This week, on a chilly May Friday, I entered Central Park at 72nd Street and Central Park West and walked to the east side. Dressed for May as it’s presented on calendars in a light, sort of water proofed jacket and cotton slacks, I was freezing. I had refused to put on a winter coat because I’d had the winter things cleaned and had refused to dress for the weather: gloves and a woolen beret, so I got what I deserved. Central Park was practically deserted except for intrepid dog walkers. Playgrounds were empty. There were no joggers. The park itself was silent, misty and a lovely light green you see briefly in spring.
I was on my way to The Met Breuer. When it was the Whitney I didn’t appreciate the building and usually not the art. That’s changed. The New Whitney downtown in the old meatpacking district is much more interesting than when the collection was in the original site. The original site, as everyone knows, is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I concentrated on Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. It’s a collection of works that are unfinished by design or by death. I thought it was wonderful. There are two floors devoted to major and minor works of art from the Renaissance to modern day. Most of the exhibit comes from the museum itself. From Titian to Pollack, the notion of what’s done, what’s finished and what being finished means is examined.
One feature I appreciated when the building was the Whitney was the enormous elevator, build to contain massive structures. If only the dimensions were posted. No one could tell me at the Met Bauer.
Ruth Rendell died today. She was a great and prolific writer. R. I. P. The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby girl today. May her life be as rich and full as Ruth Rendell’s.
My condolences to the Nepalese. Why are the most beautiful places often plagued with dangerous weather? I was in Nepal, briefly, many years ago. I flew from New Delhi in a tiny white Nepalese Airlines plane. We landed in the magical city of Katmandu and then gazed at misty, fogged-in Everest.
I was at the Frick Collection on Friday. It was packed. Was it because of the Sèvres exhibit or Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries? Maybe, but I think the Russell Page garden had something to do with it. Controversy is good for a museum, don’t you think? The air was buzzing with talk of the Russell Page garden being replaced by offices. Page designed the garden in the Seventies.He is reputed to have said it was a scene to be looked at. If people wanted to walk they could go to nearby Central Park. In the snapshot, gardeners’ equipment is in front of the lily pond. The Frick has a beautiful and informative website. You can download its app.
Speaking of Central Park, it is in its lovely spring mode.
Finally, a shout out to Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi for withdrawing from the PEN ceremony. If only the powers that be had seen fit to honor Ruth Rendell.
I went to the monthly book club at the Central Park Arsenal, built between 1847 – 1851. It had stored New York State Militia arms and the building predates the park. We met in a renovated room on the third floor complete with a new table and matching chairs. It smelled like a new car. I miss the too large wooden table, the chairs that were deceptive rockers. If caught off guard you’d go into a swinging motion like an amusement park ride. Most of all I miss Frederick Law Olmsted’s and Calvert Vaux’s 1857 design plan that hung on one wall. The men had submitted it to the Central Park design competition. Now, it’s in some safe, prestigious spot.
We talked about the most recently read book, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. I wonder if Bryson has ever received a more thoughtful discussion of one of his works. The book club is made up of professional gardeners, landscape artists and environmentalists. All are serious readers. Some liked Bryson’s larky, take it or leave it attitude to nature, but some dismissed the book as too frivolous. Since I write mysteries I appreciate the difficulty of writing a well crafted story, but as an astute reader pointed out, A Walk in the Woods seemed like a movie script. Ouch. Once I heard that I thought of the set dialogue, Sancho Panza sidekick and predictably happy ending.
A few blocks north and a few days later, I went to the Frick Collection to see Charles Coypel’s Don Quixote’s Tapestries. Coypel’s eighteenth century drawings of the novel, Don Quixote, were woven into tapestries by Gobelins. At the Frick they’re hung in the Oval Room and East Gallery. They gleam. it’s hard not to touch them.
Steve Kulchek told me that his Uncle Con, a retired NYPD detective, started out as a patrolman. His beat, as they said in those days, included 5th Avenue and 70th Street. Con was ordered to pick up a man who lived in a nearby building for questioning. When Con went to the apartment, the guy’s wife told him that her husband was at the Frick. Con thought the Frick was a movie house.At that time, there were several in the area. So Con combed them. Finally, someone enlightened him. Con went to the Frick Collection and collected the guy in front of a Memling.