For the month of July, I wanted to explore more of NYC. I give credit to Natalie, the first fashion blogger I followed. She had photographed various museums and restaurants around the city before heading home on the West Coast for the summer. Her museum recommendations were the Guggenheim, the Whitney and the Neue Galerie.
You might think it was weird that a native New Yorker would seek sightseeing advice for his own city from an outsider. But a lifelong resident anywhere has looked past the gems of a hometown. A fresh set of eyes and love for NYC always would spot them. Besides, New York was too big for one person to know everything about it.
Each museum visit was paired with a new restaurant. I bought postcards from all three museums and the Magnolia Bakery for my friends and my sister Anna. They should be hit with a wave of cards in their mailboxes in the next few days.
July 7: Whitney Museum of American Art/16 Handles
Most frozen yogurt shops have a handful of varieties. I was intrigued with the 16 flavors at 16 Handles after watching an episode of “The Profit.” Because the city was baking, a stop at the 8th Avenue shop was a must. But don’t come too early because only 12 handles were operating at my arrival. Frozen yogurt with candy bits, fruit and nuts is always a slice of heaven. My only disappointments were that the shop didn’t offer any mint flavors and the nut varieties were limited.
The Whitney sat at the end of the High Line, a former elevated train line converted into a park. The interior was bright and modern. Since Whitney showcased the latest in contemporary art, I relied more on the docents and free tours to learn about the artwork.
The museum had an exhibit of its portraiture collection and the evolution of portraits for the past 100 years. This lifelike sculpture made me stop in my tracks.
The docent commented that children would see whether they can elicit a reaction from the dog.
Except for that one piece, most of the artists left me uninspired.
The Mirror Cells exhibit featured up-and-coming artists, who asked questions about the stressful and traumatic human experiences of our times.
This spider woman captured the exposure and trap of social media. But questions were asked, but answers were lacking.
July 20: Guggenheim/Bluestone Lane
A block away from the museum, the Bluestone Lane location was connected to an Episcopal church. The coconut cake has the texture of a carrot cake, a favorite childhood staple of mine. The chilled coffee was refreshing after a long walk although I regretted the caffeine when I woke up in the middle of the night.
The main rotunda at the Guggenheim displayed works by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, a Hungarian artist in the early 20th century. I enjoyed his advertising pieces and his play of geometric shapes. His Space Modulators in the 1940s were my favorite because they freed geometric shapes from a two-dimensional plane. The Plexiglas pieces brought light, shadow and movement.
The Guggenheim also had its collection of Impressionist artworks. They were old familiar friends who greeted people after a long journey.
The tour focused on the architecture of the building. The docent linked early Japanese influences to Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the museum. The feminine aspect of the spirals intrigued me. The docent pointed out the compromises Wright made (High Gallery) and others that were made later (Tower Gallery).
July 22: Neue Galerie/Dylan’s Candy Bar & Magnolia Bakery
I was looking for the Magnolia Bakery location in the Upper East Side when I bumped into Dylan’s Candy Bar. A colorful, candy paradise had dropped into New York. The sugar could be smelled upon entry. The store sold bulk candy and favorite brands. I bought a chilled drink flavored with chocolate, peanut butter, peanuts and Reese’s Pieces. But I had to stop myself from buying any candy or else a wheelbarrow would be needed to haul me out of there. With my sweet tooth overly satisfied, I bought only a poppy seed muffin with a lemon glaze at Magnolia.
That block of 60th Street became a dessert haven. A small walk down from those two places is Serendipity 3, a sweet shop that I had visited with a friend a few years ago.
The Neue Galarie was small. Admission was reduced to donation only because the third floor was closed for the installation of a special exhibit. The second floor had a mix of paintings, furniture and other small pieces. The industrial design shined. If those home items were sold in Ikea, they would be confused with contemporary design instead of early 20th century.
Everyone’s favorite painting was the 1907 Gustav Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. People sat and gazed at the portrait. The pale face and hands anchored the golden fantasy spread across the canvas.
Within 20 minutes, I had viewed the entire gallery. I didn’t want to wait around a few hours for the tour.
The technique and skill of modern and contemporary artists could be admired. But their drive toward self-expression left me uninspired. People are expressing themselves constantly in social media. Artists might have sought to be different from everyone else. Their artwork showed that they are no different than everyone else. Maybe I desire artwork that moved the viewer beyond the self and toward the transcendent. That’s why I was attracted to the Guggenheim building itself, the lifelike sculpture, the Space Modulators and the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. They didn’t implode into self-examination; they moved outward into endless possibilities.