Spring brings out our best intentions – to go to events, travel, explore exhibitions and learn new things. Here in a nutshell, more-or-less, are highlights of what’s going on in Vienna, Paris, San Francisco, New York, Philly, DC and elsewhere.
If your travel is strictly armchair, consider this: Many of the exhibitions we are showcasing have companion catalogues or books that will enrich your library and your knowledge. Check out the National Building Museum bookstore (Washington DC) and the MoMA stores.
Washington DC, Free 6-week architecture lecture series Out of Site in Plain View: A History of Exhibiting Architecture since 1750, through May 12 at the National Gallery of Art. Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, Barry Bergdoll addresses American architecture from over 300+ years and how it has been presented in museums and other venues. He was widely praised – in pre-Hurricane Sandy era — for the collaboration-exhibition Rising Waters in 2010, with Princeton University, investigating the impact and solutions for sea level rise that affects NYC and the built environment. Details
Baltimore MD: Earth Week arrives with Baltimore Green Week (April 19-27) now in its 10th year. The city was an early adopter of the green scene: reusing empty factories and warehouses, promoting LEED certification, planting trees to promote healthier neighborhoods, and creating one of the nation’s first Mayor’s office of sustainability. Most BGW events are free or very low cost. Start with the free Ecofestival in Druid Hill Park (Saturday, Apr 27) and check out everything else that week.
New York City, World Science Festival: Get tickets early (or watch selectively online) May 29-June 2, for a celebration of science with dozens of distinguished presenters and panelists. Some events will be livestreamed. Details
Berlin, May 14-15: The European Green Belt celebrates its 10th anniversary with festivities, followed by a symposium. More details when we can get them! Twenty-four riparian countries have established a cooperative way to protect thousands of acres of habitat and biodiversity in the era after the Cold War. Announcement
Prague, May 23-24: European Forum on Eco-Innovation: The Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership is the theme with a heavy dose of “clean air,” an EU-wide mandate. Details
Gettysburg PA: 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s most important battle (July 1-3, 1863) will be commemorated this summer with a panoply of events. All told, 160,000 people were there – some 51,000 were casualties. 150th Anniversary. Plan your visit.
EXHIBITIONS & OPENINGS GALORE
New York City
Life after Sandy: New York’s museums, gardens and aquarium are soldiering on despite damage to collections and buildings. Stay tuned: South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan and some 150 other artistic and cultural attractions in New York City and New Jersey were damaged in Hurricane Sandy. Check back with Green News Update during the summer to get a progress report!
Here’s a brief look at what is new or reopening
New York Botanical Garden is wrapping up the beautiful, monumental outdoor Manolo Valdes Sculpture Show (through May 26). Valdés, who is 70, has installed seven of his immense bronze, steel and aluminum sculptures on the grounds at the NYBG – some pieces are up to 17 feet high and 20 tons. See our earlier posting for details.
The NYBG annual Orchid Show through April 22 has a twist: wood reclaimed from some of the 300 trees felled in NYBG’s Thain Forest during the October storm is used to create a rainforest feel for the epiphytic orchids and plants in the Conservatory display. Visit the Garden
New York Aquarium (Coney Island) will have a partial reopening May 25. Hurricane Sandy devastated the 14-acre aquarium campus, severely damaging its buildings, exhibits, and the facility’s aquatic life support systems. The partial reopening includes: Glover’s Reef (featuring the sea life found in Glover’s Reef, Belize); exhibits in Conservation Hall (Coral Triangle of Fiji, Great Lakes of East Africa, and the Flooded Forests of the Amazon); Outdoor spaces of Sea Cliffs (walrus, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and penguins); and a fully re-modeled Aquatheater with a new sea lion demonstration. Details
Green News Update covered the Aquarium’s tribulations and those of Mitik (the abandoned walrus pup) who survived floating around in the seawater that invaded his quarters; he’s now a very chubby adolescent.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens: The Tree House installation (now open) features wood from the many trees destroyed or damaged in Hurricane Sandy. It is a site-specific installation by treehouse “architect” Roderick Romero. Details BBG’s Visitor Center and green roof (to be featured in our upcoming Green Museum series) is worth checking out. In June, visit the expanded Native Plant Garden. It will nearly double the size of the 101-year-old native garden at BBG, representing two ecosystems: a coastal plain meadow and pine barrens (both are unique and threatened habitats!). Details
Museum of Modern Art, through June 24: Structure Brought to Light focuses on French “iron man” Henri Labrouste , who left behind two magnificent structures – Bibliotheque Ste.-Genevieve and Bibliotheque Nationale – called “miracles of stone, iron and glass construction.” Somehow he magically combined the minimalism of severe exterior design with airy and light-filled interior spaces. Organized by Barry Bergdoll (see DC lectures above), Corinne Belier (Cite de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine) and Marc Le Coeur (Bibliotheque Nationale). Review by Michael Kimmelman includes a photo gallery. Check out beautiful photo sampler from the catalogue at MoMA ($55)
The New-York Historical Society Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock is actually a three-part exhibition through 2015 celebrating the 150th anniversary of NYHS purchasing the complete Audubon watercolors. (Part I through May 15; Parts II-III in 2014/15). In toto, the exhibitions illuminate the entire oeuvre of John James Audubon (1785-1851), with elephant folios, exquisite watercolors and early pastels from such places as Harvard’s Houghton Library and the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle (La Rochelle, France). The Birds of America double-elephant folio (40×27 inches) – only 120 full books remain — is on display, with one page turned each week. What’s remarkable is how these large works show birds full-size in their habitat. Online exhibition (more backstory) Audubon image gallery. New York Times review.
