Wednesday, July 30, 2014


There are some wonderfully intimate art institutions the world over where you don't have to stand in long lines and fight big crowds to see some great art. The Gardner in Boston, the Courtauld in London, and the Phillips in Washington DC quickly come to mind. All favorites. But last week I rediscovered a old gem, my new favorite. My BMF! The Frick on Fifth and 70th next to the park in New York! 

I was in town to "give a talk" (read the "artist is present" in truth) during the Chelsea Art Walk for a show of my paintings at the Prince Street Gallery, and I wanted to give my family who had been sweet enough to join me a good reason to have made the trip. I decided on an old standby, the Frick, and no one was disappointed.

Right off the bat you turn a corner and get blasted out of the water with an excuse me, gee, before you even have time to think, an exquisite, shy as you please, on your left over a chair, right there before your eyes, no fanfare, no bullet proof glass or guards, just like, ho hum and by the way, a frickin Vermeer. It sets the tone. Pronto! Your day just got really good. You are in for a treat. Pinch yourself! You could turn around now and the four hour drive into Manhattan and the two rooms at the Plaza were worth it! A gorgeous frickin signature Vermeer! Not something you see every day! 

You pause, try not to shout at the top of your lungs about the pocket of light the artist welcomes into a private meeting between a gentleman and a lady seated at a table. Is he there to court her, or to plan a trip, or to arrest her? It is at once formal and incredibly personal. We invade a moment.

And then they're just showing off. Before you can even catch your breath there's another one! And then across the small hallway is a Bronzino, that is like oh my god, bring me to my knees, put every artist to shame, beautiful. A Bronzino so familiar to every art lover in the world you can't believe your eyes, and there it is, just you and it in what feels like the quietest dimly lit corridor. When Procol Harum wrote Nights in White Satin, they should have said black and green.

After that it just gets gaudy. El Greco. A Rembrandt self-portrait that haunted every artist from Manet and Goya to Bacon and Motherwell. Whose eyes rest at the edge of a forest, and peer into you like God. Nothing less. 

And a Reynold's portrait that has all a portrait could ask for in a stylish bit of contemporary pomp and circumstance with drama to boot, and a nod to both da Vinci and Michelangelo and its giddy patron all at once. Rivals Gainsborough and Whistler are every bit as much in play as well, and every bit his match. 

For while there are remarkable Turner landscapes and charming della Francescas, as well as a jaw dropping Chardin still-life, this is really all about portraits. The Gainsborough comes at you like an apparition through eons of time and space. The Whistlers seem to dwell in a realm of their own, where the laws of nature are different, where sound and light are muted, and everything takes place in a gaze.

Did I say five minutes? Take the afternoon, and spend it with a little Degas in a corner and just keep your mouth closed as you try not to gape, and failing to contain yourself, you fawn over his dancers in the hush of absolute intimacy with just the two of you, and some violin.

Addison Parks, Spring Hill, the end of July 2014

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention while you were staying with the riffraff at the Plaza that the Frick charges $20 for the price of admission to keep them out! Ouch! And while the Mayflower set from the Upper East Side barely know a Manet from a Monet, apparently Frick did. These are the same people who held a collective sigh of relief until the Twentieth Century passed, and it shows!

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