Month: June 2014

The Morgan Library and Museum: Much More Than Books



The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan and was built between 1902 and 1906 next to his New York residence at Madison Avenue and 36th Street.  According to the Morgan, it was ” intended as something more than a repository of rare materials … the structure was to reflect the nature and stature of its holdings.”  In 1924, eleven years after Pierpont Morgan’s death, his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr., transformed the library it into a public institution.  Since then the building has expanded both in its physical structure and content, acquiring  rare materials as well as important music manuscripts, early children’s books, Americana, and materials from the twentieth century. The Morgan offers much more than just a vast book collection. It’s also a wonderful place to see art . Between their special exhibits and their permanent collections, there is something for everyone.

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One exciting exhibit on view now is A Certain Slant of Light: Spencer Finch at the Morgan (through January 11, 2015).  Finch has taken films of color and applied them to the large windows found in the Morgan’s glass-enclosed Gilbert Court; which you see just as you enter the building. His work was inspired by the Morgan’s collection of medieval Books of Hours— hand-painted  personal prayer books for different times of the day and different periods of the year (also on view). To underscore his inspiration, Finch has also hung additional glass panes in the center of the Court. They reflect the colors of the other panels and create a kind of calendar based on the movement of the sun. Nearby, you can see some of the watercolors and sketches Finch created as a first step in the project.

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To experience a different approach to light and color, visit another exhibition called, “A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany” (until September 7, 2014). The exhibition includes thirty-seven works from the Morgan’s permanent collections. They represent  “two central elements of the Romantic conception of landscape: close observation of the natural world and the importance of the imagination,” according to the Morgan. One of my favorite painters in the collection was JMW Turner, a British Romantic landscape painter who painted during the first half of the 19th century.  One interesting aspect of his work was Turner’s scrapping, blotting, and wiping away the paint while it was still wet. Then he scratched into or drew on dry surfaces to create various details.

There are several other exhibits now on view at the Morgan and all are worth seeing, including: “Miracles in Miniature: The Art of the Master of Claude de France,” and “Sky Studies: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection,” as well as some interesting book collections.

When NY Art Museums Are Free/More Affordable

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Becoming a member of your favorite art museum has many advantages. The most significant reason is the freedom to come and go as often as you like.  But it’s unlikely that you’ll want to become a member of all the art museums NY has to offer. If you find the admission price too steep at some of them, it’s good to know that almost all of the NY art museums offer a weekly opportunity to visit for free or allow you to choose the price.

When Are They Free?

Below is a list of NY art museums that offer either weekly free admissions or are always free:

American Folk Art Museum – always free

Bronx Museum of the Arts – always free

Jewish Museum – Saturdays, all day

MOMA – Fridays  4:00pm-8:00pm

Neue Galerie – First Fridays of every month from 6:00pm-8:00pm

The Rubin Museum of Art – Fridays 6:00pm-10:pm

Studio Museum of Harlem – Sundays, all day

 “Pay As You Wish” Museums

There are some museums that have a suggested donation amount. This is what they would like you to pay but will accept any amount you offer. There are other museums that have a set admissions price but have a time when they will allow you to pay whatever you wish. Below is a list of museums with both options.

Brooklyn Museum – suggested donation all the time $12 for adults

El Museo del Bario – suggested donation $9 all the time

The Frick – Sundays 11:00am-1:00pm

The Guggenheim – Saturdays 5:45pm-7:45pm

Metropolitan Museum of Art – suggested donation all the time $25 for adults

MOMA PS1 – suggested donation all the time $10 for adults

Museum of Arts and Design – Thursdays 6:00pm-9:00pm

The New Museum – Thursdays 7:00pm-9:00pm

Whitney Museum of American Art – Fridays 6:00pm-9:00pm

 5th Annual Chelsea Artwalk

Just a note regarding Chelsea Galleries. On Thursday, July 24th from 5pm-8pm you can join a free tour of the Chelsea art galleries. for more information go to:

The Rubin Museum: Art from the Himalayas, India, and Surrounding Regions

photo_1 (24) Located on West 17th Street, The Rubin Museum of Art opened in October 2004 and is recognized as the premier museum of Himalayan art in the Western world. The museum’s collection of more than 2,000 works of art includes examples of Himalayan paintings, sculptures, textiles, ritual objects, and prints spanning the 2nd to the 20th century. The museum’s collection also includes  countries and cultures that encompass this region, from Afghanistan in the northwest to Myanmar (Burma) in the southeast and includes Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, and Bhutan.

