Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from March, 2016

Mount Olympus on Fifth Avenue

Visitors who have enjoyed strolling through the Onassis Cultural Center, a hidden modern gem of ancient civilization in midtown Manhattan, will be glad to hear that the galleries are back open. After the renovation and expansion of the downstairs rooms at 645 Fifth Avenue, the Onassis Foundation is celebrating the opening with an exhibition, Gods and Mortals at Olympus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus. The center has scheduled an ambitious set of family programs, online resources, and even a digital game in conjunction with the exhibition. It's rare to see such exquisite classical works outside of a major museum.


Gods and Mortals, curated by Dimitrios Pandermalis, president of the Acropolis Museum and director of the excavations at Dion since 1973, includes a selection of rare artifacts as well as multimedia documentation of their extraordinary context within the landscape of Mount Olympus. While museum-goers most often view classical statuary, mosaics, and everyday objects as artifac…

Vigée Le Brun at The Met

Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through May 15, 2016, tells the story of an ambitious self-taught neoclassical painter who pleased the French court and secured a "prodigious" (her word, in translation) amount of portrait commissions, including ones from the Queen herself, but who had the foresight to see the Revolution coming and to get out alive.


Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842) was one of the few women admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. While her father was deemed an excellent portraitist and her parents entertained the artist set, young Elizabeth largely taught herself how to paint through copying casts and paintings in the Palais Royal. She steadily built an income through portrait commissions. While supremely skilled, she was not shy in seizing opportunities, including playing on her good looks. The Met exhibit strongly hints at such self promotion. She steadily climbed the…

Spring Training: Conquering the Hilly Terrain of Northern Manhattan

Visitors to the Northern Manhattan neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood may realize at some point that we don't call them the "heights" for nothing. Walking a street uptown can involve a steep climb. In several places, the difference between elevations is so great that "step streets" are required.


The W. 215th Street step street in the Inwood neighborhood (above) connects Park Terrace East, a residential street high above Broadway, with the busy thoroughfare below. The nearby Isham Park sits on high land that was once a family estate. The climb to get there makes it feel like a secret park.

There are nearly a hundred of these step streets in New York City, with many of them over a hundred years old. There are 63 step streets in the Bronx and 20 in Washington Heights and Inwood.* The city is currently renovating some of the more popularly used ones.


The formidable set of steps at W. 187th Street (above) connects Fort Washington Avenue with Overlook Ter…

On the Brooklyn Waterfront: An Afternoon Visit to South Williamsburg and DUMBO

A walk in two Brooklyn neighborhoods, one just south of the Williamsburg Bridge and the other between the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge (DUMBO), reveals a city eternally in flux. On the waterfront, very old and very new parts of the city come into sharp relief, along with expansive views of Manhattan in the distance. While attention in the press is often focused on the next hot, i.e. gentrifying, inner Brooklyn neighborhood, the reshaping of older hotspots such as Williamsburg and DUMBO, especially along the East River, continues at a frenzied pace.

This walk involves trains and boats and can easily be accomplished in one afternoon, weather permitting. A map is included below.


To begin, take the subway to the Marcy Avenue stop on the M or J train. To and from Manhattan, the trains travel along the Williamsburg Bridge on an elevated track  so you can look out the window to see where you're going. Approaching the station, look for South Williamsburg landmarks such as the dom…

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub Opens: Into the Oculus

The centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the soaring cathedral-like Oculus, unofficially opened to the public yesterday.


The crowd consisted of construction workers, NYPD officers, security officers directing foot traffic, officials from the Port Authority, curious onlookers with cell phones at the ready, a large contingent of press, a woman freestyle dancing, dozens of people sitting on the floor next to the walls waiting for later trains or just hanging out, and the building's architect, Santiago Calatrava.


The structure is meant to evoke a bird in flight. Yesterday afternoon, the glow of the low sun spilled through the rib cage of this giant bird, the kind of uplifting light we see in the city at the close of winter and the beginning of spring.


It felt like a good omen, even in the midst of a necessary debate about how much money this whole thing cost.


Speaking to a small group of press (above), Calatrava suggested to photographers that the day's best p…

Big Things to See at the American Museum of Natural History

Field notes from a 3-mile walk inside the American Museum of Natural History

Most everyone has fond memories of field trips, those exciting adventures that promise escape from regular school. Art museums, aquariums, and historic sites are frequent destinations, but often the most thrilling trip for school age children is the natural history museum. Dinosaurs! Taxidermied bears! Dioramas! How lucky are the children of New York to have the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) as a field trip destination. As the largest natural history museum in the world, the monumental building on New York's Central Park West is overwhelming in its abundance of treasures. Plus, there's a bonus planetarium!

If you were to visit the AMNH on a weekday morning, plan on sharing the museum with hundreds and hundreds of young, often loud, and overly stimulated school-age New Yorkers. You will find them in every room, in every gallery, in every remote square foot of the museum. If quiet contemplat…

A New York Spring Calendar: Blooming Times and Seasonal Events

See the UPDATED 2018 CALENDAR HERE.

Updated for 2017. At this time of year, thoughts turn to spring. Let's spring forward to blooming times, the best locations for witnessing spring's beginnings, and springtime events in the big city. While the occasional snow could blow through the city, we're just weeks now from callery pears in bloom and opening day at the ballpark.


Blooming Times
• Central Park Conservancy's website lists blooming times within the park. During the month of March we begin to see crocus, daffodils, forsythia, snowdrops, witch-hazel, and hellebores. Species tulips will emerge in several places, but the Shakespeare Garden and Conservatory Garden are particularly good places to catch the beginning of Spring blooms.


• Citywide Blooming Calendar from New York City Department of Parks & Recreation April is usually the month when full blooms appear in New York City, and this NYC Parks website provides a handy monthly guide to the specific locations of blo…