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N.Y.C. Art Exhibitions

MoMA has Magritte. The Jewish Museum, Chagall. Kandinsky is at the Neue Galerie and Gaultier is in Brooklyn. Christopher Wool is getting raves at the Guggenheim. But this brief double-review talks about a small show at a large museum and a large show at a small museum, each worth a special trip. Few Americans—other than Korean-Americans—have more than a cursory knowledge of Korean culture. When we think of Korean art, we tend to picture gray-green celadon pottery. “Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Feb. 23, opens a new and fascinating window. And it’s a picture window. At the entrance to the exhibition, projected onto a wide curved screen, are alternating video views of Hwangnam Daechong, the grass-covered Great Tomb of Hwangnam in Gyeongju, a city in southeast Korea. Conjoined burial mounds (His and Hers), the Great Tomb is the largest in the kingdom’s former capital. Silla endured for nearly a millennium, until A.D. 935, when it gave way to the Goryeo dynasty, for which the country is named. Most of the objects on display were excavated from tombs and date from the fifth to the eighth century (Buddhism became the official religion in 527.). Made of stoneware, jade, gilt bronze, and gold, they have been restored as nearly as possible to their original brilliance. The label text for “National Treasure 83,” a gilt bronze statue of a bodhisattva, probably Maitreya (Mireuk in Korean), notes the “extraordinary balance between his contemplative aura and the sense of energy captured by the drumming fingers of his left hand and the upturned toes of his right foot.” The smooth musculature of the figure’s bare upper body reminds one of the influence of Asian sculpture on Art Deco sculptors, such as Paul Manship. There are several other national treasures in the exhibition, curated by the Met’s Soyoung Lee and Denise Leidy, including a crown with stylized, antler-like projections—and pieces of jade shaped like hooks or tiger’s teeth—and a belt with pendant ornaments. Stunning examples of craftsmanship in gold, they came from the north portion of the Great Tomb, in which the queen was interred. Another section focuses on objects that reached Silla through trade, diplomacy, or war. An elaborate gold dagger and sheath, inlaid with garnet and glass using the technique known as cloisonné, originated in the Black Sea region or Central Asia. After watching a four-minute animation about the construction of the Seokguram Grotto, a World Heritage Site, visitors proceed to a final, shadowy gallery in which sits a monumental cast-iron Buddha from the late eighth or early ninth century, similar to the one at the center of the Grotto. Also currently at the Met: “Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade 1500-1800,” “Julia Margaret Cameron” and “Balthus: Cats and Girls.” Though Jan. 19, the International Center of Photography is showing “Lewis Hine,” a major retrospective of the pioneering American photojournalist, who died at age 66 in 1940. Exhibition curator Alison Nordstrom has filled most of ICP’s lower level with Hine’s pictures, on loan from Rochester’s George Eastman House (the collection was initially offered to MoMA, which turned it down). Many are classics: • A young blond girl in filthy clothing in a North Carolina cotton mill, the rows of white bobbins and the floorboards themselves seeming to converge on her (1908); • An Italian immigrant in full blouse and long skirt, like the drapery on a statue, carrying a bundle of garments on her head in New York’s tenement district (1910); • A newspaper boy in D.C. (Danny Mercurio, 150 Scholes Alley), wearing a hat like a helmet and looking as if he’s about to spit tobacco at the photographer (1912); • A bare-armed, coveralls-wearing construction worker in mid-air, his legs wrapped around a steel cable, high above Manhattan, the Hudson River, New Jersey, America (1931). Raised in Wisconsin, Hine began to photograph while teaching at New York’s Ethical Culture School. Another Midwesterner, Paul Kellogg, hired him to take photographs for a comprehensive sociological study of Pittsburgh, published between 1908 and 1914. Editor of the progressive magazine, Charities and the Commons, later renamed The Survey (which launched a supplement called The Survey Graphic in 1921), Kellogg regularly commissioned Hine to illustrate social welfare stories, copies of which are on display. Passing through the different sections of the exhibition—Ellis Island, child labor, the Pittsburgh Survey, worker portraits, photographs of African Americans, the American Red Cross Survey, the Empire State Building—one sees how Hine’s images inspired photographers now recognized as important artists: Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon, to name a few. A single-gallery companion show, “The Future of America: Lewis Hine’s New Deal Photographs,” curated by Judith Gutman from ICP’s holdings, covers Hine’s last years. Also currently at ICP: “Zoe Strauss: 10 Years” and “JFK November 22, 1963: A Bystander’s View of History.” [gallery ids="101549,149590" nav="thumbs"]

