Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Trip East


In late August, I flew to New York to begin a 10-day trip that also took me to New Haven, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville. The occasions for it were my 50th high-school reunion, which I ended up skipping (long story), and a family wedding, which of course I attended. 


In New York, I had dinner with the architect and Columbia Professor Michael Bell, who I know from Berkeley. I also visited the new Whitney with my family friend Christine Van Lenten, and spent a day at the Met, where I had lunch with the curator Philip Hu of the St. Louis Art Museum. The Met had a retrospective of John Singer Sargent (shown above), and a hugely popular fashion exhibit (shown below). Besides all the famous portraits (of Henry James, for example), Sargent's late work, painted outdoors, was the most interesting. The exhibit conveyed the mounting price Sargent paid for being an in-demand portrait painter. The fashion show, parsed out across the Asian galleries, focused on how fashion designers used Asian and Asian-influenced films as inspiration. It was quite spectacular (and crowded, as it was the last weekend).



Thanks to my brother-in-law, Michael Opalak (shown below), who drove me back and forth to New Haven from Fairfield, I visited the Yale Art Center, with its small but quite good, studiously representative collection. Returning to Manhattan, I had dinner with the writer Cathy Lang Ho, the publicist Monica Schaffer, and Monica's husband Kevin at Les Enfants de Bohème, the Lower East Side restaurant that Cathy recently opened with her husband, Stefan Jonot. (It's their second in the neighborhood. Google Maps tried to take me to the old one.)



I really like the new Whitney, which seems for once to have been designed for its budget. It takes full advantage of its location, making constant reference to it without distracting from the art. The collection, which will be rotated through the galleries every three months, has some good things. As MoMA was between exhibits for the most part, I was glad to see it. The Whitney compensated for the Guggenheim, a disappointment this time despite an exhibit of new work by Doris Salcedo, and also for the Neue, which was between exhibits. I just missed the new Picasso sculpture show at MoMA. (Several friends subsequently extolled Salcedo, who won an important sculpture prize after I visited the Guggenheim. It's possible that I missed the details that one person noted as an aspect of her work, a case of failing to see the trees for the woods.)


In Philadelphia, I saw an Impressionist show and most of the rest of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, always worth a visit. I also saw the new Barnes (above), a very dialed-down, beautifully crafted building housing Barnes's personal collection, the placement of which is frozen in time. (He apparently altered it constantly.) The comparison I ended up making was to the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. I think Duncan Phillips had the better eye, but Barnes did well in many respects, and his museum has some real surprises, like Van Gogh's postman. I didn't know it was there. Thanks to a friend, Vanessa Lew, who now lives in the city, I had dinner at two excellent local restaurants she suggested, Zahav and Vedge. The central core of Philadelphia is relatively compact, so I was able to walk from my hotel near Rittenhouse Square to one place or another.


Then I took a train down to Charlottesville, where my wife had rented two big houses - one for the senior members of the family and the other for the kids. The senior house (above), backed up against a hillside pasture, was a pleasure to stay in. Even the books on its shelves were well-chosen. After a week spent mostly in hotels, it was a relief to be back in a house.


The rehearsal dinner was at C&O, a restaurant downtown, while the ceremony was at a farm at the town edge, with a big barn for the reception. The weather cooperated, even turning a bit cooler. This was a big gathering for both families, united in their happiness for the bride, Alison Powers (above, dancing with my grandniece Marguerite), and groom, my third son Ross Parman (with Alison, below, at the rehearsal dinner).