Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On the Town

We are doing some renovations in our apartment. Refinishing the floor, painting and new tiles in the kitchen. The floor refinishing is over, but for the past two weeks, we have had to vacate our apartment each day to avoid the clouds of sawdust.

We became tourists in our own city. Each day by nine we were out the door. Here is a diary of some of the things we did.

Lunch at Lucien

Lucien is a charming French bistro on First Avenue near Houston. It's been around forever and is a hangout for denizens of the literary, film and art worlds. We stopped in for lunch one day and were the sole customers. We have seen Robert Frank, the great American photographer, and his wife June Leaf, the artist, here.
June Leaf and Robert Frank

Our French waiter showed me the newspaper that he was reading.
 He said that it's mostly political in content
 but has an unbiased point of view.
I had the grilled sardines. Lots of little bones.

After lunch we walked the short distance to the Sunshine Theatre on Houston Street. We had seen The Artist and there was not much else playing to our liking. We decided on W./E. (W is for Wallis Simpson and E is for King Edward VII.)  In spite of not being a fan of Madonna, who directed the film, I actually liked it.
The story toggles between a documentary-style look at the life of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and present-day New York, where a woman named Wally lives in a fantasy dreamworld obsessed with Wallis and Edward. What makes the film so alluring are the clothes and jewelry. And Andrea Riseborough, who plays Wallis, gives new meaning to the word "lithe".

Indeed, the costumes, by Arianne Phillips, were nominated for an Academy Award. Wallis wore Dior, Balenciaga, Vionnet and Schiaparelli. The Duchess was not beautiful, but like Dianna Vreeland, she was jolie laide -- so stylish that she pulled off an aura of beauty. She was also fun and entertaining. Edward fell hard for her; it was a good excuse to avoid the job of king. But Wallis eventually felt trapped exiled in France. It was an elegant, if claustrophobic, entrapment. The Hotel Meurice is no hut.

Of course, nowadays, the  British royals live exemplary lives without the slightest whiff of scandal.

Journey to the Art of Arab Lands

This past November, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened 15 new galleries of Islamic art after an 8-year renovation. The galleries encompass the art of Arabs lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and South Asia.
A harpie.

This exotic headpiece would make a fantastic addition to my wardrobe.

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Daffodils at an
 Upper West side florist.

These birch trees echo the exotic painting above at Flowers on the Park on Columbus Avenue.

The MoMAs and the DA-DAs
A visit to MoMA and DA-DA by Duchamp.
Let's go to Paris with Eugène Atget. The Museum of Modern Art has on view over 100 photographs by Eugène Atget, the master French photographer who lived from 1857 to 1927. The sign outside his studio door read: "Documents pour artistes," because Atget meant his photographs to serve as source material for other artists. Ironique, n'est pas? Atget himself was a great artist.
A street view in the 5th arrondisement.

My favorites are the store-window shots.
 You can just feel the sun's warmth in this shot of a woman in a doorway.
She is une prostituée.
 Reminds me of Jean-Luc Goddard's 1962 film Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live)
 with Anna Karina who plays a streetwalker.
There are many shots of prostitutes on the streets of Paris in the film.
A flower that I love: the Hollyhock.
 The name is even better in French: rose trémière

The Purposeful Philistine
Let's face it. Sometimes the contemporary galleries at MoMA can make you act silly. What with this...
This is art.
 Pssst ... I can get it for you cheaper in Chinatown.
And this....
 Where's the painting?
It can make a fellow cross.
This is not art.
This is a sign for the electrical closet.
Excuse me, does this bus go to 42nd Street?
What's she so excited about?
This maybe?

Old King Cole was a Merry Old Soul
What better place to stop for an afternoon quaff after MoMA than the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel where Maxfield Parrish's magnificent mural holds court.
Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe
He called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three.
We sat next to three members of the U. S. Sailing Team including Sally Barkow -- from Wisconsin -- who was a 2008 Olympian in China. She signed a napkin for us.

For Richard, a day without oysters is a day without the chance to ask every Tom, Dick and Harry how many oysters Casanova ate in one day.
Answer: 144

How many hats could a hat check check
if a hat check could check hats?

New York hatsionistas have been abuzz about the exhibit at the Bard Center for Decorative Arts: Hats an Anthology by Stephen Jones. Suffice it to say that I have seen it several times now, and it never fails  to amuse. It's an amuse tête. Bard also has some millinery programs that I have attended. The first was a panel of three milliners, including Lola Ehrlich, a fan of this blog, I might proudly add. I first met Lola when I worked at The Guardian on Union Square, and she had a shop on 17th Street. Then, when I was a millinery student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Lola was a visiting speaker. She said that her interns tied knots in thread like art students -- in other words laboriously. Since I recognized myself in that description, I asked Lola if I could intern for her, and she said yes.
My Lola straw hat with a striped, grosgrain ribbon.

Last week we attended another Bard event with milliner,
 Jennifer Ouellette.
The panel was titled "Seeing Cecil Beaton" -- which is a show of Beaton's photographs and illustrations at the Museum of the City of New York. 
Jennifer said this illustration reminded her of Renior. I'll say.
"La Parisienne" by Renior. This painting and other full-length figure paintings by Renior are on view at The Frick Collection until May 13. The show will take your breath away. Don't miss it!
Jennifer also showed this Beaton illustration. It looks a little like her, don't you think?

Bard also has an exhibit on view called Staging Fashion, 1880-1920. Here are three postcards I picked up showing three, beautiful actresses of the time. And the hats ain't bad either.

Snowdrops peeking their delicate heads above ground at the Jefferson Market Garden in Greenwich Village echo white flowers from a faraway, long-ago land.

À bientôt!