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Three Must-See Art Exhibits in New York that Are Just Right for this Holiday Season

From works reclaimed from Nazi looters to the best of African American art, this holiday season give and share the gift of an art experience

Marc Chagall’s Purim, 1916 or 1917, was confiscated by the Nazis as part of a purge to remove so-called “degenerate” art made by Jews. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

A trio of manageable museums are currently exhibiting some of the most talked about work in town: the Hudson River Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Morgan Library and Museum are three off-the beaten track venues for pint-sized immersions in carefully cultivated and curated shows.

This year, when giving holiday gifts, skip the gift cards, the Amazon Prime products and deals and think way outside that digital, impersonal box, give and share a LIVE experience instead.  Let others jam malls and run around frenzied looking for the “perfect” anything, just dial up a museum, or book timed tickets online, knowing capacity is limited and museums are not jammed just before the holidays.

Accompanying a niece, nephew, cousin, or friend to an exhibit will stay with the giftee. Selfies taken in front of that Mondrian or Chagall, Matisse or Richard Mayhew and Felrath Hines or Sol LeWitt are certain to outlast flashy yoga wear, a tushy spa warmer, or a reinvented shower cap.

A trio of manageable museums are currently exhibiting some of the most talked about work in town: the Hudson River Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Morgan Library and Museum are three off-the beaten track venues for pint-sized immersions in carefully cultivated and curated shows.

Jewish Museum in New York City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, the exhibits at the Hudson River Museum and the Jewish Museum include the artistic response by contemporary artists in dialogue with the historic works on display. Exhibits at the Hudson River Museum and the Morgan Library & Museum are the only venues in the U.S. for these presentations. The Jewish Museum presented a two-part virtual symposium exploring topics related to “Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art” at this link.

Upriver from congested Manhattan is the Hudson River Museum that continues its widely reviewed African American Art in the 20th century exhibit through January 16. Still on view through January 9, 2022 at the Jewish Museum is Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art; while the Morgan Library and Museum’s Another Tradition: Drawings by Black Artists from the American South will remain in place through January 16. Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 552D found a new home at the museum’s airy Gilbert Court, adding a WOW factor. Simultaneously on view at the modest Morgan is another show-stopper: Van Eyck to Mondrian: 300 Years of Collecting in Dresden, a collection straight from one of the oldest depositories of works on paper in the world.

Hudson River Museum

Teaching-Artist-in-Residence Jamel Robinson at solo show, Beauty from Ashes.

Marking his first solo show, Jamel Robinson’s response to the masterpieces in African American Art in the 20th Century sets the stage for a dialogue across the century. Robinson, who was born in Harlem 42 years ago, has been the HRM’s  Teaching Artist-in-Residence this year, and is a painter, sculptor, writer, and performance artist. Among his works on display are Fighting for Change: Fist Full of Tears and Beauty from Ashes that combine his poetic sensibilities, his directness, sense of humor and reverence for what went before him.

Of his work, he said the concept of beauty from ashes, “Holds true to the Black Experience with the historical and present-day ashes served to us in America, to my personal experience of navigating life’s challenges, and to the extended universal view of everyone’s ability to use circumstance as a platform of expression.”

The Hudson River Museum is the fifth and final venue to host this impressive and wide-ranging collection African American Art in the 20th Century, which brings one of the most significant national collections of African American art to Yonkers. Featuring some of the country’s most famous Black artists–it was drawn from the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum–the exhibit features paintings and sculptures by 34 artists who came to prominence during the period bracketed by the Harlem Renaissance starting in the 1920s, the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and beyond.

In addition to Romare Bearden, artists include Frederick Brown, Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, Loïs Mailou Jones and Renée Stout, whose work ranges in style from portraiture to modern abstraction, to the postmodern assemblage of found objects.

Move from the galleries to the Planetarium or consider the Glenview Holiday Tour, the Gilded Age mansion that abuts the museum featuring Yonkers’ favorite dollhouse, Nybelwyck Hall. For a virtual experience, consider the Studio Tour and Demonstration with Jamel Robinson on Jan. 12 at the artist in his own studio.

https://www.hrm.org/

Open Thursday through Sunday, 12-5 pm

Jewish Museum

The current exhibit at the Jewish Museum could not be more relevant. Almost daily there are reports of the destruction and looting of art and cultural heritage of international significance, especially in the Middle East and from other parts of the world. Popular movies such as The Monuments Men and The Woman in Gold hint at just a portion of the outrages perpetuated during World War II.

Bernardo Strozzi, Act of Mercy: Giving Drink to the Thirsty, 1620s was owned by Viennese Jewish industrialist Oscar Bondy whose collection was stolen by the Nazis. This piece was tagged for inclusion in Hitler’s personal museum before it was recovered by the Allies. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, Florida State University, Sarasota.

Seventy-five years after WWII, Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art stands as a suspense novel of the artwork and Judaica that was seized and moved stealthily from one country to another through labyrinths of distribution centers, recovery sites, collectors’ networks, saviors and destroyers, as the artworks themselves bore witness to the historical calamities while remaining the enduring witnesses of creativity and some of the world’s finest masterpieces.

