Posts tagged ‘NYC’

March 13, 2013

1993: Experimental Jet-Set, Trash and No Star @ the New Museum

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The New Museum is currently showing a collection of works produced in New York City during the year of 1993. For those who do not remember (or eventually did not quite live through) the early 90’s, those were messy times surrounded by a very strange sentiment of war being over and then not quite; of rethinking the concepts of identity and otherness through the lenses of those who braved a new world that became completely western — or not; that unwelcomed entirely any form of dictatorship — with a few exceptions; marked by the massive integration of the European continent and the silently (maybe not that much) unwelcome dependency the American Way of Life developed towards its Latin-American immigrants. It was the times when some of the most beloved idols revealed themselves as homosexuals and died of AIDS (and I honestly admit I think only of Freddie Mercury here, but that man’s voice and presence was worth about 20 of the other icons around by then and represented oh, so many people’s pain at that time); times when being a woman started to mean something different at the office and at home, but not entirely.

This exhibition takes us back to a time when wearing black from head to toe actually made a lot of sense. Many were in grief for loved ones that in their death bed, suffered from some bizarre moral stalking that welcomed disease and death as a fit punishment for defying whatever authoritarianism they called virtue. Many could not be cheerful thanks to the end of the nuclear threat when the sort of immaterial Star Wars that marked the Reagan government in the 1980s was replaced with a very real Desert Storm in the early 1990s by his successor, Mr. Bush, the father (as now he’s come to be referenced). All this pain and questioning is there, clearly exposed in the many floors of the beautiful New Museum, in a very crude and honest way to try to make sense of that strange new world.

Femininity and homosexuality intertwine in a discussion about who has the right to define and possess gender, showing itself in a variety of works that expose the many forms sexuality can take in a challenging, almost aggressive form, as if daring the viewers to look away, testing their ability to defy convention and regard difference as the most normal part of life in society. The early 1990s were more than 20 years ago, friends, and those were vastly more flourishing times for radicals and moralists, people who would throw AIDS in the face of homosexuals and discriminate immigrants as the source of disorder and economic crisis. By then, the faintest hypocrisy was still not needed and such positions could be voiced far, far more openly then it is possible today. The strength of the reply as voiced in the works selected for this exhibition reflects the vicious forms of hate directed to whoever was elected as the other, the minority.

I strongly recommend this exhibition should you be around NYC until the 23 of May. It´s not like Bowery isn’t a nice place to be, anyways, and the New Museum is absolutely gorgeous and has a wonderful terrace with a great view that should not be missed. Be prepared for bad taste — it’s the early 1990’s after all — and matters you will feel are dated, or treated in a somewhat radical way. When you realize you are entertaining that sentiment, remember why you do it — because they did it that way back then so that you wouldn’t have to a few decades later.

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March 7, 2013

Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity @ the Met

Impressionism, I believe, is probably the most popular and adored of the art movements. When confronted by works created by masters such as Monet, Manet and Renoir, I believe very few do not experiment a sense of awe and amusement. The special exhibition Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, subtly lets us into the backstage of the construction of this powerful unanimity that circles impressionist painting, taking us right back to the trenches from which it emerged: the Parisian high society.

When reading about it, at first, I figured the exhibition would just cater to a certain historical curiosity, allowing us to literally immerse ourselves in the fabric of time and materialize the impressions of textures the artists had delivered. What was waiting for me there was instead a very relevant contribution to the comprehension of the Impressionism movement as a integral part of the French society, an art embedded in the small politics of relevance that we may not fail to spot in the art scene of our days, but we might forget was also present even when the works in question hold, as of present, the status of undeniable masterpieces.

The Impressionist movement relates to modern ideals in that it both denies and affirms the perennial by emphasizing the present, the moment; representation is embraced as such and detaches from the contradictory obsessions for both ideal and reality that permeates art in the days of yore. The ephemerous, the impression, gains immense importance, being, in fact, what is truly worthy to be captured. And portraits cease to function as documents meant for posterity that idealize their objects as great warriors, lords or saints and instead become a statement of their personality and uniqueness: enters style as an immense part of this equation.

The first piece of the show is a very fine green and black striped silk-taffeta dress that was worn by Monet’s wife Camille as she modeled for one of his paintings. Through the subtile curatorship, we are led to understand how the fashion in the pictures would attract curiosity and interest as much as it does now in celebrity pictures and Vogue Magazine. It was the majestic dress that has caught the eye of the viewers in the salon where the painting was first exposed.

A painting then was as powerful a status indicator as being invited to shoot an editorial could be, except the concept here was far broader, extending to intellectual and personal wealth implications in a way that being cover of Harpers’ Bazaar never will. The most fashionable ladies, on the other hand, were also and simultaneously the best sources for great composition — that´s when you realize the colors and the textures and the ruffles and laces were all there, were sewn together by someone and worn by someone else that mattered to a picture because they were in possession of them, and not the opposite — and the finest patrons available for an artist, as they used their influence to get the works in which they had modeled into the finest exhibitions and salons, making sure they would grant their portraits the status of great art.

