I absolutely wanted to visit at least a museum during our short trip to NYC. After a couple of days of intense sightseeing, I almost resigned myself to the idea that it wouldn’t be possible by lack of time. I needed some time alone to go but, at the same time, I couldn’t imagine my boyfriend doing another interesting thing without me meanwhile. Indeed, my biggest problem when I travel is that I want to do and see everything. Which is not his case as he doesn’t like, among others, shopping and museums.
I finally found a little gap on the last day of our trip. My boyfriend wanted to take it easy in the morning and take the time to pack. It was the perfect occasion.
There were 2 museums that I was interested in. Actually more than 2 but I had to reduce my list to help me choosing. The 2 last were the Guggenheim and the MoMA (very original!). However, my choice was made easier because I didn’t really have any specific interest for the exhibitions shown at the Guggenheim at that time but I was really interested by the exhibition about “The Paris of Toulouse Lautrec: Prints and Posters” shown at the MoMA.
I packed on Sunday evening and it was much easier than I’d hoped as I didn’t do too much shopping. So after breakfast on Monday, I went by my own. Even if I really appreciate to have some time alone to do what I want (or more likely what my boyfriend doesn’t want because we always do what I want as I’m the one planning!), I’m sure that I wouldn’t like to travel alone because I need to share my experiences.
The museum opens at 10:00 am and we had decided to meet up at 01:00 pm at the Rockfeller Center so my schedule was tight. And it became even tighter due to events I had no control on.
That Monday (we were the second Monday of October) was … “Columbus day”. Columbus day is a bank holiday in the US and there is a parade organised on the 5th Ave. The parade stopped me to cross to go to the MoMA. As there was nothing I could do, I decided to have a look but it was mostly Italian people parading.
Why? Because Cristopher Columbus was Italian!!! Personally, I had no idea and always thought he was Spanish!
I grabbed the opportunity to cross as soon as it came and finally reached the MoMa at 11:40 am. And there, there was quite a big queue to buy tickets.
|The biggest part of the queue is hidden behind the wall
I asked an employee the estimated waiting time and was surprised but relieved when she answered that it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. It would give me a full hour to visit the museum if she was right. And she was! At 12:00 am exactly, I was in possession of my ticket.
I directly went to the TOulouse-Lautrec exhibition (shown until March 22, 2015).
Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman and illustrator whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1800’s yielded a collection of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of this period.
His parents were first cousins and he suffered from congenital health conditions. At the age of 13, he fractured his left tight bone and, at 14, the right. The breaks didn’t heal properly and his legs ceased to grow but not his torso. This is why, as an adult, he was only 1,54 m (5.1 ft) and his legs were 0,70 m (27.5 in).
Physically unable to participate in many activities typically enjoyed by men of his age, he immersed himself in art.
He developed his artistic skills with René Princeteau, Léon Bonnat and then Fernand Cormon. His style was influenced by the classical Japanese woodprints.
He was drawn to Montmartre, an area of Paris famous for its bohemian lifestyle and for being the haunt of artists, writers, and philosophers.
When the nearby Moulin Rouge cabaret opened its doors, he was commissioned to produce a series of posters.
He liked to spend much time in brothels, painting and drawing prostitutes at work and at leisure.
He excelled at capturing people in their working environment, with the colour and the movement of the gaudy nightlife present, but the glamour stripped away. He was masterly at capturing crowd scenes in which the figures are highly individualised. At the time that they were painted, the individual figures in his larger paintings could be identified by silhouette alone.
He was mocked for his short stature and physical appearance, which led him to drown his sorrows in alcohol. An alcoholic for most of his life, he died at the age of 36.
Throughout his career, which spanned less than 20 years, he created 737 canvases, 275 watercolors, 363 prints and posters, 5,084 drawings, some ceramic and stained glass work, and an unknown number of lost works.
Organized thematically, the exhibition explores five subjects that together create a portrait of Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris and features over 100 examples of the best-known works created during the apex of his career.
A section is devoted to café-concerts and dance halls and examines the rise of nightlife culture in France through the depiction of famous venues, including the celebrated Moulin Rouge.
Another section focuses on the actresses, singers, dancers, and performers who sparked his imagination and served as his muses, including Yvette Guilbert, acclaimed dancer Loie Fuller, and close friend Jane Avril.
Another section shows is sympathy for prostitutes, depicting them during nonworking hours, in quiet moments of introspection.
Another section highlights his role in Paris’s artistic community through his creative circle, designing song sheets for the popular music that flooded Paris’s café-concerts and programs for the avant-garde theatrical productions that he attended, but also contributing to magazines and intellectual reviews.
A final section looks at the pleasures of the capital, from horse racing at Longchamp and promenading on the Bois de Boulogne, to the new fad for ice skating and the enduring appeal of Paris’s culture of gastronomy.
I’ve always liked Toulouse-Lautrec’s work but never had the opportunity before to see an exhibition about him. I really enjoyed the selection of prints and posters. And the explanations given for each theme were very concise and interesting, which is not often the case.
Then, I went to the 5th floor to see paintings and sculptures from 1880s to 1940s. And I didn’t expect what I was about to see: the most amazing gathering of paintings I’ve ever seen. Every time I turned my head, I saw a painting I knew and liked. I was so overwhelmed that I wanted to cry! But I didn’t have time.
Just to name some of them, there were paintings of Frida Kalho, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gaugin, Matisse, Klimt, Mondrian, Modigliani…
I was just a bit disappointed by the selection of Monet’s Les Nenuphars. Not the nicest I’ve seen. But this is being picky!
As I still had a bit of time, I went to the 4th floor to see pairings and sculptures from 1940s to 1980s. At this floor, some pieces of art began to be too weird for me. But I really enjoy the works from Warhol, Pollock, Lichtenstein…
I was running out of time so I didn’t have the opportunity to visit the 3rd floor, the 2nd floor and any of the shops. But I’ll definitely come back with more time next time I’m in NYC.
I finally met my boyfriend at 01:15 pm. Not bad!
THis is a museum I recommend to visit and again and again. It’s now my second favourite museum in the world after the British museum (in a totally different style). The only reason I don’t put them on an equal footing is that the British museum is free while the regular entrance for the MoMA is $25.
The MoMA actually hosts the Matisse Cut Outs exhibition that I had the chance to see at the Tate Modern. It’s on display until the 8th of February 2015. So if you happen to be in NYC before, don’t think, go!
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New York, NY 10019