December 2012 Review

What’s a weekend in New York’s art world like these days?

If we can start with Thursday evening by getting a head start on the three days, there was a panel presentation by Herrick Law Firm on Holocaust Restitution and its current status as regards collectors and museums. In my opinion, nothing new, but apparently the UN has decided that enough is enough as far as pursuing Holocaust claims. We’ll check on exact reading of the statute and report back.

Friday afternoon was spent with a former OTE appraiser who is now Curator of Feminist Art at the BrooklynMuseum where we saw the Mickalene Thomas exhibition of glittery evocations of the world of African-Americans, as well as the fantastical glass sculpture of Othoniel. For those with an eye for the intellectual in the art world there was an extraordinary exhibition of conceptual art from the collection of art critic Lucy Lippard, a show organized by Catherine Morris. We saw it in the company of the widow of the late Dennis Oppenheim, a major figure of this era and those following, giving us insights into the work from a very personal viewpoint. There is no question that the BrooklynMuseum is neglected by Manhattanites. Just get off the #6 train at Nevins and hop across the platform for a train that takes you directly to the site.

The following morning we met with about 30 members of ArtTable at the NewMuseum on the Bowery, where an exhibition of the Cosmos of Rosemarie Trockel, an important German artist, was laid out on three floors. Her myriad works in a great variety of media was clarified in a talk  by co-curator for the exhibition, Lynne Cooke, who had been with the DIA and is now Mellon Research Fellow at the National Gallery in D.C. What was most fascinating was that, included among the works on display, were those by other artists whose work has impacted on that of Trockel. We were particularly drawn to the miniature collaged books by Manuel Montalvo and the hand-wrapped wool pieces by Ousider artist Judith  Scott. We should at least mention the nicely mounted triptych by an the orangutan Tilda, a very serious practitioner with a paint brush.

Because of the location, we decided to do some exploring among the recently minted galleries on the Lower East Side and found Mickalene Thomas again at an offshoot of Lehman Maupin Gallery where all the paintings had been spoken for – small wonder.

Traveling without a compass on the streets of the area led us into any number of quite well done up galleries that echoed the interior spaces of smaller Chelsea galleries and should be taken seriously. Of course it had its derivative examples, but you can also find those in plenty in tonier neighborhoods, even as far as 57th Street and certainly in the 20s. But it’s certainly worth exploring. Just pick up “LesGalleriesNYC” or find it online, check your Google Map and pick a day when the winter wind isn’t having tantrums.

We managed to get in the new Matisse exhibition at the Met, along with the final days of Bernini, and an easily missed mini-exhibition in the African wing of early 20th century artists influenced by African sculpture. There’s always some wonderful shows at the Met that you have to stumble across because they are rarely advertised. We also made it to MOMA where 20th century Japanese artists are newly exhibited, and since we were there we had to peek in at “The Scream” which wasn’t drawing half as many onlookers as “Wintery Night” by van Gogh, a longtime favorite. The more I see “The Scream” in all its variations the more I wonder how it remains such an iconic image. I believe the reproductions, particularly when oversized, do more for the work than seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.

I think I’m missing another stop or two, but that’s all I can recall at the moment. It seems like a lot of art-going, but to be quite honest, I am feeling guilty on Monday morning because I didn’t get around some more. This is the season for the art-serious to be in Manhattan. In between museum and gallery shows the spectacle of commerce at its best – the displays in the windows and glittering on the buildings of the city – is itself a form of popular art.