Friday, March 3, 2023. Yesterday’s forecast was for temps in the 30s and light snow with no accumulation. Yesterday’s temps midday were the low to mid-50s and maybe some rain. Such as maybe not. Early evening was still in the 50s. And so it is and has been for the Winter of ’22-23 and 17 more days to Spring. Although I recall some big storms ‘round about April.
Yesterday JH and I made one of our rare duo excursions onto the streets of Manhattan so he could photograph what I’m seeing since his photos often speak more specifically and effectively that if I just told you about it. We went over to the Frick Madison which is temporarily located in the “old” Whitney Museum – which having been built a little more than 50 years ago was designed by Marcel Breuer and later, in more recent times and location, by Renzo Piano.
I’ve visited the “old” Whitney and the even much older Frick many times in my life. They were, in deed, as unalike and dissimilar as museums can be. Although it should be noted that both were constructed in the 20th century (the Frick in 1913 and thereabouts; and the Whitney in the mid-1960s).
It should also be noted that both were “founded” by single individuals — Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Henry Clay Frick, with multi-million dollar fortunes first made at the end of the 19th Century. Mr. Frick’s eye was on the classics and Mrs. Whitney’s was on the Now and Tomorrow.
Both establishments have not only survived but expanded to new heights and influence. The Whitney, the younger establishment architecturally, and drawing the eye’s interest, has expanded extensively to an even more modern — or is it post-modern? — architecture built on Gansevoort Street in what used to be called (right up into the mid-20 century) the Meatpacking District.
So it is a sweet irony that these centers of art are now doing business to support their objectives for the clamoring crowds. It’s one of the great things about the time in which we’re living.
This all came to mind when I entered the the Frick Madison yesterday afternoon. I love the Frick Collection for many reasons/aspects and personal and for its classic roots exterior and interior. It’s like walking into another time but in the Right Now.
But walking into the Frick Madison is definitely the flip side. Still new and fresh and dynamic with its own kind of grandeur. Everything about the interior is impressive, spacious, beautifully organized (I’m talking about the lobby), but suddenly relaxing and comfortably warm with a really nice (and neighborly) disposition for us visitors. And the architecture, like the Frick’s plays on your imagination of where you and when (now).
I liked walking around the building just to take in the effect of the architecture on one’s imagination. However we were there to view “The Gregory Gift,” described as an exceptional collection of bronzes, sculptures and Limoges enamels. The collection reminds one (who knows about these things) of the “Kunstkammers (cabinets of curiosities)” created by Renaissance princes for the display of precious objects, exotic natural specimens, and assorted other curiosities.
It is so specific in its authenticity that unless it is of personal interest, you might be inclined not to bother. However, on display in this museum environment, it becomes fascinating and draws you in.
The “Gift” was that of Alexis Gregory, an American and a New Yorker who was born in 1936 in Zurich, where the world surrounding them was already getting into the War Habit. The Gregorys soon emigrated to New York, and the young Alexis as a child frequently visited the Frick with his parents. It had to be another world for the child whose parents were also collectors of art.
Alexis grew up in New York with the natural influence of his sophisticated and internationally social parents. In his adult years he became very active in collecting and also founded the celebrated Vendome Press, the premier Publisher of Art and Illustrated Books. He named it after the most elegant square in Paris, the Place Vendome. Its mission is to imbue every book it publishes with the impeccable taste of its namesake.
That should tell us everything we need to know about Mr. Gregory’s taste and sense of life; an elegant man himself whose physical presence exuded his eye. He died only a few years ago, in his eighties, assured that his collection can be appreciated for many who would never know otherwise the wonder and the thrill of it for those who came before us.
Ian Wardropper, the Director of the Frick, described it thusly: “Alexis Gregory had one of the finest collections of Renaissance and Rococo decorative arts in this country. His deep affection for the Frick led to his bequest of a selection of a superb group of objects, and we are gratified to mount this exhibition in his memory.”
The “Gregory Gift” features 28 acquisitions in a variety of media and forms, curious luxury objects (“luxury” to princes and queens of 17th and 18th century and onwards) which when shown together give you an idea of a “fine collectors cabinet” (or Kunstkammer).
Among the collection are Limoges enamels, two clocks, two ewers, a gilt-bronze sculpture, a serpentine tankard, an ivory hilt, a rhinoceros horn cup, a pomander, and two stunning pastel paintings by Rosalba Carriera.
They are beautiful and naturally elegant but I was curious about the name since in those earlier days rarely were there women artist/painters. Rosalba I soon learned was indeed a woman and also very successful in Europe in her day 300 years ago when women very rarely were painters as if it belonged only to one gender. Rosalba, was one of the ones, (good marketing even then), and famous for her work in Europe, then the center of the world.
This Frick collection is extensive and fills the museum, which includes many of the classics that have been transferred temporarily from the house on Fifth Avenue which is closed while undergoing additions to expand their library for students.
It’s captivating and in an architectural environment that enhances the beauty of the art of those times long past. They tell us about the life of those who possessed and appreciated these objects of “luxury” in a time and a place which in retrospect remains simpler, more imaginative and a wonder (for us).
The Gregory Gift runs through the July 9, 2023