Monday, May 28, 2007

The Big Apple 4

Spent much of the morning lazing around in Central Park - reading the Sunday New York Times, people watching, dozing in the hot sun and cool shade / Van Gogh and Expresssionism exhibition at the Neue Galerie showing how much of an influence Van Gogh's paintings had on young Expressionists such as Egon Schiele, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein / Paint all around me so thick, so unctious, so intense, I wanted to lick it off the canvas / Amazing to think of the impact Van Gogh's work had on the new generation of German and Austrian artists when first seen in the flesh, in full glorious colour in a gallery at Dresden in 1905 or in Vienna in 1909.

To the Galerie's infamous Cafe Sabarsky for lunch / The thirty minute wait was worth it / Bratwurst with Riesling sauerkraut and roasted potatoes for M / Bavarian sausage with potato salad for me / Crisp, chilled Riesling / Black forest gateau for M / Viennese dark chocolate torte with apricot confiture for me / To end, coffees with whipped cream.

A stroll around The Met and its newly restored Roman and Greek galleries to work off the food a little / We also enjoyed their exhibition of Contemporary Photographs From The Collection - Walker Evans' melancholic colour polaroids of everyday American street scenes, Damian Ortega's photos of Mexican sidewalks, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Shomei Tomatsu, Raghubir Singh's spontaneous street photos of modern urban India / These are my favourite type of photos - those that record the mundane, the overlooked, the everyday scenes of ordinary life and commonplace things, re-acquainting me with the urban landscape I live and move around in with a fresh pair of eyes.

And then we had to catch the plane home again / Sad at leaving, but already looking forward to a Bank Holiday Monday lying in a London park in the heat and the sun / Little were we to know England was suffering a miserably wet and windy weekend.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Big Apple 3

Scenes from the Lower East Side - an eclectic mix of cut-price garment stores, groceries, Jewish delis, trendy bars, chi-chi boutiques and thriving restaurants - that really comes alive after dark / Economy Candy store opposite the Rivington sells all sorts of old and new candy, from gobstoppers and chocolate cigarettes to black jacks and jolly ranchers.

The famous downtown institution The Strand bookstore on Broadway - this is not a bookstore to snuggle into strategically placed sofas and read all morning while sipping lattes / It reminded me of Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London, a decade ago / Precariously high bookshelves and tables stacked with new, old and obscure books at discounted prices / Cluttered, overwhelming, filled with old single men and young single women - full of character but useful only if you know what you're looking for / I picked up some Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, Mary Gaitskill and Jay McInerney and M picked up the new Murakami as it isn't yet out in the UK / But the large Barnes and Noble down the road was better for browsing - there M stumbled upon a few Soho Crime novels and I stumbled upon some Indian and Indian American authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Nair and Bharati Mukherjee.

Paul Amador from the Cohen Amador Gallery had suggested we visit Dashwood Books between Lafayette and Bowery / Though this lovely little basement store is entirely devoted to photography, the stock wasn't as comprehensive as London's The Photographer's Gallery bookshop and Claire de Rouen Books on Charing Cross Road / However, I did stumble upon Dayanita Singh's Privacy featuring black and white portraits of middle and upper class Indian life / I need to explore contemporary Indian photography more.

Our growling stomachs drove us back to the hotel to dump our books / We shared the elevator with Philip Glass again going up to the 20th floor which houses the three-storey penthouse with 360 degree views over Manhattan / And back out down the narrow, anonymous Freeman Alley to Freemans restaurant / Three cheese macaroni for me / Eggs, spinach, bacon and walnuts cooked in a skillet for M / Surrounded by mooseheads and other taxidermy and lots of arty students.

To Chelsea / The Andreas Gursky exhibition we'd been itching to see for months was closed for Memorial Day weekend / But round the corner was the Chelsea Art Museum featuring a Miwa Yanagi photography exhibition / I particularly loved her My Grandmothers series in which she asked models to imagine their lives as grandmothers and then she aged, dressed and posed them living their ideal lives / My favourite "grandmother" was Yuko, who when she retired thought she'd like nothing better than to soak in hot springs and generally relax / This she did for a few years and then got bored, moved to the US, hooked up with a toyboy and travelled cross country with him on the back of a motorcycle.

To Chinatown for dinner where the humidity made us feel like we were walking around Bangkok's Chinatown / Doyer's Vietnamese Restaurant was hidden in a basement down a zigzag alley / Buddhist rolls / beef and shredded papaya salad / fried sole fillet and shredded papaya with sweet chilli sauce / beef with lemongrass / Tsingtao beers / Cheap, generously portioned, robust and delicious.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Big Apple 2

Jet-lag propelled us out of our heavenly bed early / We crossed the river into Brooklyn and almost had Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to ourselves / We'd missed the flowering cherry trees but a long stroll around the peaceful Japanese gardens made up for it / Then back into the freneticism of a Memorial Day weekend and shopping for bargain Calvin Klein underwear and Acne t-shirts at Century 21 - loads of choice here but most of the stuff is obviously damaged or things other stores can't sell / Into Midtown for a greasy lunch of cheeseburgers, shoestring fries and cream soda at the Garfunkel's-style Brooklyn Diner in Times Square, eating to a musical accompaniment of ZZ Top, Bruce Springsteen and, ahem, Dead Or Alive - the first time we'd seen so many overweight Americans concentrated in one place in NYC.

To the Biographical Landscape: The Photography of Stephen Shore exhibition at the International Center of Photography - I'm always overwhelmed in the presence of Shore's colour photos of the vernacular American landscape but I was surprised to learn that he's worked in Andy Warhol's The Factory / Up onto 5th and Madison Avenues where we shopped for Kiehl's products in Saks and tops in Banana Republic - unlike my last trip to Banana Republic, the service this time round was so poor that I hardly bought a thing.

I left in frustration and sought sanctuary in the Cohen Amador Gallery on East 57th Street, situated on the upper floors of a building with a very interesting Gotham City-style art deco interior / There we saw Osamu Kanemura's Spider's Strategy exhibition - large black and white photos of mangled and tangled Tokyo streets - at first I wished the photos were in colour but the more I lost myself in them the more I saw that the shades of white, black and grey forestalled sensory overload and threw attention to the geometry and shapes of urban landscapes / Apparently, Kanemura is still a newspaper delivery guy / The gallery owner was there and spent alot of time with us showing other Japanese prints and books he had / From him we bought Motoko: The Old And New Guide Of Kyoto and a signed limited edition copy of Mikiko Hara photos / When we are ready to buy art for ourselves, I think we will collect Japanese photography.

Enough art, time for some serious shopping / To DKNY on Madison Avenue where I spent a good hour collecting and trying on clothes - t-shirts, skirts, dresses, blouses, cardigan wraps - everything was gorgeous, everything I tried on fitted perfectly, the service I received was optimal / I love Donna Karan! / And so does my husband's credit card company because, as I was getting out my wallet to pay, he handed over his card instead and treated me to bagloads of designer goodness / I love my husband! / Thank you M.

To Bloomingdales for Ralph Lauren bed linen - high-thread count, Eygptian cotton, all white, bliss / I paid this time - it was the least I could do / Then back to the Rivington to shower and offload the bags and back out into the humid night to eat at modern Spanish restaurant Suba / Baby gem salad with artichokes, lightly fried radishes, anchovies and goats cheese curd / Grilled octopus with apple slices, paprika, black olives, potatoes and a warm walnut vinaigrette / A seafood salad of clams, prawns, scallops, peas, broad beans, green beans, a mint vinaigrette and some teeny tiny purple flower heads / So fresh, so clean, so very green / I can't wait to return.