New York – Autumn 2018
I have to share with you the exciting trip I took to New York and Washington just recently. The 5 days spent in New York needless to say, were dedicated to looking at art. On day one we visited the Whitney Museum which relocated to the area that used to be the meat district. Approached by the Skyline Walk – the rail for the transport of the meat – is now the most glorious walkway overlooking the river, and whilst the museum doesn’t strike one as amazing from the outside, this changes the moment one steps inside. The collection of 18,000 pieces of all media is striking, with the wealth and breadth of the best of 20th and 21st century of American art. Of the earlier generation, Maurice Prendergast, Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper and George Bellows spring to mind and of the later ones Rothko, Jasper John, Barnet Newman are just a few of the names. My favourite were a pencil drawing by Edward Hopper, Study for Evening Wind and a painting by the same artist Early Sunday Morning.
The following day we treated ourselves to a visit to the Neue Museum where we were lucky to be able to see an exhibition of two outstanding artists Franz Marc and August Macke, both tragically died during the first world war, both Brilliant colourists. They were both leading members of the expressionst Blaue Reiter movement.
The permanent collection of this fairly small museum is also breathtaking with superb jewellery from the Wiener Werkstatte and paintings by Klimt and Schiele.
Taking advantage of the proximity to the Metropolitan Museum, and not withstanding knee and back ache, I proceeded and viewed a fascinating exhibition – not necessarily to do with my usual interests in paintings and drawings, but historically to me a very important because it featured Armenia – and an Armenian family saved part of my family during the World War II by hiding them behind a false wall outside Budapest. The exhibition went back to the time when the Eastern part of Armenia was annexed by Persia and the Western by Byzantine and both tried to convert them to their religion but very bravely, the Armenians declared Christianity as their state religion thus making Armenia the first Christian country of the world. Enduring constant attacks by the Turks, Egyptians and Mongols, Armenia survived for another three centuries until it was divided between the Ottoman empire and Persia. Being for centuries at the point of being wiped out, Armenia nevertheless managed to preserve and develop a national religious and cultural identity. In many ways, it is similar to Jewish history, another reason for my interest.
The Jewish Museum, another visit a day later, offered a wonderful theme exhibition, concentrating on the two years of the art school in Vitebsk, set up by Chagall (where he was born and returned from Paris following the Revolution of 1917 which raised his hopes for a better world) With Malevich, Kandinsky and Yankelson they were instrumental in creating a most avant garde, exciting and forward looking environment where the constructivist art style flourished for two years, until the communist state clamped down on it.
The Museum of Modern Art on the last day of our stay in New York, on an extremely rainy day, was difficult because the museum was so overcrowded – it took over an hour to queue for tickets and then one saw backs of people instead of pictures in popular rooms. So we decided to go to the less popular ones, which were just great. Also, we managed to catch a small scale but delicious Brancusi exhibition, a sculptor whose bronzes (polished) I adore.