N.Y.C. New Again: Tallest Building, Boutique Hotels, Art Exhibits

Have you been to New York City lately? Reclaiming the nation’s tallest-building title for New York from Chicago, One World Trade Center now towers over the waterfall-bordered reflecting pools of the National September 11 Memorial. Wall Street is un-Occupied and stumbling back. The subway is seawater-free. On Jan. 1, Mayor Mike will step aside for Brother Bill, leaving New York the healthiest it’s been in. . . well, probably ever. Throngs are hiking the High Line, zipping around on blue Citibikes, and “smoking” personal vaporizers in pedestrian zones. But part of what makes New York New York—The Big Difficult, The City Where No One Can Sleep, The Urban Jugular—is that it remakes itself right before your eyes. One of the changes in recent years has been the flourishing of boutique hotels, stylish and personalized pied-a-terres. Here is a small sampling: Hotel Americano (518 West 27th Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues) opened in 2011 in the thick of Chelsea’s art galleries. the feel throughout is minimalist Euro-Latino: lots of glass, with expensive fabrics in white, black, and gray framed in steel and natural wood. The 56 rooms are designated “Uptown” or “Downtown” for their views. Although studio means tiny in New York, the hotel’s seven studios, one per floor, are the largest, most desirable rooms. All share the “urban ryokan” concept, with platform beds and decorative touches, inspired by those in traditional Japanese inns. The restaurant, the Americano, adjoins the lobby and opens onto a small patio. There is also a club-like basement bar. But the knockout is the rooftop grill: Piscine in summer (when the swimming pool is open) and Artico the rest of the year, when the pool is covered and hidden by long gray couches. Across town, in what is now branded Flatiron or NoMad (for North of Madison Square), the 72-room Hotel Giraffe (365 Park Avenue South, at 26th Street) has a more casual, family-friendly elegance. As the hotel’s Jayla Langtry points out, “Boutique means different things to different people.” Most of the rooms are suites, perfect for families with children (or grandchildren) or friends traveling together. Many have “Juliet balconies,” which add to the sense of spaciousness. Guests come and go in the lobby, where a generous continental breakfast, espresso drinks and cookies all day, and evening wine and cheese are complimentary. Bread & Tulips, in a rustic basement space complete with imported pizza oven, offers hotel guests a 20-percent discount. There is also a seasonal rooftop garden and bar. Hotel Giraffe is one of four hotels in the Library Collection, named for the book-themed Library Hotel near Grand Central. All four appear in TripAdvisor’s ranking of the city’s top ten. The Jade Hotel (52 West 13th St., between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), at the northern edge of Greenwich Village, makes a strong first impression. Just inside, one looks down a strikingly designed staircase that steeply descends to a sort of drawing room with marble mantelpiece and Oriental carpet. But the walls hold contemporary art, the speakers stream modern rock, and the molded ceiling panels are painted bright gold. The rooms—there are 113—continue this High Retro décor. Big patterns and bold colors surround a witty mix of furnishings from different eras (a black, rotary-dial telephone, for example). Back in the lobby, a narrow brick tunnel leads to the bar and farm-to-table restaurant, Grape & Vine, which hosts a wine hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. The newest of the three, the Jade Hotel, opened earlier this year on a block-long showcase of New York reinvention. Next door, in the last remaining townhouse, is the Off-Off-Broadway Thirteenth Street Repertory Company, founded in 1972, where an adaptation of Dickens’s “Christmas Carol” is playing Dec. 14 through 29. Across the street is a New School building (Parsons School of Design is down the block), Silk Day Spa, Tenri Cultural Institute, and a Biscuits & Bath Doggy Gym. [gallery ids="101548,149594,149598" nav="thumbs"]

Amtrak Improves Menus; Michel Richard on Team

It is not surprise that food in airplanes and trains aren’t known for flavorful and succulent taste. Booking a flight or buying a train ticket used to hold an air of excitement for many. For businesspersons, who often find themselves traveling four times a week, a good meal could be the one highlight of a trip. Unfortunately, the feedback from passengers about the food in trains and planes are usually not positive and often end up in complaints and disappointments. Imagine comments which include: “The chicken was cold. The bread was five days old. There was no vegetarian option.” Most people opt for bringing their own sandwich or not eating at all and waiting to eat at that destinations. Still the idea of eating gourmet during a trip might change the minds of some travelers. Amtrak has already stepped up its game by hiring top chefs in the United States to be the brain of its culinary advisory team in exchange for frequent traveler miles. With a little bit of salt and a little bit of pepper, the team of 12 top chefs are in charge of coming up with healthier and tastier meals for passengers. Cooks like Tom Douglas from Seattle and Roberto Santibañez from Mexico are among the gang of 12. They are joined by Michel Richard, well-known in Georgetown for his restaurant Citronelle, which closed due to water damage, and Central Michel Richard still up and running on Pennsylvania Avenue. From France, Richard spent some time in California before moving to D.C., where his cuisine won the heart of the nation’s capital and is a must-go place on the restaurant scene. The team comes together each spring to brainstorm new dishes for Amtrak’s menu. Their challenge is to come up with meals that are healthier and satisfy all palates. With longer routes, they have more flexibility to come up with more elaborate food, while in shorter routes, they have to be ready to come up with pre-packed meals ready to be heated up or served as it is. This could be the beginning of a gourmet experience when you travel short and long distances.