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The museum has a rotating exhibition, called Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection, which “explores major strands in the development of Himalayan art, covering a period of over 1,000 years, and presents some regional artistic traditions in their broad cultural, geographic, historical, and stylistic contexts.”  The exhibit showcases Tibetan diversity,  both over time, and in relation to neighboring Bhutan, India, Kashmir, Nepal, China, and Mongolia. I really liked the bronze statues on display

Bodies In Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine

Bodies In Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine

Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine, is one of the Rubin’s special exhibits. It explores the guiding principles of the Tibetan science of healing  and is brought to life through medical paintings, manuscripts, and medical instruments.

The three forces

The three forces

To help hit home the message of the exhibit, the museum  invites visitors to take an “Are You In Balance?” quiz. The self-scored test emphasizes the focus of Tibetan medicine: the human body is composed of three forces responsible for physical and mental health. Good health is achieved when these forces are in balance. Once you’ve taken the quiz you can learn how Tibetan medicine would recommend gaining balance. You can even purchase  some of these “medicines” in the museum’s gift shop, “Bodies In Balance” will be on view through September 8, 2014.

Jaspar Johns/Barry Frydlender: Two Exhibits Worth Seeing

There are two exhibits I saw recently that are worth going to before they close. Though they both are inspired by photography, the art is as different as night and day.

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The first is a Jaspar Johns show at MOMA called “Regrets,” (until September 1, 2014).  The exhibit is comprised of two paintings, 10 drawings, and two prints. They were created over the last year and a half and were inspired by an old photograph of the artist Lucian Freud, reproduced in an auction catalog.  According to the exhibit notes, Johns was inspired not only by this scene but also by the damaged appearance of the photograph itself. The title and signature inscribed on most of the works— “Regrets/Jasper Johns”— suggest a sense of sadness or disappointment. Johns borrowed the words from a rubber stamp he had made several years ago to decline the many requests and invitations that came his way. It’s not a large exhibit but the creativity, interpretations and varied media make it a very exciting exhibit to see.

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A very different exhibit, that is all photography, can be found at the Andrea Meislin Gallery in Chelsea. It is Barry Frydlender’s “Yaffo-Tel Aviv.” A native Israeli, Barry Frydlender is known for his large works that “seamlessly stitch together hundreds of photographs in a mosaic-like pattern to create large and extremely sharp color prints.”

The exhibit at the Andrea Meislin Gallery consists of 8 large-scale color photographs, taken between 1998-2014, of the view reflected from Frydlender’s studio window. Through these photographs Frydlender tells a story of a changing urban environment impacted by both natural events, like heavy rainstorms; and current events, like an army raid searching for terrorists.

The Frydlender exhibit will be there only until June 21st.

Try Something New at the Museum Mile Festival


The 36th Annual Museum Mile Festival will take place this year on Tuesday, June 10th from 6-9pm. It’s an evening when nine museums along Fifth Avenue (from 82nd-105th Streets)  are all free. Many of the participating museums will offer opportunities to make art. At the Museum of the City of New York you can create a giant chalk mural based on the graffiti styles shown in the “City as Canvas” exhibit on view at the museum.  The Jewish Museum will have music playing, and an opportunity to make works of art inspired by the works of Mel Bochner, using letter stamps and color sticks.

bario frontIt’s great to go into as many museums as you can. I’d also use the evening to go visit a museum you would not normally go to. One to consider is El Museo del Barrio,  focused on the  art and artifacts of Caribbean and Latin American cultures. The museum was founded 40 years ago by artist and educator Raphael Montañez Ortiz and a coalition of parents, educators, artists, and activists who felt that  mainstream museums largely ignored Latino artists. El Museo’s  permanent collection contains over 6,500 objects, including  pre-Columbian Taíno artifacts, twentieth-century drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations, as well as prints, photography, documentary films, and video.

A special exhibit to check out during the Museum Mile Festival is  “Museum Starter Kit: Open With Care.”  This exhibition “explores the significance of the creation of El Museo by focusing on works of art made by Raphael Montañez Ortiz, as the artist turns 80 this year,” according to El Museo.


“Suave Chapina” 2007, Benvenuto Chavajay

Another special exhibit with an eclectic group of paintings, sculptures and videos is “Presencia,” which has  works from the museum’s permanent collection. One I really liked was a wall sculpture made from latex flip flops by the Guatemalan artist, Benvenuto Chavajay.