Friday, September 23, 2011

Paint Along: Broadway by 22nd Street

My Simplified "Starry Night" Painted in 3 Hours
Even if you have little to no artistic talent, you can create a painting that you can hang without shame if you attend one of the many classes at Paint Along, just a few steps from the Flat Iron Building.  In an unassuming office building on the 8th floor, they offer one-off classes in the daytime and on evenings (BYOB--they actually encourage enjoying wine during class!).  For a reasonable fee (there was a great offer on Groupon for 50% off), you can walk out with a fully completed painting. 

The classes vary from 2-3 hours, and each class focuses on a different design led by an instructor.  It's more than "paint by numbers" but it is just as straight-forward.  You learn about layering, brush strokes, different effects that can be created by different brushes, and mixing paint colors.  The design is already worked out by the instructor so you don't need to worry about the steps, but that leaves little room for really creative work (this is more like a follow along exercise).

I think this would be a great way for couples to do something different on a date or for a group of women to do a little bonding while they get their artistic juices flowing.  This is not a course for real artists--but wonderful for folks who might want to play one on TV--haha. This is just another example of how NYC offers every type of activity one can think of.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Swiss Institute: Wooster between Grand and Canal

The Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art recently moved (I happened to try to visit when they were in the midst of packing) to a new location on Wooster.  While obviously much smaller, the institute has a brightly-lit lofty exhibition space that is extremely well-suited to displaying large-scale contemporary art very much like the Dia:Beacon.  Also unlike the Dia: Beacon, it is absolutely simple to visit (take the N/R/Q/6 or E subways to Canal and walk 5-10 minutes).

The current exhibition includes a collection of "Books on Books" that seems to take a humorous look at collections (see the book on shelves and on Ian Fleming's "James Bond: Dr. No" at right).  There was also a centerfold of an innocent Marilyn Monroe-esque photo from an old Playboy anthology (Volume XLI, No. 1, 1994) called "Barbara Bloom" (the then Director of Daytime Programming for the West Coast for ABC). The collection looks at books as memories or documentation, as images themselves, and as a representation of artwork.

The larger loft-like exhibition space painted all white and lit by skylights (see left) has works by Pamela Rosenkranz and Nikolas Gambaroff.  I'm not sure I understand the reason for it, but the exhibition is called "This Is Not My Color/The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." 

I also don't understand how the titles of the pieces are related to the actual works, but then again, maybe I don't need to.  They were innovative and creative pieces that made one question the origins of the works.  One in particular called, "Synergize" by Nikolas Gambaroff had a pattern that had a rhythm, energy and vibrancy (see right).  The mix of newsprint on canvas with acrylic glass, wood, and metal clamps stood tall and was somehow pleasingly balanced. 

The exhibits change from time to time so if you happen to be in the SoHo neighborhood on the days and times it is open for visitors (Wed-Sun, noon-6pm) then you should consider visiting (it's free).  Their mission of sharing Swiss (European) art and culture with Americans would then be accomplished, and you'll likely leave at least a little more enriched than when you entered.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

San Gennaro Festival: Mulberry St between Canal and Houston

I stumbled on the 85th Annual Feast of San Gennaro, New York City’s longest-running, religious outdoor festival in the US (running from September 15, through Sunday, September 25, 2011) randomly today while running errands and doing a little shopping in SoHo. 

Presented annually by Figli di San Gennaro, Inc. (Children of San Gennaro), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the spirit and faith of the early Italian immigrants, this year’s Feast is expected once again to attract more than one-million people.  This 11 day religious celebration features processions, parades, musical entertainment, cannoli eating contests, and, of course, a carnival like atmosphere provided by the street fair.  Check out their website at San Gennaro Festival for their latest schedule of events.

It is more than the average summer-time street fair.  They have some of the same schlock (e.g., $2 jewelry booths and zeppoles, deep fried funnel cakes and Oreos (see left)).  However, they have some special vendors that are not usually present at other NYC street fairs like pizza and calzone vendors, carnival games where you can try to win stuffed animals, and home baked pies (like the 3 I purchased from Sweet Chef Southern Styles Bakery).

