NYC: February 2008 Archives

Louis C. Tiffany window in the Library of the Armory

I've been walking through the front doors of the Administration Building of the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue for decades, but until this past Monday I had never had a glimpse of that late-nineteenth-century monument's most elaborate rooms, in the wing north of the monumental entrance hall. They are just about as vigorous an expression of the American Aesthetic Movement to be found anywhere, but they have been pretty much hidden from the public, their beauties increasingly neglected for the lack of funds to maintain them. Today they are being restored to their original glory by the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy.

I was taken by surprise that we were permitted access that during The Art Show of the ADAA, and Barry and I were also in something of a hurry that afternoon, so I didn't have a chance to get more than a few images before having to rush out. Fortunately it was a beautiful sunny day, so the Tiffany windows and much of the rooms' other, largely-undisturbed, ornament probably looked their best - at least for now.

When the restoration is completed these rooms will look even richer, as much of the original color and detail had been watered down or replaced by alterations over the years. For instance, the panels to the left of the window in the picture below are now covered with a dull velvet fabric, but were originally painted with a blue field behind a stenciled silver and copper chain mail [it was an armory, after all] pattern.

detail of the musicians' gallery in the Veterans Room

fourteen floors, most of them condos, to be built on top of our park

I admit that I've known about this building for some time. I've been quietly fuming about it (something I don't do often - the quietly part, that is) for perhaps a year; it's just that getting an email from the developers boasting essentially about how clever they are to have arranged this public scam put me over the top.

This isn't the first instance in which the city has sold a part of the High Line to developers, and it may not be the worst, but it's just about the most egregious.

Has New York been able to reverse nature's own law, that plants need sun, even in parks? And, more importantly, are we going to have parks in this city or are we just going to have developers' opportunities?

This text is copied directly from the press release I received today:

Denari's HL23 will rise fourteen stories from a singularly challenging site: a 40-foot wide footprint located at 515-517 West 33rd Street, just steps from Tenth Avenue and half covered by the High Line, the historic elevated railway bed slated for transformation into one of the nation's most lyrical urban parks. Overcoming this through-block site's inherited restrictions while exploiting them with boldness [and the power of money and influence], Denari has conceived a building that will dramatically increase in size as it rises from its slender footing to cantilever gracefully over the rails. Made possible by a Special Authorization, comprising of seven waivers granted by the New York City Department of City Planning [my emphasis] in support of the building's unique contribution to the cityscape, HL23's reverse-tapering form [absolutely the reverse of New York's historical and progressive setback zoning] will make it a local landmark while creating cinematic views and unrivaled intimacy with the High Line for residents inside.
Why not call it the Highline Tunnel? Construction is supposed to begin in a few days.

CORRECTION: I originally described it as a thirteen-story building in this post, but apparently a penthouse will comprise a fourteenth floor.

[image from triplemint]

view of the gallery installation, with art suspended from bamboo poles and marine rigging in a reference to the innovative poles inside Peggy Guggenheim's gallery, Art of This Century [Stephen Ellis's 2000 untitled oil and alkyd canvas is in the center of the image; James Hyde's new "Chunk Chair" sits below and behind it; Sherrie Levine's "Untitled (after Henri Matisse)", from 1985, hangs on the right; and a good bit of Tony Feher's suspended bottles can be seen in the right foreground]

view of dinner with, and below, the stars [Mateo Tannatt's "[email protected]*BLUE ONION LATEO", built for the project, performing as the round table for the evenings]

It was the darndest thing. The email was from "New York is Dead", the subject line read "Rose Colored Glasses", and the message was signed by Joe Montgomery and Jesse Willenbring. It was an invitation from two people whose names I didn't recognize at the time, inviting me to participate in a "potluck dinner party group [designed to] show homage to Rirkrit Tiravanija and the breakthrough 1942 modern gallery, Art of This Century.

The evening suggested for my participation was described as one of the dinners they were holding at Gavin Brown's Chelsea space during the first two weeks of February. The email went on to say they had curated a group show of artists but they were also attempting to assemble a group of 11 guests to eat together in the gallery on each of the 11 nights the show would be up. We were told there would be spectators, and that there would be no fourth wall. We were being encouraged to share food and conversation, "and not just about art", for an entire evening, but other than being assigned a specific food theme (different for each evening) almost everything else would be up to our imagination.

It read as a pretty bold and ambitious concept, and I was immediately attracted to the references to art and food, but it was probably the connection with Brown, the bar Passerby and the evocation of Rirkrit and Peggy Guggenheim that pulled me in. I accepted the invitation, replying on my own and Barry's behalf before I realized it had actually come just to me. I was embarrassed when I realized my presumption, but my hosts immediately made it clear that my dual rsvp was totally in order - if not actually a huge improvement over the specificity of the original invite.

Barry and I still thought we might be taking a chance, especially since we balance a pretty full calendar and are jealous of our time off, but it sounded just quirky enough for me to want to make the commitment which, as it happened, included a little work in the kitchen for me.

It turned out to be a delight. I brought my pot, . . . er, bowl, and it became one of the dishes served to the guests at an sculptural round wooden table constructed for our sit-down dinner. We met some great people (unfortunately a flu condition kept co-host Joe Montgomery from making it the night we were there). We saw some really good art imaginatively installed, and were totally charmed by the situation, by our fellow guests and by the generosity of our very-hardworking hosts.

For more on the concept and the experience, and images from the first night's dinner, see the ArtForum Diary post.

There were works by almost three dozen artists surrounding us and at the table itself. What follows are images of just a sampling.

Red Grooms Queen Peggy 2004 painted aluminum 45" x 43" x 32" [detail of installation]

Charlotte Beckett Pit 2008 black mylar, aluminum, motor [installation view]

Tony Feher Untitled 2008 60" x 7" x 4" [large detail of installation]

John Finneran Nose 2007 oil and stainless staples on aluminum 9" x 7"

Nancy Shaver Fruit Box #1 2005 cardboard box, paper-covered boxes 16" x 22" x 5" [installation view]

A list (probably not totally complete) of artists included in the project's environment whose work is not represented in any of the images would include Varda Caivano, Brian Calvin, Nancy de Holl, Aaron Freeman, Wolf Kahn, Jake Keeler, Alex Kwartler, Virginia Lee Smith, Joshua Light Show & Pig Light Show, Emily Mason, Carter Mull, Dominic Neitz, Jesse Pearson, Amanda Ross-Ho, Cary Smith, Jennifer West, Yuh-Shioh Wong, Betty Woodman and Michael Zahn.

Philip Simmons's "Study for High Noon", one of the works included in tomorrow's benefit

Barry and I both love art, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Greenpoint artists, Williamsburg and Greenpoint galleries, and WAGMAG, that invaluable guide to Williamsburg and Greenpoint galleries.

But like most of the best arts institutions (where "non-profit" is always an understatement) WAGMAG can't survive on its virtues alone. Once a year the rest of us have a chance to help fund it. At the annual benefit (this year is the third) we can feel very good about ourselves, party with some terrific people, and then go home with some exciting art - created by some of our favorite friends and neighbors.

Oh, and I can't say enough about Daniel Aycock, the generous artist host.


tomorrow, February 8
at The Front Room
147 Roebling St. (corner of Roebling & Metropolitan)
admission is free
but tickets for artwork drawing are $150 (purchase at the gallery or online)
final viewing tomorrow from 1-6 (or on line)
We stopped by several days ago to see the work which had already come in, and now we're definitely psyched.

This page is an archive of entries in the NYC category from February 2008.

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