Surprises and Gifts — What to See On Madison This Weekend

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Looking south along Madison Avenue.

The temperatures are no longer in the mid-70s. People are back in town, and there are a ton of new exhibitions that have opened for the new season. The Frieze show in London just wrapped up, and FIAC is on in Paris. Attendance at both shows was strong. New York is an art city, too, with so many galleries uptown and downtown.

Those on and around Madison Avenue are working with the Madison Avenue BID and ARTnews to offer a special look at their exhibits on Saturday, 23 October; some with talks by curators and artists. Reservations are needed at some of the galleries and for all talks. And the Frick Madison is even offering a first come, first served sketching event outside the museum. No skill or talent required.

The art on view is extremely varied. And compelling. Public interest in art is growing, as well it should. I was intrigued to see the photos of the Arc de Triomphe wrapped for 16 days as per the design of Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude. All my Parisian friends were very enthused about the project. New York may not have a similar, singular signature piece this fall, but we have a whole lot to take in and enjoy.

A View of The Gates
A view of The Gates.

New York was home to this project in 2005. Cristo and Jeanne-Claude financed their works by selling the drawings detailing the individual projects.

A Progected Flatiron Building
A projected Flatiron Building rendering.

Galerie Gmurzynska has represented the married artists for many years, and has a collection of their work. Among the drawings is one of the Flatiron Building wrapped from 1961. The project ultimately never happened as insurance companies would not insure the finished project.

Wrapped in Fidi
Wrapped in Fidi.

Another unrealized project was the covering of 2 Broadway and 20 Exchange place. The project dated from 1964-1990. The duo were persistent. Perhaps that is how the Arc de Triomphe became a posthumous triumph.

Covering a River
Covering a river.

Another project that was dropped was the covering of almost six miles of the Arkansas River in Colorado. The notion stayed alive for many years, before it was finally abandoned in 2017.

Study for A Running Fence
Study for The Running Fence.

Another rural project was The Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties. This 24 1/2 mile project was completed in 1976. They also wrapped the Pont Neuf in Paris in 1985.

An Island in Miami
An Island in Miami.

An aquatic piece of environmental art was finished in 1983. Eleven islands in Biscayne Bay in Miami were surrounded with pink fabric. Christo and Jeanne-Claude operated on a grand scale.

Galerie Gmurzynska, 43 East 78 Street

Two Women From 1921
Two Women from 1921.

Aquavella Galeries is showing a group of Picasso’s drawings — seventy years worth of them. The early drawings are especially interesting as it is well known that Picasso was broke when he started out, and often had to buy used canvases and scrape the paint off of them to paint. Paper was easier to get, and he produced many beautiful images, like this drawing from 1921. Everything in the exhibit is either on loan from museums or from private collections. It is a must-see.

An Early Gouache
An early gouache.

Two Acrobats with a dog dates from 1905. Picasso’s band included Apollinaire, Alfred Jarry, Andre Breton and others. Picasso and his friends loved frequenting the circuses of Paris.

A Portrait From the 1930's
A portrait from the 1930s.

This charcoal with an oil wash is of Marie-Therese, his lover at the time.

Studies and Figures
Studies and figures.

These drawings date from the early 1900s. Life was a party in those days. An acquaintance of Apollinaire’s was a petty thief who specialized in liberating small pieces of art from the Louvre. Some of these were African art that found their way to Picasso’s studio. Picasso drew much inspiration from them, as these studies show. Several of these are studies for his major work, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon of 1907.

A Colorful Beachscape
A colorful beachscape.

This playful watercolor dates from 1933 and was done on the beach in Cannes.

Portrait of A Woman
Portrait of A Woman, Dora Maar.

Picasso did many paintings of his lover, Dora Maar. This charcoal from the late 1938 is powerful.

Acquavella Galleries, 18 East 79 Street

A Painting with Collage
A painting with collage.

Lévy Gorvy has devoted four galleries around the globe to works by one artist. Mickalene Thomas: Beyond The Pleasure Priciple. The Brooklyn based artist is known for large scale paintings that mix collage with painting. The pieces are all images of women of color by a queer woman of color.