See the Green News Update book review in our Christmas 2012 roundup
American Museum of Natural History: With so many options at the AMNH, our selection is Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture Food, through August 11. Who can resist a working kitchen, daily demonstrations (tastings!), and vertical hydroponic garden? at the same time exploring how nature, culture, health and history are linked in bringing food from farm (or place) to fork. While we doubt that folks actually want to see examples of gruesome industrial farming (Americans cherish the vision of Farmer Bill in his bib and tucker and happy animals), AMNH does look at some of the challenges: where and how food is produced and moved throughout the world, who gets enough to eat and who doesn’t! Details
Through April 28: The Civil War and American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Four of America’s premier 19th-century painters are represented in this exhibition, which delves into how the Civil War influenced their work. Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson and Sanford Gifford are here, along with other painters and photographers, who at the time did not know whether the Union or the Confederacy would be the victor. Free. (It travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, opening May 27.) New York Times review
Curator Eleanor Harvey discusses the exhibition on the Diane Rehm show.
Babylon’s Cyrus Cylinder – one of the most famous objects to survive from the ancient world – is in the US for the first time, at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery, through April 28; then travels to Houston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform writing (the earliest known) on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC) after he captured Babylon in 539 BC, it is often thought of as the first bill of human rights: it appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands. Considered a world heritage object, the Cylinder is traveling with an exhibition of 16 objects that show the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the Ancient Near East (550 BC-331 BC). Details
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian: The renowned Peacock Room by James McNeill Whistler lets in natural light for visitors one day a month. On the third Thursday of each month, from noon to 5:30, the gallery opens the three shuttered windows of the Peacock Room to let the public see this stunning work in a new light. Also on view (through Sept 8). Whistler’s Neighborhood: Impressions of a Changing London. Whistler rendered quick impressions of the Chelsea neighborhood where he lived, in etchings, watercolors and small paintings – a panorama of Chelsea life in the 1880’s. Details
Dumbarton Oaks: An academic and public outpost of Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks’ horticultural fame is two-part – a fabulous library/archive and a world-class garden designed in the 1920’s by Beatrix Farrand. Cloud Terrace, a temporary installation on view through May 19, is a wire framework on poles that suspends 10,000 Swarovski lead-crystal pendants over a garden patio. Don’t be fooled – this work by artistic partners Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot is dazzling – transformed by light, time of day, and weather conditions. Before you go, read the article. Listen to NPR interview with garden director John Beardsley.
Through June 9, Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some 200 pieces by 27 “self-taught” artists are featured in this exhibition of work promised to the museum as a permanent gift. Outsider art is much more than the words “untrained” or “self-taught” connote. Most of the artists represented here (working from 1930s to 2010) lived totally outside the mainstream art world, often disadvantaged (in conventional terms) and in rural settings where they created their own world. (Buy this catalogue if you cannot visit!) Details
Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania campus: If you missed the Lod Mosaic (floor) when it was at the Met, go now (through May 12): This is the final stop before this exceptional, jaw-dropping ancient Roman floor (yes, I saw it!) goes home to Israel, via Paris. Nearly 2000 years old, this remarkably intact and well-preserved floor mosaic was discovered in the Israeli city of Lod in 1996. The backstory to the nearly 300-square-foot masterpiece, including archeological videos, included in the exhibition. Exhibition details. More about the Lod mosaic
Ongoing at the Penn Museum: The artifact laboratory is a 2000 square foot “exhibition” (actually, a working glass walled lab) where the museum’s conservators work on a wide array of Egyptian artifacts. Twice daily (weekdays and weekends, check for times) you can engage with the experts. They may be attending to a funerary painting, coffin lid, elaborately wrapped animal mummy or human mummy head. Details
Through June 9, Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe at the Princeton University Art Museum, is truly ground-breaking: the first exhibition to demonstrate, with a variety of art works from 1480 to around 1605, multiple aspects of the African presence in Europe, in the Age of Exploration. Kudos to the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore for originating the exhibition and the fine scholarship that it encompasses. The selection of over 60 European paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, books, and decorative objects is an eye-opener. (Catalogue reasonably priced too – $29.95). Exhibition details
Through July 28, Scenes from the Stone Age, The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at The Field Museum. It will be a few years until the new Lascaux Museum-interpretive center in France’s Dordogne region, designed by Snohetta, is built (see our Cities posting). No matter: The 1940 discovery by four teenagers in the Lascaux Caves in southern France of beautifully subtle paintings and engravings of animals – aurochs, horses, red deer – comes to life in a replica environment exclusively at the Field Museum, with a full-size reproductions – including copies of works never seen by the public — of what you might experience. [The caves are closed indefinitely to protect them from the humidity and bacteria that people bring with them.] Get a taste of the origins of human creativity from nearly 20,000 years ago. Exhibition details Behind the scenes online.