From the exhibit at the Jewish Museum. Photo: VNY Media

During WWII the Nazis stole untold numbers of artworks and cultural property; while after the war an estimated one million artworks and 2.5 million books were recovered. Banned and considered “degenerate” art, many were slated for destruction, yet remarkably, escaped.

This exhibit gathers 53 works of art, with 80 Jewish ceremonial objects, photos and archival documents, as well as new commissions by four contemporary artists: Maria Eichhorn, Hadar Gad, Dor Guez and Lisa Oppenheim who created new works in response to the exhibit.

From the exhibit at the Jewish Museum. Photo: VNY Media

One of the wildest stories lies behind two paintings that were confiscated by the Nazis from a single collection, traveled together through several storage depots and processing centers, parted ways, and were finally reunited decades after they were stolen.

Both Daisies (1939) and Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar (1939) by Henri Matisse, belonged to Paul Rosenberg, a renowned French Jewish gallerist who represented many of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Daisies and Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar were seized when the Nazis broke into a Bordeaux bank vault where Rosenberg had stored his most precious belongings before fleeing to America. The Nazis also broke into Rosenberg’s Paris gallery which they transformed into the office of the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question, using the space to organize “Le Juif en France”, one of the largest anti-Semitic exhibitions in history.

Subsequently, the two works were transferred to the Musée du Louvre and then to the Jeu de Paume gallery, both of which had been converted into Nazi storage depots. On November 27, 1942 Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar was part of a four-painting exchange with the German art dealer Gustav Rochlitz acting on behalf of Hermann Goering. Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar remained in Goering’s private collection until the end of the war when it was recovered by the Allies and restituted to Rosenberg. Daisies remained in storage and was also restituted after the war. Both works were later sold by Rosenberg and belonged to several private collectors before entering the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Daisies in 1983 and Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar in 2007.

Not surprisingly, the Jewish Museum acted as a storage depot, during and after the war in identifying and retrieving thousands of ritual objects, some of which came through the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. (JCR). Ultimately, the JCR found homes for more than 350,000 books and 10,000 ceremonial objects (including 1,000 Torah scrolls) throughout the United States, Israel and the world, thousands of which passed through the Jewish Museum; more than 200 of those objects are part of the Museum’s permanent collection today.

Open Sunday 10 am–6 pm; Monday and Thursday, 11 am–6 pm; Friday, 11 am–4 pm

Closed Tuesday and Wednesday

https://thejewishmuseum.org/

Morgan Library & Museum

Another Tradition celebrates the Morgan’s 2018 acquisition of eleven drawings from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting Black Southern artists and their communities.

Thornton Dial’s Ladies Stand by the Tiger, 1991 is among the 11 works acquired from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in 2018.

“Black artists from the South have contributed tremendously to the visual culture of the United States with extraordinary quilts and assemblage sculptures, but also, as this exhibition makes clear, in the realm of drawing,” said Exhibition curator Rachel Federman, the Morgan’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings. Artists featured are just one or two generations removed from slavery, and subjected to the abuses of Jim Crow.

In the past the focus has often been on the works of assemblage—whether of found objects or fabric. While the current exhibit showcases some works that were produced on traditional artist’s papers, others incorporate found media ranging from watercolor, to ballpoint pen, crayon and even glitter.

Many, like Dial, Rowe and Holley, exhibited their creations at their homes in elaborate “yard shows,” drawing the attention of passersby and artworld figures alike. Artists represented in the acquisition include Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe, Henry Speller, Luster Willis and Purvis Young. Another “Tradition” also incorporates institutional and private loans by Rowe, Lonnie Holley, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Bill Traylor.

The Morgan Library and Museum. Photo: CODART

The Morgan is the sole American venue for Van Eyck to Mondrian: 300 Years of Collecting in Dresden, which commemorates the 300th anniversary of the founding of the collection by Augustus II the Strong (r. 1694–1733), Elector of Saxony. The display features Jan van Eyck’s (1390–1441) Portrait of an Older Man (ca. 1435–40), the only surviving drawing by the great Netherlandish Renaissance painter, which has never before traveled to the United States. Rembrandt’s (1606–1669) Abduction of Ganymede (ca. 1635) is among the masterpieces on display.

Also on display is Piet Mondrian’s (1872–1944) Color Design for the Salon of Ida Bienert (ca. 1926), a commissioned interior of the Damenzimmer (ladies’ salon) in the house of the Dresden art collector Ida Bienert, a driving force for modernism there.

Included are works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger, Rembrandt van Rijn and Peter Paul Rubens, while the museum’s holdings of southern European works further enhances the exhibit with works by Antonio Allegri da Correggio, Agnolo Bronzino, Sofonisba Anguissola and others. Among works produced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, highlights include studies by Caspar David Friedrich, Francisco Goya, Käthe Kollwitz, Gustav Klimt, Otto Dix and Piet Mondrian.

https://www.themorgan.org/visit

Open: Wednesday through Sunday, 10:30 am to 5 pm; Friday 10:30 am to 7 pm.

 

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