LETTER FROM: New York: March 7th to 10th

By Kevin Ott

“Gramercy Park”

My flight arrives on time, the cab line is short and traffic is thin, so my arrival at the Gramercy Park Hotel is before noon, allowing for a quick lunch of Alphabet Soup and Grilled Cheese at the Terrace Restaurant, where the walls are hung with Warhol paintings, a Damien Hirst pharmacy cabinet and other art jumpstarts the weekend, no letters left in my soup bowl, I’m out into the flurries and uptown on the Number 6 line to 67th Street and the Park Avenue Armory, home to the ADAA show, New York’s big spring art fair, located at the Armory (not to be confused with the Armory fair at Piers 92 and 94 on the West Side at 56th Street), the ADAA fair AT THE Armory being the more constrained of the venues, with many Blue Chip galleries showing, for the most part, secondary market offerings, such as Acquevella with its mix of Cezanne, Braque, et al, or James Reinish with a small but great Hopper and some small, trippy Arthur Dove pieces, or Debra Force showing a couple of nice Bluemner gouaches and a Childe Hassam, or the appealing Prendergast watercolors at some gallery I’ve forgotten, and of course many random wonderful works, so that what sticks out are the few galleries that mount single artist shows, Pace giving its space to Kiki Smith and Ameringer McEnery Yohe presenting Tam Van Tran’s large fluttering gold foil leaf collages, the wispy leaves wavering with slightest air movement, interesting but not particularly beautiful, leading me on to the café in the Armory for a cookie, bottled water and some time to appreciate the beauty of the Armory itself before I ride the 6 back downtown to sit in on Swann’s big print auction, just for fun and having never been to an auction, a worthy experience for an hour or so, quickly learning that the things you like, someone else likes and will pay more for, so that fortunately, I leave empty handed, never having raised the paddle, but still ready for a quick nap before joining some successfully derelict old college friends for drinks and dinner somewhere in Soho, an end to the day that seems to fuse right into the next morning, where once again the crowded 6 train takes me uptown to the Met to see the over-the-top exhibit “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity”, that is packed full of beautiful Monets, Manets, Renoirs, Tissots, Morisets, among others, all picturing women and men in their finery, lounging at garden parties or posing for formal portraits, with some of the elaborate dresses on display behind glass, connecting the images to the real, and then,as is often the case with visits to the Met, I wander agog and semi-lost through some galleries and stumble on something amazing, this time, a fine Paul Klee exhibit, small works in a small exhibit of maybe 30 or 40 drawings and small paintings, many mysterious and mesmerizing, a most unexpected treat, but lingering is no option– time to brave the wind whipped snow cross town to Pier 92, the Modern exposition of the Armory show, a large space sectioned by a multitude of U.S. and European galleries, most, once again, surveying their stable of artists or secondary market masterpieces, not unlike a fabulous flea market for the well off, around every corner something to command your attention, either pop master works, such as several galleries’ prominent displays of Wesselmann works, large and small, or small but absurdly expensive Gerhardt Richter paintings that attract the attention of the very well well-off, but also some fine early and mid-century American pictures, Burchfields and others, or, if you are interested, great prints in a few secondary market galleries like Sims Reed of London or Senior and Shopmaker of New York, but very few dedicated shows, so that at a certain point one becomes numb with the overabundance, and the once intriguing people watching loses its luster and out the door I go, cabbing back to the Gramercy, then 6-ing uptown to meet a friend for a quick dinner at Café Luxembourg before taking in the

“The Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater”

Allman Brothers at the eye popping Beacon Theater, their two week stint there every Spring being a must-see for rock-n-jam fans everywhere, and, just to say, an experience that lived up to the hype, both musically and visually, which made me wonder, have I exhausted the NYC possibilities a day too soon, leaving little left for Saturday, except, of course, as Saturday unfolds, a walk on the Highline, New York’s above ground walking park that nestles between buildings and eventually drops me down into Chelsea for visits to a few galleries, among them, Pace to see Thomas Nozkowski’s colorful, graphic and perplexing abstract oil paintings and a roomful of large, and to me, disappointing Jim Dine paintings, and, if sales are any measure, Nozkowski won this battle handily with a sea of “solds” to zero for Mr. Dine, but that may not be fair or indicative of anything and having no time to ponder this, I tack down to Matthew Marks gallery to see the large scale, epically wonderful photos of Darren Almond, all shot under a full moon with exposures of several minutes to hours, revealing eerily beautiful natural sights on seven different continents— among the top two or three art highlights of the weekend that was not over yet, for I thread my way back to mid-town and the Morgan Library, both to see the show of Surrealist Drawings, of which some early Miros and a Pousette-Dart piece stand out, and to marvel at the old library itself, recently re-opened and a truly stunning example of what great taste and great wealth can accomplish (or purchase), both of which seem to be in abundance in New York City, and abundance is the word one would use to describe the inventory at my next stop, The Old Print Shop on Lexington Avenue,

Arthur Dove, watercolor, courtesy of James Reinish Fine Art

the creaky wooden floored store-front stuffed with print drawers and bins, bursting with many eras of fine prints, two stories of this, and a wonderful staff of print geeks happy to show-and-tell until I feel the gravity pulling me back to the hotel for a short rest before dining at Maialino, the exceptional Italian eatery adjacent to the hotel, then walk the few blocks to the Jazz Standard half a block off Lexington on 27th Street for the early show of Antonio Sanchez (and band), a drummer led band I’d never heard of, but was glad to see and hear– rhythmic, propulsive jazz with two very adept horn players punctuating the weekend to a resounding conclusion.

Kevin Ott

4 Responses

  1. Hi Kevin,

    Very inventive style! I attended these shows a couple years ago, and you surely captured the pace and excitement of being there. Also, love the photo of Gramercy Park…the moodiness and the accent of the orange umbrella are great….who did the photo?

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Very inventive style! I attended these shows a couple years ago, and you surely captured the pace and excitement of being there. Also, love the photo of Gramercy Park…the moodiness and the accent of the orange umbrella are great….who did the photo?

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