“Greetings,” says the guard, checking my ticket, “weren’t you here yesterday?”
“Yes,” I smile, “this is my home away from home.”
Actually, my devotion to the Guggenheim was solidified thanks to its current exhibit, called Visionaries. Visionaries celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, which was the impetus of the museum’s permanent collection. Ranging from the late 19th through the mid 20th centuries, it includes 150 paintings by Kandinsky alone. .
And, while I can’t distinguish between one particular artistic style from another, the more I look at these paintings, the more I appreciate them.
It was thanks to Solomon Guggenheim’s advisor, Hilla Rebay, and like-minded friends, that Solomon expanded his traditional collection and became a champion of nonobjective art. No longer welcome in Hitler’s Germany, Solomon, and his niece, Peggy, followed by the art dealers Justin K. Thannhauser, and Karl Nierendorf, decamped to New York and took their collections with them.
Soon, their ever-growing holdings needed a new home. Enter Frank Lloyd Wright, the American enfant terrible architect. After considerable back and forth, his Guggenheim Museum opened on October 21, 1959. The building was hailed as a work of art in itself, and continues to be an architectural landmark that does New York proud.
Over the years, the building underwent extensive expansions and renovations, and an adjoining tower was built. Meanwhile special exhibits ranged from The Art of Motorcycles to James Turrell’s Aten Reign light show. New exhibits became more and more popular and the museum’s permanent collection on the 2nd floor, including the Tannhauser collection, were greatly neglected.
Happily, Visionaries pays tribute to its founders and patrons, once again. For the anniversary exhibit the museum has pulled out over 170 masterworks from its permanent collection, including works from Camille Pissaro to Jackson Pollock and beyond.
Getting it Right with THE WRIGHT
The American artist Sarah Crowner has spruced up the restaurant with a hand-stitched canvas that hangs alongside the curved back wall.
Two days after the Wright reopened, after having been closed for quite a while, I invited a friend for lunch. I’ve been going there ever since. So much so that, I feel part of the “Wright” team. When I can’t decide whether to order the Smoked Trout appetizer, or the Grilled Flatbread Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, waiter Bertin knows. “The trout,” he says. “Imagine trout instead of tuna fish salad on toasted pumpernickel, surrounded by radishes and fresh greens.” No further question. I’d gladly have it every day.
The couple at the adjacent table seems delighted with their dish. It’s the Herb Roasted Chicken, they tell me. They share half a bottle of white wine, followed by espresso. The woman looks stunning in what I assume is a designer dress. They just arrived from Milan, they say.
On my next visit I order the chicken dish for myself. Alas, the chicken is overcooked. So is the Beef/Mushroom Burger, I try on another occasion. But, then again, The Leo, short for Lox and Egg Omelet is light and fluffy, and obviously cooked à la minute.
From the small bottle of olive oil and the presentation of each dish, visual appeal prevails. Chef Alejandro Cortez’s multi-colored Baby Beet Salad could appear on a Bonnard painting. I wonder if it tastes as well. My apology to the chef. It is so good, I call it the Mona Lisa dish.
His Chopped Salad is a symphony of colors: red pomegranate seeds, roasted pecans, orange-colored squash, fennel, small pieces of pear, sliced radish, plus a variety of unknown greens, among them Castelfranco. Aside from being the name of a town in Veneto, Castelfranco is a tender lettuce green that enfolds like a rose.
The young woman, next to my table, is reading a book and doesn’t bother to look up. She has a ferocious appetite. She starts with the Herb Popover, with Wild Mushrooms, goes on to the Beef and Mushroom Burger (which she thoroughly enjoys), and ends the meal with dessert and coffee.
Haven finished my Guggenheim/The Wright endeavor, I drop by to say hello. It’s Wednesday; Deena’s day off. Waiter Renee and the hostess only come on the weekend now. Bertin, assisted by bus boy, Toni Ann, is running the show. I notice two tables of deuces, one single, two threes. Another couple walks in. There’s no one at the door to greet them. Studying the menu posted at the restaurant’s entry, a party of six, including two teenagers, decides to give it a try. Bertin is busy making a cappuccino. Toni Ann seems out for lunch, as the saying goes.
I am tempted to play hostess. But catch myself in time.
Stopping by at the Café, located on the 3rd floor, one late afternoon, I have the venue nearly to myself. The window tables overlook Central Park’s reservoir, with its splendid fountain, as well as Central Park’s imposing residential buildings on the West side. I put my belongings on a chair next to the window and feel like an out-of-towner who has discovered the perfect place.