New York City: Art for the Soul
As a New Yorker, there are those art exhibitions one feels obliged not to miss — the major shows organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Whitney Museum of American Art at its impressive, new downtown venue at the foot of the High Line. Visiting the Frick Collection — the paintings, the sculptures, decorative arts from the Renaissance to the 19th century assembled by industrialist Henry Clay Frick and on display in the rooms of his Fifth Avenue mansion — is a wholly different experience.
Spending an afternoon with its masterworks is like returning to catch up with cherished, wiser friends who always have something new to share, but are never overbearing. Here, the pensive gaze of Ingres’s opulent Comtesse d’Haussonville stops me, without fail, in my tracks; Bronzino’s proud Italian swain Ludovico Capponi speaks to prerogatives of youth and beauty; a Rembrandt Self-Portrait, magnificent in scale, painted late in life, seems touched by sadness. As I pass through the rooms, where fine furniture and furnishings are set alongside the art, I pause occasionally to step over to large windows and consider how differently light filters into the Frick’s spaces and to admire the mansion’s garden facing Fifth Avenue and Central Park. This is a privileged spot.
There aren’t many bookstores these days. One of the most special and new is a few blocks up the avenue: Albertine, a wonderfully intimate two-level shop, packed with more than 14,000 books in French and English. In the back of the cultural services building of the French Embassy, in a landmark building, it is quiet place for browsing. No ambient music, no café. One hears only the occasional creak of wooden floors as book lovers contemplate titles, classic to contemporary, and the inevitable surprise — and their gaps in reading.
Ever since I moved to New York, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has been a second home. After its recent, campus-wide renovation, the complex seems more vibrant than ever. But an important — albeit newer and perhaps not widely known part of the cultural complex — lies a few blocks south on Broadway: Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Located on the fifth and sixth floors of Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, seemingly incongruous above three levels of shops, another floor of restaurants and bars, are its theater, jazz club and stunning Appel Room, which seems like nothing so much as a glamorous glass box suspended above the city, with views that put you eye to eye with Christopher Columbus atop his monument, Central Park and Midtown. Entering the Appel Room at nighttime, you can’t help feel a palpable excitement in this aerie. On offer may be the thrilling music-making of Wynton Marsalis — whose brainchild Jazz at Lincoln Center represents — and his band or by a Broadway performer such as Kelli O’Hara or a new generation of cabaret artists. City lights gleam and traffic hum away below — but on mute. Because coming here always seems special, I try to carve out some extra time with friends for a cocktail at the cozy Center Bar in the Time Warner Center before gliding up the escalator to the Appel Room and the performance — or sometimes we wait and have a couple afterward.
New York writer Mario Mercado is the former Arts/Research Editor for Travel + Leisure, where he oversaw arts coverage, including performing and visual arts, architecture, design, and film for the monthly magazine.