Reopens April 17: San Francisco’s Exploratorium, renowned for its innovation and displays in teaching science, has a new home that triples its exhibition space and adds displays on the environment, psychology, and microbiology in the hands-on museum that Founder Dr. Frank Oppenheimer said, is “a playful place.” The new location of the $220 million facility is on Piers 15 and 17 along the Embarcadero. A fitting tribute to Dr. Oppenheimer, whose ideas reinvented the science museum (this is the centennial of his birth). Article on the Exploratorium. Museum web site.
AROUND AND ABOUT…
Reopens April 13: The Rijksmuseum, after 10 years of renovation at a cost of $500 million, is open again, with its artistic treasury from the Dutch Golden Age. Of course, Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch has pride of place, with a gallery of its own, but there is plenty else to see – including the exhibitry and the building itself. A great deal of the renovation “undid” layers of so-called improvements in the 20th century ( the Rijksmuseum was built in 1885). And installation of the galleries follows a new tack: You will find exquisite furniture and decorative arts in painting galleries—better to understand the other creative arts and the times in which they were made. There are galleries with dollhouses, 18th century ship models and even a gallery devoted to 18th-century “magic lanterns.” Museum web site
A show-stopper: the original, three-story cast-iron art library is now open to the public for the first time (shades of Labrouste? see MoMA show above)
The Louvre: Under age 26? The Louvre is offering a can’t-miss deal: Free Friday evening tours of the Louvre (6:45 to 9 pm) are offered year-round to those under 26. Not sure if they check your passport! http://www.louvre.fr/en
Musee Maillol/Fondation Dina Vierny: Murano Glass, six centuries of workmanship and artistry from the talented glassblowers on this tiny island, reunites works from public and private collections, including loans from a mind-boggling array of museums in Venice, Rome, Naples, Florence and Milan, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Museum and the Museum of Decorative Arts of Prague, Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast of Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg of Cobourg, Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, and the Petit Palais. On view: Baroque fantasies, Art Deco and modernism. Details in English Details in French
Through June 2, Chat Noir arts and pleasures in Montmartre (1880-1910) at the Montmartre Museum. The cabaret of composers, writers and artists, Le Chat Noir was the haunt of Debussy, Erik Satie, Toulouse Lautrec, the Nabis and the Symbolistes, who improvised and collaborated in informal ways in this café-salon. The exhibition features over 200 works that help recreate a time and place that won’t come again! Details
Beaubourg, Pompidou Center: Famed Irish designer-artist Eileen Gray is featured in a retrospective, through May 20. Organized by Cloé Pitiot, the show includes her Art Deco furniture, art and archives. Her masterpiece is the E1027 house which she designed in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in 1929. Details
The Architecture Center turns 20: The celebration features The Gold of the AzW through July 22. While Vienna’s architectural treasures are known worldwide, Austrian architecture is not especially well known. This show intends to lift the veil to the public with design drawings, plans, sketchbooks, photos and models by predominantly Austrian architects. The Architecture Center Vienna (Az W) is in the Museums Quartier. Exhibition background. Architecture Center web site.
Pompeii Rules! At the British Museum (through September) some 250 objects, gold jewelry and even casts of human remains from the City of Pompeii are on display. Pompeii and Herculaneum, popular sites on the tourist agenda in Italy, were buried in AD 79 by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Lucky for us, archeologists unearthed stones, buildings and mosaics that are used to interpret everyday life. Video on Pompeii restoration (BBC)
POSTSCRIPT: If you missed our CITIES feature (posted March 30), you’ll find notes on museums and cultural attractions in Rio, Marseille, Helsinki, Lascaux, and New Haven (Yale University.) Check it out