If you have a time to visit Little Italy during the San Gennaro festival, do.  Remember, come hungry or you'll be frustrated! As Rachel Ray would say -- YUMO!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Museum of Sex: 27th St and 5th Ave

The Museum of Sex stands prominently on 5th Avenue and dares passersby to take a peak.  There are display windows that tease and taunt with a bit of wit.  But really, I thought that the $17.50/adult admissions fee was probably exorbitant (to pay the rents") and I wouldn't bother.  However, when Goldstar (a great site to get amazing discounts on an updated basis for things to do in NYC, among other places) came up with a discount of about 40%, I reconsidered.

The store does not require museum admission to shop.  By the time I left the place around 3, it was packed with shoppers (I imagine it would be a good source for stag or bachelorette parties).  They have T shirts (see right), novelty gifts as well as the more lascivious toys you might expect from a place called the Museum of Sex.

The museum starts with a couple of rooms dedicated to the expression or innuendo of sex in films and television, ending in some unnecessarily graphic porn.  The next rooms continue to explore the representation of sex in photography and comics (including Tijuana Bibles (which are neither from TJ nor Bibles) and spoofed Disney characters in sexual acts (for which the artists and publishers were never prosecuted by The Walt Disney Company). 

Finally on the top/3rd floor, they have a great display of animals and their sexual behavior.  This part of the museum seems the most "museum-like" in that it educates visitors about animal sexuality in all of its various forms.  They tell the stories of animal homosexuality like the gay penguins, Roy and Silo, from the Central Park Zoo who raised an abandoned baby penguin from San Diego named, Scrappy.  They reveal that some animals like the dominant female California Bluebanded Goby birds that can change genders when a harem is left without a dominant male and can change back again if a new male joins the group.  There are also numerous animals who have group sex like frogs and horseshoe crabs to help improve survival odds and implement group nurturing strategies.  They also describe sequential monogamy in animals like the penguin (after 6 years Roy and Silo split up and now Silo has female partner) and animals who have sex for pleasure rather than for procreation (see dolphin sculpture at left demonstrating "blowhole sex").  The list goes on, but basically, the museum uses animal sexuality to introduce the "normalcy" of what some may consider "deviant" behavior in humans.

The museum spends much of its vast gallery space to try to show that what some might consider aberrant or deviant behavior such as fetishes and sadomasochism (see the gas mask and the inflatable mask at right) may actually be different but just as normal as more "accepted" sexual behavior.  Some interesting tidbits include that vibrators were initially used as medical devices to treat women for "hysteria" and then moved to home use with Sears Roebuck selling them as "beauty aids."  Also, early J. H. Kellogg breakfast cereals and Sylvester Graham's now famous crackers were first developed in an attempt to quell male masturbation. Perhaps this is all laughable now, but it made me wonder what things people do and believe today that will be seen as ridiculous in the future.

There is also a large space dedicated to describing the life of a Samuel Morris Steward (aka Phil Sparrow) (1909-1993).  This writer, artist, professor (teaching at several universities, including lastly the Catholic, DePaul University), and tattoo artist, apparently defied homophobia through the McCarthy era and had sex with an estimated 807 different men during his life.  He kept a "stud file" with details about the encounters and relationships he had with men, including Rudolph Valentino, Roy Fitzgerald (better known later as Rock Hudson), and Thornton Wilder.  I'm not sure why so much space was dedicated to this one gay man, but I suppose it was an interesting exhibit overall, even if only to contemplate the changing world he lived in through his 83 years of life.

Overall, I would say it is an interesting, if occasionally disturbing, museum.  Its large and unabashed 5th Avenue address is a testament to the tolerance of New York City.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maker Faire (Queens): NY Hall of Science

Musical, Fire-breathing, Jungle Gym for Kids Young and Old
I'm planning to attend the Second Annual Maker Faire in New York City today, the second/last day of the fair.  I purchased tickets at my designated local Radio Shack to get a bonus $5 off from the ticket price, but I had to educate the sales people who had no knowledge of the fair and tried to sell me the wrong tickets (student rather than adult for the the adult price).

I'll add more to this posting when I get back from the fair, but I wanted to put up this posting early so folks with time today could attend this last day of the fair (rather than wait until next year).  I'm excited to see all of the new inventions, crafts, and whatnots.  Be back soon!

The Maker Faire was absolutely amazing and had something of interest for everyone!  There were high tech booths where visitors could wait in line and make gadgets like flash lights and electronic sequence games like Simon.  There were also awe inspiring displays that demonstrated 3D automated carvings and plasticized sculpture (see the cathedral sample sculpture at right).  I also thought that the robotics areas were pretty cool, and although I didn't get a chance to try it out, the remote control motor bots (see left) seemed like they would be lots of fun.  For tech aficionados this fair is a little nirvana.