To be immersed in the particularities of real life instead of the usual larger than life feel I get from the Impressionism movement made me actually feel closer to understanding what it was truly about. Somehow, the ego-trips  inspired by Facebook and Instagram today seem a bit less current when we are confronted with this century old brand of vanity, the same look-at-me-being-tremendously-charming-while-I-take-my-gloves-off-and-by-the-way-this-is-art-OK?-not-just-me-showing-off-my-designer-clothes-and-being-pretty sort of thing made possible by such powerful artists. Who can say to which point they truly subscribed to portraying the mundane, even though they did it so remarkably? It is made clear in the exhibition that the likes of Monet and Renoir clearly understood that, on top of the aesthetic revolution they were proposing and of the truth behind their own brand of modernity, there was good fame and money to be made out of reframing the superfluous routines and interests of the upper classes into art.

(all pictures from the internet due to the fact they were — theoretically — not allowed to be taken)

February 7, 2013

Try and travel

I don’t know how much YOU know about this, but planning a trip has become a far more rewarding activity than it was only a couple, maybe three years ago.

You would say, well, we all have online maps in our palms now. Yeah, that helps. I can say with much accurateness that easy wi-fi was not as easy to find outside of the US (and that includes many a big city in Europe) a mere three years ago, in spite of us being well ahead in the iPod revolution. For instance, I’m not sure if I was the idiot (be kind if that is the case) but when I went to Barcelona some years ago, I couldn’t access their free public wireless network, no matter how hard I tried — I was standing right there beside the W signs and nothing, nothing happened. So yes, internet connection and digital guides do help a lot. But I’m talking about more than that. I’m talking about pre-travel, something that is not that dependent on mobility. I’m talking about content.

I think one of the reasons why I like to share my trips with you in this blog is because I have enjoyed so many good experiences that were made possible by kind people who shared them on the web just to help other travelers have a better value for their time and money in a place they are willing to know, but still don’t. It’s very hard to connect with the spirit of cities such as New York or Paris without having someone with whom you share some affinities to help you through the choices, and not many people have close friends in all the right places.

Now… I don’t know. I think it’s somewhat easier. We have Booking.com and TripAdvisor doing an amazing job at uniting and organizing the community of travelers around the globe for the noble cause of helping fellow tourists find and judge his possibilities for themselves, allowing them to understand how their needs and interests will be met at each place. We have bloggers. And I think we have more. We have local magazines online. Anyone who goes to NYC can type “10 best burgers nyc” on Google and find lists crafted by a variety of authors from blogs to Zagat to CBS. Have an idea, search it, you’ll easily know. Or do the opposite: read about an idea, search it, and decide if you’ll do it.

I think over the years I’ve become pretty good at planning trips packed up with details — I’ll tell you about some itineraries and you’ll think I did them in a week when in fact, I compressed them in three or four days (without rushing, of course — it wouldn’t make sense to brag if otherwise). I’ll share my innocent tricks with you, and pardon me if you feel they are obvious — I feel I have many friends who would find this extremely helpful, but maybe they’re just not very smart. 😉 These will work for a good bunch of places, especially urban destinations.

keep a Google Maps tab at your service at all times – the other must-have tabs are those relating to public transit information, such as bus schedules and subway maps. This is how you optimize your daily schedule.

if you have NO IDEA of what to do – it was like that for me when I went to Singapore last year — you don’t need to buy city guides anymore. Just type: things to do in [city of choice] on your favored browser and check out what the first ten results have to tell you. This will provide you with a fine beginning, but it is only the beginning.

check tips that come from many different types of sources – don’t limit yourself to advice coming from specialized websites, because you are likely to get mostly the very touristic information — they are still what is predominant on travel-oriented websites because tourists are not locals and therefore usually are more interested (or only have time, or money) to go to the most famous places and landmarks. Look for personal blogs instead of just the travel-oriented ones — see if you connect with the blogger and if you do, try their tips out. Check stuff like the fashion magazine’s culture and travel sections (here’s net-a-porter’s this week), entertainment sections on local news websites or, I don’t know, The Economist. Seriously, the Economist. Or Richard Quest’s Business Traveler on CNN. I also like to check the what to do section on hotels located where I’m going on the Jetsetter — that’s how I found out about the amazing Royce’ Chocolate and their delicious maccha nama chocolate in Singapore (and now I just found out they just opened a store in NYC!! go, New Yorkers, go! It’s fresh news, from less than two months ago. Madison and 53rd).

deciding where to stay – I don’t go any farther than Booking.com, but I always double check on TripAdvisor the guest’s opinions on the hotels I like the most and I ALWAYS check at the hotel’s own homepage if their rates are actually lower than those offered on Booking.com — often they are, so don’t skip this step unless you don’t care about your money.

do stuff you like – don’t just go see buildings and landscape. Do that too, but what else do you normally enjoy doing? Check the entire cultural schedule: the opera, the ballet, the classical and rock concerts, the plays that will be on while you are in town. I caught Simon & Garfunkel in Paris, and got an autograph from Paul afterwards; unforgettable. Think of jazz joints, cheese festivals, film festivals. Think of things you really wanted to buy but are very hard to find at home (if at all possible) such as, I don’t know, lavender honey, or really good and cheap foie gras. Go beyond spirits, chocolate and electronic devices…

if you do want to buy spirits and chocolate – at least while in Europe try to get them at the local supermarkets. It’s much, much cheaper than at the duty free shops.

