing: May 30

The Biennial is the show that New Yorkers love to hate, but the pared down, themeless 75th installment has actually gotten fairly good reviews. The New York Times art critic Holland Cotter wrote that it's "a solid and considered product," adding, "The show has dead spots, mainly where it reflects the retrenched art-about-art spirit of the day. But it also has strong work (particularly in video) that speaks of life beyond the art factory." New York Magazine's Jerry Saltz called it "the Obama Biennial: alternately moving and frustrating, challenging and disappointing — and a big improvement on what came before." Howard Halle, in Time Out New York, perhaps put it most plainly, stating this Biennial "doesn’t suck precisely because it doesn’t feel or look like your average Biennial."

For three days in May, the 26th through the 28th, the Whitney will remain open around the clock as part of featured artist Michael Asher's Biennial proposal (Asher actually wanted the museum open 24/7 for a full week, but the costs and personnel requirements of that were prohibitive). Web site NewYorkology reported that, in the audio guide to the exhibit, "co-curator Francesco Bonami refers to the concept as 'an intervention' to make the museum more accessible to people who can’t usually get there." It reminds me of the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler; it's not the Met, but you can spend the night in a museum without having to hide in the bathroom.

The Whitney Museum of American Art: 945 Madison Ave. (@ 75th St.); 212-570-3600.
Hours: Weds.-Thurs., Sat.-Sun.: 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Fri.: 1:00-9:00 p.m.; Mon.-Tues.: Closed.
Admission: Adults: $18; Seniors, students & young adults 19-25: $12; Children/Teens under 18 & members: Free; Admission is pay-what-you-wish Fridays, 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Caswell-Massey Closing Lexington Avenue Store; 11 Days to Spa Week

After 84 years of continuous operation, CaswellMassey's beautifully-appointed flagship store at Lexington & 48th St. will close this Saturday, April 3, at 6:00 p.m.

At this point the store has only a fraction of its usual merchandise left on its shelves, but is worth a last-chance trip to see the gorgeous antique wood furnishings and to take advantage of a great deal: Sign up for its mailing list, and get a 25 percent discount on your in-store purchase. When I was there on March 18, I stocked up on Gardenia Body Lotion ($17), Bath Gel ($16) and Talc ($12); Almond & Aloe Body Balm ($18); Almond Talc ($12); and beautifully scented Oakmoss Luxury Liquid Soap ($25), all for about $75.

Caswell-Massey will re-open on April 21 as a stall in the new Limelight Marketplace, the retailing reinvention of the old Limelight nightclub at Sixth Ave. and 20th St. The size of the space, in the Limelight's "Apothecary" on the second level, will be something akin to the space allotted vendors at the holiday market at Grand Central; with the small footprint, it will carry only a limited amount of merchandise.

The company says the Limelight operation was already planned before the store closure, and it hopes to find a new location for its flagship retail store by later this year or early next. But it had to shutter too quickly to find an immediate replacement.

The store opened in 1926 in the old Barclay Hotel, now the InterContinental New York Barclay. Like so many closures these days, this one comes as a result of landlord greed -- or ignorance, perhaps. One source speculated that the hotel's owner, the U.K.-based InterContinental Hotels Group, is "European and doesn't understand the value of the store."

IHG told Caswell Massey late last year that it would not be renewing the store's lease due to plans to allow a financial institution to take over the space. "We believe their decision is quite regrettable, given the store’s historical and cultural value," Caswell-Massey wrote in a note published on its Facebook page. The store originally was told it would have to vacate by February 1.

Caswell-Massey used Facebook to reach out to its fans last December, asking customers to write Jim Abrahamson, president of IHG Americas in Atlanta, to protest the banishment. The company's nearly 1,400 Facebook fans must have had some effect; on January 9, Caswell-Massey reported that an IHG representative contacted the company, saying, "Please make all these complaints stop! It is causing all kinds of headaches around here." IHG ultimately agreed to extend the lease by an additional two months.

Alas, the company confirmed via Facebook last week that the closure is definite: "We did everything we could, but unfortunately sometimes not everything works out in one's favor." Plainly put.

Caswell Massey, one of the oldest American companies in existence (it was founded in Newport, R.I., in 1752), opened its first New York store in 1833 at the corner of Fifth Ave. and 25th St. The Lexington Ave. location is said to have served Greta Garbo, George Gershwin, the Astors, the Vanderbilts... And countless anonymous New Yorkers such as myself.

On a related note: We countless anonymous New Yorkers who like to pamper ourselves can choose from an array of $50 treatments all over town during Spa Week, April 12-18. In the tradition of Restaurant Week, spas around the city will offer a host of facials, body wraps, massages, waxing and more on a prix-fixe basis. Book your appointment now at the Spa Week Web site.

Site registration is required to view the entire list of participating locations, but some of the more alluring-sounding options are the 45-minute Dead Sea Salt Jewel Scrub at Ettia Holistic Day Spa on West 72nd St. and the 45-minute Raspberry and Rhubarb Seasonal Facial at L'Institut Sothys New York on West 57th.