ASIDE: I wonder if re-naming this "Innovation Faire" wouldn't better attract all the people who would love this event.

There were great crafting stations and Etsy-like handmade crafts (jewelry by the likes of (see Jenine blowing glass for incredibly colorful and unique glass jewelry at right--last year she was featured on the Martha Stewart Show after the fair) and Jantar, paper-made gift by, wood working art, etc.) for sale in the middle part of the grounds.  I loved the buttons crafting area by (see my headband craft at left) as well as the diverse demonstrations that were scheduled every hour and sponsored by (I won a fantastic book/magazine called "Craft: Transforming Traditional Crafts" in a raffle after the paper crafting session led by Tiffany Threadgould).  

HINT: Be sure to get your liability waiver bracelets if you want to participate in more dangerous activities like glass blowing with instructor, Kim Fraczek (which I loved) or swinging through water sprayers (which I passed on).

There were also a steady stream of performance artists at the various stages sprinkled inside and outside of the New York Hall of Science.  My favorite was "ArcAttack!" (recently featured on a TV competition show), and some liked the theatrical "Life-Sized Mousetrap" (human sized sequential mouse trap similar to the board game).  The Volvo decorated with singing lobsters and bass fish, "Sashimi Tabernacle Choir," made me laugh out loud (see left).

I also stood in line to get my 1 minute matchbook portrait drawn by 0H10M1ke (see below right)--very cool.

I will definitely be back next year.  And now that I know how much is available (it can be overwhelming if you are not organized and plot out your day) I will make sure I am better prepared to schedule my attendance at my favorite events, performances, demonstrations, etc.

Check on the Maker Faire toward the beginning of September next year.  You won't regret it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hamilton Grange (Harlem): 141st Street and Hamilton Terr

It's been over 3 long years since The Grange, Alexander Hamilton's home that was named after his grandfather's homestead in Scotland, was moved to its current location in St. Nicholas Park (which was once part of Hamilton's farmlands) and restoration efforts began.  Today (Constitution Day) marks its re-opening to the public, and there was a great schedule of events from noon to 5pm (tomorrow, there are more special activities and speakers so if you can, check it out).

They allowed self-guided tours through the lower and main levels of the house (upstairs are going to be closed to the public as administrative offices).  The lower level was set up with a small gift shop and interactive displays.  The displays provided descriptions of Hamilton's lowly birth on the Caribbean island of Nevis, his abandonment by his father and death of his mother (all by the age of 14), his rise in early American politics, and his lasting accomplishments, including among other things, establishing the Bank of New York, being the first Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington (he's one of the few non-Presidents on our currency, being on the $10 bill), and creating the system of import customs. For the re-opening celebration, they had actors dressed as Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton (see left) talking with visitors and answering questions about their lives and interests.

The special celebration today also included Caribbean music on a temporary main stage on the grounds, speakers from the 1st Rhode Island (period actors who played African American soldiers who fought during the American Revolution), period dressed musicians (see right) playing colonial era music, a period dressed blacksmith and apprentice doing iron work, and a hand weaver spinning yarn from wool (see below left).

Of course those who know me won't be surprised to find out that one of my favorite demonstration was that of chocolate making.  They had a display of cocoa fruit to chocolate nib grounds preparations and provided tastings of hot chocolate that were phenomenal.

The home furnishings and decorative items were well appointed and the guides (both dressed in period clothing or National Parks rangers) explained which pieces were original and which were reproductions.  They took deserved pride in the beautiful original silver centerpiece (see right) on the dining table that was used to reflect candle light during dinners.  One of the guides also explained that a treasured silver wine cooler (a reproduction is on the sideboard) was a gift from George Washington after the scandal of Hamilton and his mistress broke in the news.  What I found most amazing was that through the 2 moves of the house, they were able to preserve the original moldings of the arched entry from the foyer (it is less "perfect" than the other ceiling moldings around the home but is seems the most true).
There isn't a huge display of original period furnishings and interiors (there are others that are better in the City like the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Gracie Mansion, and Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace), but in sum, the house is well-situated and worth a visit (besides, admission is free).  It is great to see the house finally restored and moved to its final location (there are 2 chambers on the main floor dedicated to explaining the move and restoration process), but if there is another historical/commemorative event there, I would highly recommend visiting during such an event.  My favorite was a demonstration of Revolutionary War military training that they had for children (see above left and below); it was evident to all that both the historian and the children were having a great time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bartow Pell Mansion (Bronx): Pelham Bay Park