A View Through Plants
A view through plants.

Ms. Thomas stages her paintings with many unpainterly things, such as a group of houseplants, and patterned backdrops. The figures were taken from vintage Jet magazine pinups.

A Women With Books
A Women With Books.

The artist also includes different sized stacks of books written by black authors around the paintings.

Works with a Grid and Mirrors
Works with a Grid and Mirrors.

The paintings are staged in an interesting way, giving one different ways to view the work. You are walking into the artist’s world. The different views and reflections offer new ways to see what she says.

A Seated Figure
A Seated Figure.

Mickalene Thomas also works glitter and Swarovski crystals into her works.

The Video Presetation
The video presentation.

A small room on the ground floor shows a short video of the artist in her studio. You can see how she works, and who she works with, as well as all the images she keeps on her mood boards.

Lévy Gorvy, 909 Madsion Avenue at 73rd Street

Inside a Country House
Inside an English country house.

Photographer Karen Knorr is one of the artists on view at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery. A British-American artist, she has worked in England since the 1970s. She photographs sumptuous interiors and plays with them, adding avian touches in this image.

A Lucky Bird
A lucky bird.

Another image is part of India Series. A photograph of an opulent Rajastan palace has images of indigenous avian species superimposed onto the image of the building. The pieces are dreamy.

Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 1100 Madison Avenue between 82nd and 83rd Streets

Home Scenes
Home scenes.

David Salle fills the Skarstedt Gallery with his Tree of Life exhibition.  The artist has appropriated the illustrator Peter Arno’s work from the New Yorker as a grisaille background for his visual tales.

Images of The Underworld

In Images of The Underworld, colorful trees and leaves are superimposed on images of couples and individuals in various states of being, good, bad and indifferent. At the bottom are panels with the artist’s interpretation of the roots.

A Man Weighing In
A Man Weighing In.

The paintings tell a story. A human story.

Mixing Color and Black and WHite Images
Mixing color and black and white images.

Both men and women are portrayed in various poses and states of emotion. Doing things or dreaming of doing things. Colorfully though. And with an amusing insect, a sort of caterpillar.

Bathers and Women
Bathers and women.

Sometimes the Arno people are in color, too.

A Simple Tree
A simple tree.

What is the story about? Dreams and nightmares? Hopes and fears? It’s up to you to figure it out.

Skarstedt Gallery, 20 East 79 Street

A Languid Landscape
A languid landscape.

Hauser & Wirth is featuring Erna Rosenstein: Once Upon A Time. This is the first monographic show of her work outside of Poland. She was a key figure in the Polish avant-garde. Ms. Rosenstein (1913-2004) started as a surrealist, but worked in many styles. Forty works are on view that have never been seen outside of Poland. The pieces are from the Rosenstein estate and Polish institutions.

Flowers and Thoughts
Flowers and thoughts.

The preceding painting dates from 1968 and these two pieces also date from the 1960s.

Dawn and Midnight.

Erna Rosenstein stayed in Poland during the Holocaust, and survived to tell its tales. These two paintings, Dawn and Midnight, are portraits of her father and mother.


The artist, a communist, remained in Poland after it fell to Russia. These undated objects are a simple reminder of how hard life was then.

One of The Fairy Tale Panels
One of the fairy tale panels.

A poet as well as a painter. One room is filled with charming paintings of the fairy tale, Tiny Snail and All His Friends. The manuscript was recently found and has been republished by the gallery.

A Curious Cabinet
A curious cabinet.

Another interesting piece is a cabinet that resided in her home for many years. It featured in her 1967 show, and she covered it with intimate references, photos, historical paintings, and found objects.

Be sure to sign up for the Madison Avenue BID’s Art Walk. If you can’t make it tomorrow, October 23rd, you will miss the gallery talks and all the extras. But you should still plan to take a look at all the shows. They will be up for many weeks or several months. A visit will be well worth it. Click below to sign up:

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn. 

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