Top Five Fall Shows
Fall is here, and museums and galleries herald the new season as surely as the changing leaves: out go the hodge-podge group shows and minor retrospectives (OK, Richard Serra is far from minor, but that was a summer anomaly!), in come the big guns. With the Biennale and Basel over, curators and gallerists nationwide again focus on wow-ing at home, rather then in the pavilions at Venice.
In the spirit of Nick Hornby’s protagonist in “High Fidelity,” here is my list of the Top Five Shows that I would love to catch in New York this season. It’s a strong field, with showings from both old masters and contemporary trailblazers. Here’s my path up Museum Mile:
1. The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings at the Met: With a collection of Rembrandt, Rubens, Hals, Vermeer and the like unrivaled outside of Europe, the Met will display all 228 of its Dutch paintings for the first time ever. Last year the Met lent out much of its Rembrandt collection to museums honoring the painter’s 400th birthday; now, the collection is reunited in all its splendor. Following a larger trend of organizing museum shows in terms of how the works were collected (such as the Impressionist show “The Clark Brothers Collect” or “Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avante-Garde”), the Met will display the works in the order that the museum acquired them – rather than thematically or chronologically. Thus, minor works will sit next to “masterpieces” – a delightful scavenger hunt for the spectator. All in all, it should offer a once-in-a-lifetime panorama of the Northern Renaissance.
2. Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love: Sexual, uncomfortable, and aggressive, Kara Walker’s large-scale silhouette tableaux simultaneously evoke the Antebellum South and explore contemporary gender and race identity. In her first major mid-career retrospective, the Whitney unites Walker’s trademark paper-cut outs with video installations and two-hundred works on paper. After Walker’s epic installation “After the Deluge” – last year’s Met exhibition responding to Hurricane Katrina, likening the Superdome to a slave ship – I can’t wait to see Walker’s work all in one place. Her razor-sharp and ever-relevant social commentary never upstages the fairytale/nightmare aesthetic of her work.
3. Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945: Off to the spiral of the Guggenheim now, to see the story of photography’s phenomenal success in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Austria during a time of tremendous social and political upheaval. With a range of photographers – from photojournalists like Alfred Eisenstaedt to avant-garde photographers like László Moholy-Nagy and Hannah Höch – the topics also span from life and leisure in the modern metropolis to photomontage to war to the spread of surrealism. To see an image of modern leisure, like Eisenstaedt’s “Ice Skating Waiter” in St. Moritz contrasted with Höch’s sexual, anti-Fascist collages would be a trip. I would be especially eager to see the way that the curators treat the medium, as it emerged from a purely documentary tool into an art form.
4. Gustav Klimt: The Ronald Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collection: Sure, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a more visually stunning show than this. The Neue Gallerie is a jewel box of a museum – intimate and lovely. Each Klimt is like a Byzantine mosaic, with tiny facets of brilliant color and gold layered with delicately rendered faces and landscapes. Reigning over them all is the museum’s grande dame, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” the most expensive work of art ever sold, for $135 million in 2006. Klimt’s works evoke the decadence and beauty of turn of the century Austria. In that spirit, I’d have to make a stop at Cafe Sabarsky, the Neue’s phenomenal restaurant, for some coffee and Viennese Torte!
5. Willem de Kooning: The Last Beginning: Lastly, I’d bid farewell to Museum Mile and head to Chelsea – specifically to Gagosian’s 21st Street Gallery for the survey of de Kooning’s oeuvre from the 1980s. A sharp departure from the heavy impastos and thick surfaces of previous decades, these works are “luminous expanses of pastel-imbued whites, overlaid with ribbons of vivid color.” Though de Kooning’s paint-encrusted women if the 50s and 60s make me weak in the knees, I’m curious to see the arc of de Kooning’s work. Gagosian will juxtapose de Kooning’s early and later works to trace an evolution from the densely layered surfaces of the late seventies to the clean, crisp lines of the mid-eighties. After, I’d wander the smaller galleries of Chelsea, hoping to discover an undervalued artist with de Kooning’s level of talent!
I still get the student rate at museums by flashing my (expired – shh!) Brown ID. If only plane fare to New York came that easily!