The Bartow-Pell Mansion is a beautifully-situated Greek Revival historic home from the 1840s (part of the Historic House Trust of New York City), but it is ridiculously difficult to get to by public transport!  If you don't have a car (consider a Zip Car if you don't own one) take a pass on this NYC tourist site.  If you try public transportation like I did, you are likely to face a lot of waiting/standing (there are no benches) and about a 2 hour plus trip in each direction (coming from midtown Manhattan).  The #6 subway that goes out to Pelham Bay Park are fewer and farther between than one would imagine if you live and work in the City (only about half of the #6 trains go out to the stop).  Then the #45 Bronx Beeline Bus only comes around once an hour, and there is no attempt to even come close to being on schedule.  Finally, the guided tours (only available on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays--and first Fridays with an additional "trolley"/bus ride) of the mansion are not coordinated with the bus schedule at all, and even if you are the only one at the mansion, you are going to be made to wait until the designated tour times (a quarter past the hour).

Ok, so that is it for the venting.  The English style gardens are reminiscent of the beautiful sets in BBC productions of Jane Austin movies.  There are perfectly manicured portions around a central goldfish pond (see recently renovated back garden at right) as well as a wilder area beyond the wrought iron gates.  I spent some time wandering and then parked myself at a table and chairs to read a book until I was beckoned for the next tour.

The interior was refurbished to be period appropriate to the mid-1800s (see the beautiful original spiral staircase at left that is a great setting for wedding photos--the home can be rented out for weddings, teas, and other special events) but it appears that most of the furnishings and artwork are on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, etc.

As the tour guide informed us, this house is furnished with whatever the curator can beg, borrow, and steal.  Not all of the pieces are the best examples of period furnishings, but at least there aren't any empty shelves and walls.  The curator has taken great care to appropriately decorate and furnish the home.  There are a few original pieces to the home but the majority are "temporary" installations (although the lesser paintings and furniture are likely to remain, as they are not the quality usually exhibited at institutions like the Metropolitan).

The best part of the visit was provided by the tour guide.  Our guide was well informed, put the home and its various inhabitants in context, and shared great anecdotes.  I learned about the reason for ceiling medallions (to catch the smoke and ash from the lit candles of old chandeliers in order to delay the need for the routine repainting of ceilings) (see right).  I also learned about the origins of well known but perplexing sayings like "the rule of thumb;" the width of a thumb is the thickness of the rod with which a husband could legally whip his wife (wives were considered chattel at the time--although, as this home was built with the inherited wealth from the Lorillard Tobacco Company (one of the oldest companies still in operation in the U.S. and the makers of Newport cigarettes), Robert Bartow is believed to have treated his wife, Maria Lorillard as an equal).

The guide also explained the origins of "watch your beeswax."  He explained the need for the fire screens that were used to protect people from overheating when seated close to the numerous fireplaces (see left) that were used to heat the home, and he told us about how common it was for people of the 19th century to suffer from facial scars from small pox and chicken pox illnesses.  He noted that men of the day could grow beards but women were only able to cover their scars with beeswax-based makeup.  When ladies sat too close to a fireplace, their face could actually melt and a kindly comment to such a lady might be "mind your beeswax" so that she could know to excuse herself and re-apply another coating.  Ha!

Finally, I also learned about how because water had to be brought in and heated by hand, families in the 19th century (before the time of indoor plumbing) shared bathwater.  The order of use started with the master of the house, followed by the mistress, and then the children by age order.  If you can imagine, in homes with many children (the Bartows had 7) that would make the water quite brown by the time the baby could be bathed.  From that phenomenon came the warning, "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."  Yikes.

Although I had hoped that more of the home's furnishings were original, I could appreciate the care that was taken to display the home to its best advantage.  The 14' ceilings on the main floor are highlighted with vertically placed artwork and the freestanding staircase, and the 13' ceilings on the second floor showcase a special 19th century canopy bed (the only Charles Honore Lannuier bed known to still exist in its original condition was donated to the Bartow Pell Mansion Museum by the descendants of the original owners Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Bell of New York) (see right).  Each room is well appointed to demonstrate the way the inhabitants would have used the home.  There was no indoor plumbing, central heating, or large wardrobes so there are wash basins, chamber pots, pot bellied stoves and fire places, bed warmers, and a notable lack of closets.

