Arthena's Favorite Artworks in NYC

The Arthena team is a diverse group in many ways, but in the end, we're all art aficionados. Since we're based in New York, we love seeing all the City has to offer, including galleries, museums and most of all, art! It was hard to narrow down, but here are some of our favorite pieces in the Big Apple.

 

Fernande with a Black Mantilla, Pablo Picasso, 1905 Guggenheim New York
                

 

On view at the Guggenheim New York, Fernande with a Black Mantilla is a fascinating transitional work by Pablo Picasso, painted in 1905. In the mid to late nineteenth century, Realism and Impressionism broke new ground by depicting real-life, working class individuals and by upholding their grittiness and connection to the earth. Picasso, too, dedicated works to the plight of the working class; the period of 1901-1904 is now called Picasso’s Blue Period, in which he painted laborers and the disenfranchised. Soon after, the forever-mercurial artist switched his focus to an investigation of space, volume, and perception with the creation of Cubism. Thus, Fernande represents a transitional work in Picasso’s canon. Its subdued tones and wide, visible brushstrokes reveal Picasso’s background in Impressionism, while its visual forms, abbreviated features, and Iberian inspiration all foreshadow his new style of Cubism. 

The painting itself depicts the painter’s mistress, Fernande Olivier, wearing a mantilla, a silk or lace head scarf traditionally worn in Spain. As Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector describes, “Although rooted in the social and economic reality of turn-of-the-century Paris, the artist’s expressionistic treatment of his subject reveals a distinct stylistic debt to the delicate, elongated forms of El Greco. Never simply a chronicler of empirical facts, Picasso here imbued his subject with a poetic, almost spiritual presence, making her a metaphor for the misfortunes of the working poor. Though naturalistically delineated, the painting presages his imminent experiments with abstraction.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Park of Schloss Kammer, Gustav Klimt, 1910
Neue Galerie

 

Klimt is famed for his gilded portraits of high-society women, but he also painted a dazzling assortment of landscapes, which he turned to later in his career. Many of Klimt’s landscapes were inspired by his vacations to the Salzkammergut lake region of Austria, and he painted fifty-five of these before his death in 1918. One of our favorites among these paintings of nature is The Park of Schloss Kammer, which can be seen at Neue Gallery. These landscapes are much more contemplative and personal than some of the artist’s better-known works. We love Neue Galerie, and we especially love its collection of Klimts.

Fun fact: this is one of Arthena founder Madelaine's all-time favorite paintings. 

Image taken from Neue Galerie
                

 

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, Ansel Adams, 1941
MoMA

 

  

This photograph, located at the MoMA, is an amazing work with an almost legendary backstory. While the exact time and date of Moonrise have been the subject of debate, it is certain that in 1941, Adams was hired by the then Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to take pictures of the lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. “Twilight photography is unfortunately neglected,” described Adams in 1943. “What may be drab and uninteresting by daylight may assume a magnificent quality in the halflight between sunset and dark.” It seems as though modern technology’s ability to mass produce artwork has done little to devalue this famous photograph: although Adams personally made over 1,300 photographic copies of Moonrise, a single print sold for $609,000 at Sotheby's in 2006.

 

 
 

 

The Swimming Pool, Henri Matisse, 1952
MoMA

 

This work by Henri Matisse isn’t a single painting, but a whole room containing cutouts that once circumscribed the walls of his dining room at the Hôtel Régina in Nice. His first and only self-contained, site-specific cut-out, Matisse cut his own silhouettes of divers, swimmers and sea creatures out of paper painted in an “ultramarine blue” and positioned the cutouts just above the level of his head and mounted on burlap. After Matisse’s death, the works were retraced and mounted on burlap -- to remain loyal to the artist’s vision -- under the supervision of his wife and daughter. The MoMA acquired the room-sized cut-out in 1975, and it was included in the landmark 1977 exhibition Henri Matisse Paper Cut-Outs at the National Gallery of Art, the St. Louis Art Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

From 2008 to this past year, the work underwent conservation to revamp and restore the room to its original vision. For example, the new installation allows visitors to enter as Matisse did, and like the original room, the walls are covered from floor to ceiling in burlap. “Matisse combines contrasting viewing angles—from above looking down into the water or sideways as if from in the water—so that the different postures of the figures themselves determine the composition as a whole,” notes the MoMA in its book MoMA Highlights. “With this spirited yet serene aquatic imagery, the artist brings to brilliant culmination his career-long desire to create an idealized environment.”

 

  

The original in Matisse's dining room at the Hôtel Régina, Nice, 1953 
Image taken from MoMA

  

 

The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II, Frank Stella, 1959
MoMA

 

 

There are a lot of reasons to love this painting by Frank Stella (b. 1936), on view at the MoMA. One cool thing about The Marriage of Reason and Squalor is that Stella used commercial black house paint and a house painter’s brush to create it, and he identified his process with that of a “factory laborer.” Each black band is about the width of his paintbrush, and the thin white strips are actually the blank areas between each black band -- gaps in the paint. For decades, people have been studying and debating over the meaning behind Stella’s paintings. But as Stella famously said, “My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there… What you see is what you see.”

As post-painterly abstraction moved away from abstracted images to completely abstract forms, Stella’s paintings were meant to bear no illusions or references to any real or psychological things. As the MoMA notes, “Instead of painting something recognizable, Stella’s painting is about the act of painting, and its result.” 

  
  
A Wall Pitted by a Single Air Rifle Shot, Lawrence Weiner, 1969
MoMA

 

This piece is an absolute favorite. Located at MoMA, it’s is a single white wall with the words “A WALL PITTED BY A SINGLE AIR RIFLE SHOT” printed across the top in stark, black, block text. There is no actual crater made by an air rifle shot -- unless, of course, the words are the crater made by the air rifle shot. Weiner (b. 1942) is a seminal figure in the Postminimalism movement and a founder of Conceptualism, art in which the concept of a work takes precedence over its aesthetic qualities. A Wall Pitted by a Single Air Rifle Shot falls squarely into the Conceptual Art category. One might call it kitschy, but this piece holds a special place in our hearts. 

 

Here’s Weiner’s famous 1968 statement of intent:

 

1. The artist may construct the piece.

2. The piece may be fabricated.

3. The piece need not be built.

 

Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.

 

 

  

   

By Lulu Chua-Rubenfeld

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