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A Visit to the Neue Galerie

One way to deal with the blustery cold weather that we've experienced in New York of late is to buck up, bundle up, go outside and then head to an attractive destination, preferably one in an elegant setting that offers great art, wonderful food, and a gift shop. And let's say it's a Monday. So where would this be? Try Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue at 86th Street, a museum specializing in early twentieth-century German and Austrian art.

The focus of the collection encompasses the extraordinary artistic worlds of Vienna at the turn of the century and the amazing art movements associated with the Weimar Republic. Building on two collections amassed by art dealer Serge Sabarsky and business man and collector Ronald Lauder, the galerie is housed in a fine 1914 building designed by Carrère and Hastings. Stepping through the front door is like passing into another country.

As a transition from the frightful weather of New York streets, a leisurely lunch at Cafe Sabarsky can set the mood for the later artistic exploration of the premises. By leisurely, I'm speaking of a plate of warm sausage or schnitzel and a glass of wine, followed by an espresso and a small Viennese pastry accompanied by frothy whipped cream. The European cafe atmosphere is accentuated by the sight of the coffee and wine service in plain view, a marble sideboard lined with Viennese pastries, comfortable cafe chairs designed by Adolf Loos, a worn wooden floor, and a pleasant cafe clamor of clanking dishes and conversational murmurs. During a recent visit, most of the patrons donned warm-looking sweaters and practical shoes, so it's a place that's not too formal to be uncomfortable. A few of the women sported twenties-style cloche hats, a sight that made me think for a minute that we were in interwar Vienna.

After lunch and before visiting the special exhibits, I stopped to pay my respects to Adele in the central gallery of the second floor. By Adele, I mean, of course, Gustav Klimt's famous portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907), the centerpiece of the Neue Galerie collection and one that seems more odd with each visit. What's striking is the pallor of her face set amidst the elaborate decorative golden details and textures, her thin arms adorned with bracelets touching at clutched nervous fingers. Joining her in the gallery are additional works by Klimt, as well as paintings by Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. Drawings on paper in the adjacent dimly-lit gallery (better to protect them) include exquisite ones by Schiele, though not his most erotic ones.

_______
On exhibition:
Postcards from the Wiener Werkståtte: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection features a stylish variety of images by the artists, architects, and designers of the workshop. Josef Hoffmann and designer Koloman Moser started the workshop in 1903 to bring good design to the people, and the postcards, made to show off Vienna, its culture, and its fashions, also publicized the respective art and design talents of its members. The colorful postcards are like sumptuous small morsels of art.

The surprising exhibition is Franz Xaver Messerschmidt 1736-1783: From Neoclassicism to Expressionism. A sculptor with a successful career based in Vienna, Messerschmidt suffered a sort of ill-defined breakdown around 1770 and returned to his native town in Bavaria. There he committed himself to an unusual body of work - portrait busts that realistically express a range of human emotions, especially the dark emotions of fear, revulsion, hatred, and grief. He used himself as the model for these so-called "character heads," pinching parts of his body and making faces while staring in the mirror. The exhibition of these heads at Neue Galerie marks the first exhibition devoted to the artist in the United States as well as the museum's first collaboration with the Louvre. The exhibition designer, Federico de Vera, has created an elegant, almost whimsical, setting for the exhibit, drawing in charcoal the outlines of panels of formal rooms of the 18th century directly on the walls.

Neue Galerie, 1048 Fifth Avenue, at 86th Street.
Check website for updated information.
Hours: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday 
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
General $15; Students and seniors $10. Children under 12 not admitted; children aged 12-16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Subway: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St. and walk west to Fifth Avenue.


Cafe Sabarsky is open Monday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Another cafe at the museum, Cafe Fledermaus, with the same menu, is open Thursday-Sunday 12 - 6 p.m. (The KGNY restaurant group, headed by chef Kurt Gutenbrunner, specializes in Austrian fare. Also in group - Wallse, Blaue Gans, and Cafe Kristall, the latter a new restaurant in SoHo at 70 Mercer. Visit the group's website to learn more and get yourself a little Lou Reed fix.)

The museum's gift shop offers an excellent selection of gifts featuring the German and Austrian designs of the period and a comprehensive collection of books for sale on the art, architecture, and design of early twentieth century Austria and Germany.

Exhibitions:
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt 1736-1783: From Neoclassicism to Expressionism
Through January 10, 2011
Postcards from the Wiener Werkståtte: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection
Through January17, 2011
Upcoming:
Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900
February 24 - June 27, 2011

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Monday, December 6, 2010.

Comments

great place and love the cafe! must get back very soon!! :)
Anonymous said…
Lovely article on the Neuegalerie! Here are two of mine, if anyone is interested-I'd be interested in coments:

www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/living-around/mansion-to-museum-form-content-and-milieu-in-art-display

www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/living-around/otto-dix-war-parody-sensuality-at-the-neue-galerie

Kind wishes to all for the holiday and thereafter!
Unknown said…
Neue has some great exhibitions, and they're excellent partners to us on NYC ARTS. If you'd like to inform your readers about their current and upcoming events, feel free to send them here: http://www.nyc-arts.org/organizations/280/neue-galerie

OR even better, you or they can install a widget that's a dynamic listing of Neue's (or all galleries') events: http://www.nyc-arts.org/widget

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