after figuring out all the places you’d like to visit, do two things – find them on the map and check their websites. You must know their opening hours, closed days and free admissions/pay what you wish days (in NYC and Paris this might save you a fortune if you have the time to juggle your museum days according to their free admissions schedule). Have all this information clear in your head and start planning each day in a way that, if possible, you will not spend more than half an hour in your transportation mode of choice (including your own feet) from one place to another. Standard time spent on medium sized museums should be between two and three hours (see Guggenheim, MoMA, the Pompidou if you’re fast) and there is no limit for places like the Louvre or the Met.

try to insert your sightseeing (like: oh, there’s the Chrysler!) in your transportation schedule – like this: when you do your must-do walk up the 5th Avenue, stop for pictures at the Empire State, stop for pictures at the Chrysler, stop for pictures at St. Patricks Cathedral, etc. etc., arrive at MoMA.

no hesitation, make reservations – for EVERYTHING that is important to you, especially if there are no costs attached.

try to have a plan B for the cases when you miscalculate distances or the time spent on a particular place – see: Louvre. It can take many entire days… don’t give it less than four or five hours. You may have to skip a place on your original schedule and well, it’s nice to be able to still go there anyway at another time.

save the nicer meals for the evening – except if you have good reason for them to occur during lunch. Check the Michelin guide — even if you’re not into spending much — and all the specific local restaurant guides (again, search too in fashion magazines, business and news websites…). Look for your cravings (1o best burgers…). Don’t ignore market places… they are good and joyful choices for lunch.

there is no reason why you will exceed your budget on a trip – prices are sooo available on the internet. Do your research. Send emails. You can even decide what you will eat at most restaurants in large cities and know what the check will look like before even leaving for the airport. Remember: food, drink, gratuities, taxes, hotel, public transportation (calculate your trips per day to see what’s best: a three-day passport or purchasing each ticket at a time), admissions, purchases, plus 10 to 20%. This is what you’ll likely spend if you’re organized.

This is a lot of words, but hopefully an useful bunch of them. So, go plan your trip or something.

May 11, 2012

Thoughts concerning a contemporary lady´s approach to fun

Have disappeared for a while. I am bored.

I have begun this blog out of absolute boredom, and now I realize a bored person cannot say anything that much interesting anyway. I am not saying I do not truly find the subject of femininity important — I do, and I do think there is room for developing some thoughts about it a little outside of the box.

So if I am bored and I am a woman and this is a blog about femininity, we may take this as an opportunity to tackle the matter of leisure, excitement, and the female. Classically understood, the equation girl + fun equals shopping + design + beauty. At times, colorful and creative alcoholic drinks and art shows can be added to the right side as well. And chocolate.

Lately, I have perceived a slight distinction in this, say, traditional-feminine-magazine approach to women having fun, and it sort of goes like this: anything that qualifies as charming is girly. So, femininity has turned into pampering and attention to detail, particularly where design is concerned. Even the traditional realms of ladyhood such as beauty saloons have suffered an extra dose of new age femininity, now announcing extras such as cocktail hours or being decorated by renowned designers – Maria Bonita, a “brazilian” salon in NYC, offers free caipirinhas accompanying a wide variety of treatments — click the link and enjoy the Gilt City offer (ending real soon).

I find this a very interesting move for a number of reasons. First, it approaches ideal feminine to ideal masculine, as the subject becomes less relevant than the aesthetics involved in presenting it: no longer a matter of luxe, either, a characteristic I dare say was rather masculinely treated not a long while ago unless when related to fashion. A luxe car can be sold to a man in a way and to a woman through an entirely different strategy, but the object of publicity is no longer mostly a masculine crowd and must be taken into account even in early product design stages. Same will occur with restaurants and bars, hotels, and a wide variety of social events.

Men are, however, still seen as ogres in their hearts. A fine example of this basic feeling towards the gents is this guide to male feet grooming presented by the weekly journal edited by masculine e-boutique MR PORTER, featuring notes such as “if the skin in your soles is tougher than an elephant´s hide, seek the services of a professional” — try to find a same sort of direct, harsh advice directed to women; it is sort of unthinkable that a chic lady that purchases Louboutins for her feet would need advice related to the thickness of her sole´s skin or the need of eventual nail trimming and prepping before choosing to wear a pair of sandals.

Credit: Red Carpet Fashion Awards

There is, however, a line that still separates feminine and masculine aesthetic as well. A range of colors, an approach to light, a choice of lines, and a level of boldness in mixing it all — I will dare say again, the feminine encompasses it all. The masculine is still limited by its own, characteristic (another daring comment) stiffness. A critical evidence supporting my argument was recently provided by  Mr. Marc Jacobs in the recent edition of the Met Gala: no one, and I say this confidently, has yet truly sold the concept of men wearing dresses to either a male or female crowd. And if Marc Jacobs is one of those who are trying and failing, I am not optimistic any of the others will accomplish that deed anytime soon.

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