I learned a lot the day I spent visiting the Bartow Pell Mansion, but I don't think I will be going back there any time soon without a better means of getting there. Fair warning to all who might visit this historic home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pratt Gallery: 14th Street between 6th and 7th Aves

The Pratt Gallery on the 2nd floor of the Manhattan location of the Pratt Institute is a little hidden gem in Chelsea.  The current exhibit (from Sept 9 through Oct 8, 2011) called, "Principals of Design: Pratt Fashion Alumni," is an exhibition of haute couture, womenswear, menswear, costume, shoe, and accessory designs by 21 alumni from Pratt's Department of Fashion Design.

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, illustrates Pratt's interdisciplinary approach to fashion design education.  There are examples from Project Runway contestant Emilio Sosa (see the feathered concoctions at right), commercial athletic wear, fashion wear, and outer wear from Pratt graduates who design for national manufacturers like Country Road, Anthropologie, and Free People.

There are also theatrical costumes, avant garde pieces by Jeremy Scott, whose clothes are worn by the likes of Britney Spears and Madonna (see the cloved white boots at left), and spacey pieces by John Renaud and goth clothing by Laurel Mae DeWitt (see DeWitt's metallic dress overlay and matching headpiece at right--it's no wonder her loyal clients include Lady Gaga and 50 Cent).

I particularly liked the very wearable clothes (see right) of married couple designers Seokwon Andy Kim and Wonjeong Debbie Yoon of international fashion house Andy & Debbie.  This couple met while studying at The Pratt Institute and the match made for sophisticated, clean lined and beautiful clothing.  Somewhat surprisingly, their commercial success has led to their recent redesign of all the McDonald's uniforms in Korea; I love it! 

This is a small one room gallery, but it is wonderfully curated and has fine examples of fashion design.  If this type of art is of interest to you, the Pratt Gallery is definitely something worth checking out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Soho Arts Walk: Various

I was planning on going on the Soho Arts Walk--tomorrow is the last third Thursday of the month for the 2011 summer season, but I'm afraid other plans have gotten in the way.  In any event, I thought I would at least mention it for others to go if they like. The website that includes a pdf a map of all the galleries open to visitors for free is Soho Arts Walk Map.

I've happened upon some of these galleries in just my daily life (like the Cupping Room where I had brunch with friends a couple of weeks ago), so I know at least some of the art is interesting and compelling.  If you have the time and the inclination, this could be a great way to spend the afternoon.

If you can't make it tomorrow, but are interested in visiting the almost innumerable galleries in NYC, check out the Gallery Guide, the monthly magazine guide to leading galleries and museums. You can find hard copies (see right) at galleries for free (rather than the $5.50 cover price) or access the information online, which is a great way to check out galleries by area (e.g., Soho, Upper East Side, etc.).


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dia: Beacon (Beacon, NY): Beacon Street

Dia: Beacon is a 30,000 square foot former box-printing factory that was refurbished to provide an unparalleled exhibition space for modern art adjacent to 70 acres of riverfront along the Hudson River.  The expansive galleries are illuminated by natural light through windows and skylights, so the art is beautifully highlighted.  The museum presents large scale works from some of the most significant contemporary artists in a way that is not usually possible in traditional museums and galleries.  Each artist's works are presented in an in-depth way with whole galleries dedicated to each of them.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am not a huge fan of modern art, but this huge exhibition space and the setting make Dia: Beacon a unique experience worth the hour and 20 minute train ride each way.  You can get "One Day Getaway" round trip MTA train tickets and discounted museum admission at ticket booths in Grand Central for $31/adult.  HINT: The walk to Dia: Beacon after exiting the train is to the east and south (take the underpass at the south end of the platform) is about 7-10 minutes and includes steep up and down portions.

Although no photography is permitted in the galleries, I have included some pictures from brochures of some of the most intriguing work.  I especially loved the Drawing Series by Sol LeWitt (see right).  The exactness, detail, and hand drawing work are awe inspiring in the massive room-sized scale he used. This native of Hartford, CT has a background as a draftsman for I.M. Pei and it is clearly evident in his dramatic work (this photo cannot capture the impressiveness--you have to see it in person).

