25 August 2014

Museums update

CJ loves museums (obvious enough if you read these pages). The Met in NYC is one of my all time great experiences. No change after our recent return visit although I didn’t feel the sheer overwhelming pleasure of our first visit. But the pieces are all so impressive and the breadth so wide that my breath is still taken away. Visit a room of numerous Rembrandts and you have the idea.

This time we visited the American Museum of Natural History and I was distinctly underwhelmed. We saw an incredible special video display in the Planetarium on dark matter / dark energy. It’s AV but impressive. Gems / minerals was good (some incredible crystal and gem samples and the Star of India sapphire); paleontology was informative (and my eye doesn’t identify casts from real skulls); the dinosaur skeletons were impressive. Otherwise, I got the feeling this was mostly AV and models which is mostly available on the Net. And it felt strangely out-of-time with models of peoples of different cultures, but (did I miss them?) no Euros. We visited the Guggenheim Museum. It’s famous for its snail-like design by Frank Lloyd Wright and I understand its core collection is of the French impressionists. We saw a selection of this era, most spectacularly Picasso's Woman Ironing. The main space was given over to an exhibit of Italian Futurists and that’s a movement I’ve wondered about; interesting. We also visited the Frick Collection. Frick was another art-collecting industrialist who donated his house and collection to the city. Not a big museum, but a gem. One room particularly stood out (the Living Hall), but all had impressive or stunning works. Lots of recognised images here. Apart from furniture, the Living Hall displays Bellini’s St Francis in the Desert, Holbein’s pair of St Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, El Greco’s St Jerome and a pair by Titian, Pietro Aretino and Portrait of a man in a red cap. That’s just the paintings. Otherwise, Piero della Francesca, Goya, Gainsborough, Rembrandt, including another self portrait, Renoir, Vermeer, Turner, Whistler. I was particularly taken by a Fontana Workshop Majolica dish of the judgement of Paris, a small enamel plaque by Limousin, thought to be of Antoine de Bourbon, King of Navarre, and a wonderful table described as “Italian or French, Long Center Table with Columnar Supports and Animal Masks, 16th and 19th century”. There’s more but you get the drift. A stunning collection, nicely accessible and a short visit.

My take at this stage of NYC museums visiting: Met, unmissible; MOMA and Frick, do it; Pierpont-Morgan, impressive; Guggenheim, for lovers of Impressionism; Natural History, especially for the kids. The pics are a mix from the Met and Natural History Museum, except Giovanni Bellini, St Francis in Ecstasy, 1480-85, from http://collections.frick.org/Obj360$369 via WikiCommons.

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