Here is a post that I had apparently left on draft for over 6 months:

I suppose I should have written down my thoughts on Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction right after the event, but for what I have narrowed down to a couple of reasons, I procrastinated.  The more practical one is that we had such horrible weather that day, the 9th of December.  If not for the fact that I had gone to the viewing two days earlier and was quite intrigued by the selection of pieces that were going to be put up, I would not have braved heading out more times than was absolutely necessary.  The auction was also not as glamorous a scene in comparison to the other auctions I have been to, or even half as chic as the exhibition for it.  There were no regally dressed women, none of the fashion-forward younger crowd, because as can be expected, New Yorkers can be quite pragmatic about dressing for the weather.   A uniform of Hunter boots (I was in a navy blue pair myself), Arche water resistant boots, and other such footwear complemented the parade of trench coats from the small fraction of people who managed to attend.  Leaving Sotheby’s was also a bit of an ordeal with everyone clamoring for cabs, that I did not have the energy to actually put pen to paper (or in actuality, type on my laptop) later that evening.

The other reason is that I had decided before attending to make a list of my top 5 pieces, but as is usually the case when it comes to jewelry, my greedy eye had the best of me, and I marked more than double that number.  I eventually edited down to 10 pieces that are either classic, regal items that I would love to have worn in the Regency era, or more ironic, interesting pieces that suit my personality (not that I would currently be able to afford any of them, but it never hurts to dream ).

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It’s my lunch break at work and I am busy putting together an envelope to send to my mom and dad.  In it is a copy of the handout at the New New York 2001 – 2010 exhibition and a photocopy of an article in New York magazine on the same said exhibition.  The hubby’s name is listed in the handout, as he was part of the group of Architectural League members who shot photos around the city to capture the ‘changing face’ of New York.

We attended the opening reception for the exhibition last Friday, which I was pleased to observe, had enough attendees to warrant people stepping out of the show floor for some air.  Needless to say, I was exceptionally proud of the hubby, as even though I have been to many art shows and auctions, I have never actually had a work on display 🙂

First time at the auctions

December 13, 2009

We were lucky enough to get invited to attend our first Sotheby’s auction in mid-November with a party from a gallery I used to work for on the Upper East Side.  Having only seen these formal auctions in movies, we were of course excited to go.

Apparently, the people who attend these auctions do not really dress as formally as portrayed in films. There were no gloves, no evening gowns, and no tuxes.  There was however free flowing champagne. And there were exorbitant amounts of money offered very coolly for items with sale prices (or hammer prices, as they are termed at auctions) that are determined by how many people on the auction floor, or on the phones, want to walk away with them.

Being a newbie, I read each the description and estimate price listed in the catalog for each lot.  And then watched as the bidding, for the most part, reached the high estimate price and then quickly pass it.  If this is how the art market is in such dismal economic times, I wondered how much more money would change hands if we were not in a recession.  The Camargo sculpture pictured here for example, sold at $1.35M, three times the high estimate price of $450K. I had to struggle to keep my mouth from hanging open as the bids skyrocketed for about ten minutes.  It was quite an exciting evening, although the critics wrote the next day that it was not at all a great auction by their standards, and that Christie’s, although they did a bit better, also was not spectacular.  As for us, we are happy to start following the market at this stage.  If the tales are true about art being so much more lucrative a couple of years ago, we may have had a coronary at our first live auction, as we watch what to us is the value of a couple of homes, thrown at a things that will hang on the wall. 

When I read about a site-specific installation being set up at the newly renovated David H. Koch Theatre, my first thought was “genius!” I was expecting a pay-to-view exhibition of works that would take up a section of the building temporarily to help NYC Opera recoup some of what was surely a renovation that went over budget (consider the price-hike for everything in the current state of the economy). But I was wrong. As I walked into the theatre lobby to attend the cocktail reception, I realized that not only is the installation free for opera ticket holders (will be on view till April 18, 2010), but the dynamic sculptures were not taking up any square footage in the promenade, as they were strung way up in the air. The artist E.V. Day had used the City Opera costumes to construct suspended sculptures of the couture garments in dramatic positions or poses.  It is an added bonus that you are able to view the works from the different perspectives afforded by the three floors up, as well as from the promenade floor. My favorite of them all is piece #4 in the exhibition, which was of about three dozen of ornate hats/head-gear that were part of City Opera’s wardrobe. I just couldn’t help thinking, where were these hats on Halloween, when I was struggling to find inspiration for a costume?

