Downtown on a grey day.

The Woolworth Building as seen from the portico of The Manhattan Municipal Building.

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During the warm months, The Metropolitan Museum of Art takes advantage of its roof-top space and installs a piece of sculpture.  Usually it’s interactive.  This year is no exception, and the roof features a co-operative effort by Dan Graham, artist, and Günther Voght, landscape architect entitled Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout.

The paving stones have been covered with grass to evoke a natural and inviting garden.  Apparently, it was no small feat to make grass under your feet, possible.

The sculpture consists of a curved, two-way mirrored glass wall, set between ivy hedgerows.  The S-shaped curve of the glass wall creates both concave and convex surfaces, so the effect changes quite a lot as you move around it and try to look through it.  Or into it…

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The glass wall can be both transparent and reflective depending on your point of view.  

Looking southward you can see the city beyond.

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Looking northward, the skyline is reflected.

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At times you are looking at yourself, fun house style.

I think this is the best capture of the various reflections.  Thank you Kathy!

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Photo by Kathy Patterson

I’m sure the artists intended some kind of deep meaning about transparence and reflection or the balance between urban and natural environments or something like that, but I admit I was a little underwhelmed.

Especially after previous, spectacular installations like Big Bambú, or Cloud City, or last year’s work by Imran Qureshi.

I guess I’ll just have to reflect on it.

The East Village never disappoints with the sheer diversity of its offerings.  Everywhere you turn, sometimes even while standing in the same spot, there is something interesting, and often contrasting to see.

The public art is no exception.  For example, this:

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…is on the same building as this:

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Different artists, different eras, very different sensibilities, yet they co-exist happily.

How is it that we have lived in New York for 4 years but have never been to Carnegie Hall?  Maybe we were just waiting for the right motivitation.  Lucky for us, that motivation came in the form of a generous invitation, and fittingly, our first time attending a concert at Carnegie Hall was Opening Night!

We dusted off our formal attire and best manners and prepared to hobnob with the uptown social set.  The people watching was fascinating;  I won’t name names but if you are a fan of Bill Cunningham’s work in the New York Times, you would recognize many in attendance.  Bill Cunningham did not take our photograph, in case you were wondering.

Carnegie Hall is one of the last few large, entirely masonry buildings, from the late 19th century.  Although beautiful, its ornamentation both inside and out, is restrained, in true old money style.

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Photo by Garland Harwood

The Concert Hall is stunning:

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Photo by Jeff Goldberg

After the cocktails and small talk we trooped into the concert hall for the performance.  Sir Simon Rattle conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker and  Anne-Sophie Mutter was featured on violin.  I couldn’t possibly describe adequately how exquisite the music was, but Anthony Thomassini from The New York Times liked it, and here is his review.

We were THIS close to the stage:

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From our low viewing angle, the horns and percussion were out of sight, so when they burst forth, it was a little startling… in a good way.

Anne-Sophie Mutter, the violin virtuoso, was luminous in her signature strapless gown.  Just look at her intensity while preparing to play.

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After the performance, we were ushered out of the concert hall, out onto the street, around the corner, back into the building and then squished into elevators to reach the newly completed Weil Terrace on the roof for dinner.  While promenading in our fancy dress, I kept thinking of the song Penguins on Parade.

Dinner was lovely and it was a thrill to be attending the inaugural event on the roof, especially on a beautiful fall evening.  

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Even though our neighbors were a little spooky looking in the dark.

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Is this what happens to all of the shoes at the end of Fashion Week?

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Fans of modern architecture, and all that is straight, clean and seems to go on forever, have found a new hangout on Roosevelt Island.

It’s been said that you know you’re an architecture nerd when you tell jokes where the punch line is "Phillip Johnston".  If this is you then you’ve probably already paid a visit to Four Freedoms Park.

For those who haven’t, the park is the long planned, and long overdue monument to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the only one in his home state of New York.

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The park’s name is in reference to Roosevelt’s 1941 speech that declared the Four Freedoms that should embody the rights of all.  They are Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.

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Once you have paid your respects, feel free to revel in the best of symmetry and diminishing perspective.

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Enjoying the view at South Cove Park.

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In days past, advertising was painted right onto the exterior of the building.  Although faded due to years of weather, many remain throughout the city, especially in the Historic Districts.

They are commonly known as Ghost Signs.

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The Hispanic Society of America is a jewel box of a museum sitting on the Audubon Terrace of Washington Heights.  The collection includes masterpieces by El Cid, Goya and Velásquez as well as an eclectic collection of sculpture, door knockers, ceramics and books.

A dramatic octagonal gallery is the setting for the showpiece of the museum, "Visions of Spain". The huge murals that surround the room were commissioned by Archer Milton Huntington in 1910 and were painted by Joaquín Sorolla from 1911-1919.

Late in his already successful career, Sorolla regretted taking the commission and the project was the death of him; he painted to exhaustion and died before they were shipped to the U.S. and installed.  And they were installed with great fan-fare; there’s a great photograph in the hallway that show how the Vanderbilts and the Astors lined up in their limos to attend the opening.

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The panels depict scenes from each of the provinces of Spain and highlight the characteristics that make them famous.   Below is the Bread Festival of Castile,

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and these panels depict fishing in Catalonia, the oranges of Valencia,

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bowling in Guipúzcoa and the Town Council of Roncal in Navarre.

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Originally, the gallery was dark and the murals were installed as a frieze.  It wasn’t until almost 100 years later that the museum was renovated and the entire 230 feet of panoramic grandeur was brought down to viewing level under a glorious skylit ceiling.  Reinstalled in 2010 after touring Spain, the murals can now be appreciated in all of their vivid splendor.

The splendor is imagined though!  The day I toured the museum I had the good fortune to have an Art History graduate student as my companion and  I learned so much.  At the time Sorolla painted these scenes, Spain was ravaged from years of internal strife and more recently from a war with Portugal.  As well, it was well on the way to it’s own horrific Civil War.  The wealth, abundance and beauty that were conjured and portrayed romanticize the country.

 Although that makes the murals a little ironic, they are still, truly beautiful.