Books and Art on the (Hip?) Upper East Side

A National Historic Landmark, the Seventh Regiment Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side made an about-face in 2007. The one-time drill hall for New York’s aristocracy — with interiors by Tiffany, Stanford White and the Herter Brothers, among others — had become best known as a cavernous venue for high-end antiques shows. That year, the massive brick castle became the home of Park Avenue Armory, a nonprofit that undertook the building’s restoration and began to program performances and contemporary art installations. The Royal Shakespeare Company came for six weeks one summer and the Merce Cunningham Company danced its last there. Visitors listened in the dark to “The Murder of Crows,” a sound piece by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller; swung on giant swings amid dangling sheets at Ann Hamilton’s “The Event of a Thread”; and marveled at Paul McCarthy’s pornographic take on Snow White, “WS.” Almost singlehandedly, the Armory has made the Upper East Side hip. (The next major installation, “Martin Creed: The Back Door,” opens June 8.) Its avant-garde events have been so successful that last year the New York Art, Antique & Jewelry Show, an annual rental of $300,000 or so, was evicted; the 2016 show will be at Pier 94 in November. But two of the most prestigious shows of their kind in the world are still Armory tenants. The Winter Antiques Show will return in January 2017. This weekend, April 7 to 10, more than 200 of the top U.S. and international vendors of rare books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera will be at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. A short walk up Park Avenue from the Armory is the Asia Society Museum, between 70th and 71st Streets, where “Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan” is on view through May 8. The exhibition focuses on sculpture from the politically turbulent Kamakura period (1185 to 1333), when artists and their workshops were commissioned by the warrior class to create Buddhist icons of exceptional realism, power and technical excellence. Meanwhile, the big news on the Upper East Side is the opening, last month, of the Met Breuer. With the Whitney Museum of Art in a new Renzo Piano building in the Meatpacking District (at the southern terminus of the High Line), the Metropolitan Museum of Art has taken over the old Whitney, at Madison Avenue and 75th Street, a Brutalist icon designed by Marcel Breuer. The inaugural exhibition at what this writer calls the Metney (until I hear from both museums’ lawyers) is “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible,” running through Sept. 4. Under the direction of Sheena Wagstaff, named the Met’s chair of modern and contemporary art, a new department, in 2012, the show’s curators selected nearly 200 works — by contemporary artists and by big names from Rembrandt to Rauschenberg — that were never completed or “partake of a non finito … aesthetic that embraces the unresolved and open-ended.” About eight blocks away, at what is now identified as the Met Fifth Avenue, the top-billed special exhibition is “Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France.” Closing May 15, the display of 80 paintings and pastels is said to be the painter’s first retrospective “in modern times.” Finally, across Fifth Avenue from the “Big Met,” the exquisite Neue Galerie on the corner of 86th Street is the sole U.S. venue for “Munch and Expressionism,” through June 13. Organized with the Munch Museum in Oslo, the exhibition explores the mutual influences among Edvard Munch and his German and Austrian contemporaries, including Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. [gallery ids="102393,122747,122744" nav="thumbs"]

Easton’s Bartlett Pear Inn: Food Fit for Romance

We’ve been married just a few months and reality got in the way of any sort of honeymoon – unless a quick trip up the Hudson Valley to meet the in-laws counts (it doesn’t). Romance for us has come in bits and bites, counted in hours snatched between deadlines and page designs. What counts as a getaway for us is calling ahead to Moby Dick’s in Georgetown, stuffing down a sandwich, then running over to the Loews 14 for an action flick or settling in for an episode of “Bewitched” on Amazon. When the opportunity to find a romantic B&B getaway for a 450-word story came up, my wife and I pounced. We shortlisted our choices based on several criteria: driveable in a couple of hours, a million cosmic miles away from our day-to-day grind, great food and a bathtub big enough for two. A couple friends pointed us to Easton, Md., and Alice and Jordan Lloyd’s Bartlett Pear Inn on Harrison Street, said to be the ideal place to catch our breath and shake off the city. In less than two hours we were there. Walking around the sleepy town a bit to get a sense of things, we stopped at an antique shop across the street. A nearby drugstore and soda fountain seemed straight out of the 1950s. Then, making our way past a giant ceramic pear in the garden, we walked into the Inn. A quick look at the menu, and we quickly realized that the 30-seat restaurant on the first floor was the heart of the place and – as it turned out – the perfect place for the perfect meal. The laid-back co-owner and chef Jordan Lloyd explained the restaurant’s holistic focus. “We try to incorporate our passion for all things fresh in everything we do: local, natural, wholesome. This philosophy allows us to stretch our imagination across all aspects of our business. Without the help of our local farmers, dedicated teammates and supportive families, we wouldn’t be who we are.” Taking him at his word, we put our faith in the expert waitstaff, who guided us through the menu and wine choices. I tried the lamb loin, made with a light yogurt marinade and a natural mint jus. The sides were sautéed greens, burnt root vegetables and a parsnip puré. She went with the whole roast quail, stuffed and served with Swiss chard, D’Anjou pears, pecans and sugar-glazed butternut squash. If ever there were a meal to foster romance, this was it. After the dessert of Alaskan s’mores made with graham crackers, roasted marshmallow meringue and white chocolate ice cream – well, if we weren’t already married, I would have asked her to marry me all over again. For more information about the Bartlett Pear Inn, call 410-770-3300 or visit bartlettpearinn.
Cleveland's West Side Market in the Ohio City neighborhood.

Welcome, Delegates!

Some tips for folks heading to Cleveland next week or Philly the following.

Love and the Olympics

They are the most beautiful young people in the world: dedicated, focused, trained athletes who have devoted their lives to the sport they love and what they can achieve in it.

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"]

Airbnbs Face Hotel-Like Regulations

Airbnb, the online home-sharing concept launched in 2008 in San Francisco, has become an almost billion-dollar-a-year global industry. Over the Fourth of July weekend...