The "Work as Action" installation of artwork by Franz Erhard Walther (which is on view through February 13, 2012) is another interesting show.  At designated times (generally 11-1 and 2-4 pm), visitors are provided a catalog of Walther's pieces that investigate the interplay of spatial, sensorial, and temporal dimensions.  With the help of a museum attendant, visitors can play with and try numerous pieces in designated ways (see excerpt of catalog at left). 

Dan Flavin's neon lights of "Monuments" adds humor and witticism.  The temporary nature of the fluorescent lighting that represent what are supposed to be "permanent" monuments is great.  One can hardly miss the references to the Empire State Building (see right), and while I am generally not a fan of harsh lighting, I love the simplicity of the designs.

There are also gigantic colorful installations of irregular shapes by Imi Knoebel and simplistic but innovative (at the time) color block pieces by Blinky Palermo (fka Peter Schwarze).

However, the art that really takes advantage of the space of the Dia: Beacon are the sculptures.  Whether they are the acrylic yarn sculptures of Fred Sandback, the crushed metal sculptures with car parts by John Chamberlain (see left), the pine boxes of Donald Judd, the negative space created by the metal wells of Michael Heizer (see below right), or the famous rusted metal "larger than life" shapes of Richard Serra, the space of the Dia: Beacon makes these installations possible in a way no other interior space could.

If you have a full day to luxuriate in modern art, take a trip out to Beacon, New York.  You won't be disappointed.  There is nothing like it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Norwegian Seaman's Church and Trygve Lie Gallery: 52nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues

On first glance, you might miss the fact that the Norwegian Seaman's Church is also the location of the Trygve Lie Gallery open to the public.  I visited the gallery yesterday and was pleasantly surprised that there was such a lovely resource here in Turtle Bay.

"Bird with a View"
The gallery was opened on September 19, 2003 by the then-Norwegian Ambassador to the U.S. with the mission to promote Norwegian, Norwegian American and Scandinavian art to a broad audience.  It is named after Trygve Halfdan Lie (1896-1968), the first Secretary General of the U.N., who before the end of WWII was the first to propose an alliance of free democratic nations.  And like its namesake and the U.N. the Seamen's Church and the Trygve Halfdan Lie Gallery value the "human struggle for freedom and justice for all."  They make available art to the public in an effort to express these values and create a contemporary reminder of those ideals.  These are pretty lofty claimed goals, and while not immediately evident, upon reflection I would say there is merit to the effort.

"Looking Over Me"
The gallery has new Scandinavian art installations each month (although the current one appears to have been up since May 2011), and currently, there is a photography exhibit by Sigrid Thorbjornsen of New York City scenes.  Like the gallery at the Brazilian Endowment for the Arts down the street, this gallery also has original artwork for sale.  The current exhibit's prices range from $100 to $450, and although I am no expert, I really felt the mood of the photographs and they appealed to me (see above left and right).  The photo at right takes me back to Stephen Moffat's famous "Doctor Who" episodes about the Weeping Angels--but I digress.

The facility is spacious, clean, and well lit.  Although the gallery is small, if you are in the neighborhood, it is well worth ringing the buzzer for entry and taking a look.  Who knows, maybe you'll find a piece of art you'd like to buy/invest in?  When I went, one staffer just turned on the gallery lights and left me to my own devices.  No pressure at all.  It was quite nice on a rainy day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brazilian Endowment for the Arts: 52nd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues

I've passed by the Brazilian Endowment for the Arts (BEA) hundreds of times, but never seemed to be there at the right time to check it out until today.  They have a small gallery space that is open to the public with fairly pricey original pieces of art for sale.  They also have a small performance space in the back.  Finally, they provide Portuguese lessons (contact 212-271-1556 for private or semi-private lessons) as well as a calendar of special events (like the Brazilian movie tomorrow night at Columbia University with the director available via Skype for Q&A).

If you have an interest in Brazilian culture (they have a lending library for members with over 4,000 books), learning Portuguese, or perhaps purchasing some contemporary art with an ethnic-Brazilian influence (see above), you should check out the BEA.  However, be forewarned; it is a little unwelcoming.  You have to buzz to request the release of the gated front door to enter the tight space in the basement of a run down building (see entrance right).

The staff has the right spirit and enthusiasm, but I would say that their lack of organization and order shows.  Even their website is all written in Portuguese (not the most friendly for non-speakers) and is hard to decipher.

Art prices seem to range from as low as $600 (see the Arany piece called "Capoeira" above) to up to $10,000 (see below the guitar sculpture/painting below). 

You decide if it is worth it....  Enjoy!