Kandinsky on the color Yellow

December 11, 2009

“Yellow is disquieting to the spectator, pricking him, stimulating him. Yellow can be raised to a pitch of intensity unbearable to the eye and spirit.” Quoting the artist from the book Spiritual in Art is how the audio guide discusses Kandinsky’s Impression III. In case anyone wonders in the future how we came to the decision to have a yellow baby room, I am noting down that it was not from any sense of practicality (yellow’s gender-neutralness), but from our being captivated by this particular oil painting by Vasily Kandinsky.
We saw the Kandinsky show at the Guggenheim on the 21st of October, coincidentally also the museum’s 50th anniversary. The festive spirit of all the visitors standing in line to get in (the line had rounded the block before 11am) certainly helped the tiny bit of anxiety I usually face as I walk in this particular building. We all of course acknowledge Frank Lloyd Wright’s brilliance in designing this 20th century architectural icon, but the physical effort needed to walk up that spiral ramp whilst your brain is processing various works of art has never been a small matter for me.
And this is how I was able to ascertain the impact of Impression III. Considering that the painting was sequenced in the middle of the exhibition, which meant I had already walked up a considerable amount and had seen a number of great works, Impression III’s wide expanse of black on a background of bold yellow woke up my slightly fatigued mind like a jolt of caffeine. I was invigorated enough to muster the strength to finish the walk up to see the rest of the show, instead of deciding to leave the rest for another day.
The work left such an impression (pardon the pun), that we started searching for a book on Kandinsky that would have an image of the painting. Our hunt produced a book by Thomas M. Messer, first published in 1997. I went directly to the page of the book discussing Impression III to read what was written on the work in an attempt to figure out what it was that forcefully caught my attention. It is written that the work’s predecessor, Impression II, was painted in 1911, two days after Kandinsky attended a New Year’s concert in Munich. It would be safe to assume that both works were inspired by Kandinsky’s experience of being at that performance.
Messer writes that the black on the yellow may represent “the artist’s identification of black with negative attributes.” While I do recognize that everyone has a bit of darkness in them, I suspect that my interest has more to do with my obvious attraction to black and gold combos (such as my love for a gorgeous black leather bag with goldtone metal accents, or admiration for all jewelry pieces with gold and onyx). And so despite this possibility of a negative connotation, we are determined to find a print of this particular work that will one day be on the wall of our nursery. A room that will be decorated predominantly in yellow, which will go with the yellow STOKKE we had long ago planned to get for our future babies.
As for the rest of the exhibit, while my interest in seeing Kandinsky at the Guggenheim stemmed from encounters with Abstract Expressionist works at the gallery that gave me my first job in New York City, I left the museum an exhilarated (if a bit tire) fan. I would therefore like to end with some text from the exhibition that may help in the appreciation of the artist’s works.

As identified by Kandinsky, there are three types of paintings designated by their associations with music:
Impressions – based on real life subjects
Improvisations – spontaneous and unconscious images from the artist’s inner life
Compositions – formally developed formats often preceded by many studies.

Guggenheim turns 50

October 21, 2009

Moms with babies posing in front of the Guggenheim

It was such a wonderful 65 degree morning today that no one minded the long line to get in the Guggenheim.  The museum opened at 10am, but at 9:15, the line had already rounded the corner.  Perhaps it was the free admission (everyone loves freebies), but there was a general happy and celebratory spirit in the air as people discussed Frank Lloyd Wright’s genius while waiting to enter and see the Kandinsky show (more on this exhibit later) and the other exhibitions currently on view.

After a couple of hours I had to force myself to leave due to exhaustion (I always find the walk up to take a toll) and a strong caffeine craving.  As I walked out, I could not help but snap a photo of this group of moms and their babies posing in front of the 50th Anniversary sign.  I got a pleasant rush from knowing that some of the next generation are getting started early in appreciating the arts.  That, and the babies were just so adorable!

The exhibit opened at the Whitney on September 17 and will run through January of next year.  It may have been because it was the last workday of the week, or because in the current economic climate, it is easier on people’s wallets (mine included) to come on Friday evenings when it is pay-as-you-wish at the museum, but the line, when we got there, went around the block.  The show was well worth the wait to get in.  While I am not usually a fan of the audio guide at museums ( I usually pick one up but immediately stop using it), I would greatly recommend making use of the guide at O’Keeffe as it very comprehensively and clearly (a rare combination I find, with exhibition guides) takes you through the stages of her development as an artist.  It also takes on the challenge of walking you through Stieglitz’s intimate photos of Georgia O’Keeffe without offending delicate sensibilities.  Alfred Stieglitz’s section of the exhibit left me attempting to imagine what it must have been like to be a young struggling female artist in the 1920s who finds a patron, someone willing to put you up in a working studio, someone who listened to what feelings are driving you to create.  This hero worship (which when it leads some woman’s life astray psychologists commonly attributes it to a lack of a proper and functional father figure) still exists today, and after much contemplation, I found it a very understandable conclusion that O’Keeffe became Stieglitz’s mistress.  Let’s stop here before I totally veer off the subject of the exhibit.  I myself was attracted to seeing the show, having seen reproductions of some of O’Keeffe’s very provocative renditions of flowers as a teen.  I was glad to have the images of these works get clearer in my head, and I walked out of the museum a bit fuller and very satisfied. http://whitney.org/www/exhibition/okeeffe.jsp

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