On what seemed like the hottest day of the year, I took the train into Manhattan to celebrate the birthday of my long-time friend Nancy. We plan these excursions for each other instead of another present. We give “the gift of time,” as another friend also named Nancy calls it.
We’ve done all kinds of things and had many delicious lunches in restaurants I’ve returned to gladly. Yesterday we visited two smaller museums 20 blocks up Fifth Avenue from The Met and still across the street from Central Park.
The Museum of the City of New York has three exhibition floors, with rotating exhibits. The new gallery of the Tiffany Foundation, “Gilded New York,” contained a few large portraits, gorgeous jewelry, and ornaments from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Small, but a gem. At the temporary portrait exhibit (through September 18), “Picturing Prestige: New York Portraits, 1700-1860,” we could get in close to see the incredible detail without worrying (or being told!) we were blocking someone else’s view.
“Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs,” is a large exhibit of the artist’s original drawings, New Yorker covers, and the like. It includes panels from her book, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant, about the decline and deaths of her parents, showing how she processed that experience through her art. Indeed, much of the humor in her work results because we recognize our own vulnerabilities and absurdities. “We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing with you.”
There also are galleries devoted to the Yiddish theater (through August 14) and activism in New York, from suffragettes to civil rights, from Stonewall to immigration.
After we were finished there, crossed 104th street to El Museo del Barrio (free entry, because we’d been to the MCNY), which has a major exhibit on the fashion illustrations of Antonio Lopez. I’d read the nice review by Holland Carter in the New York Times and wanted to see it, but wasn’t sure where the museum is. Now I know. Easy to get to. The museum bills itself as “New York’s leading Latino cultural institution.” Only the ground floor of its big building is the gallery space. El Museo also sponsors a wide range of performing arts events, cultural celebrations, and educational programs.
Both museums have small cafés, but they are not up to birthday requirements, so we walked down Madison fifteen blocks or so (in the shade as much as possible) for lunch.
Thank you, Nancy, for being my friend for 43 years!
Museum of the City of New York – 1220 Fifth Avenue @ 103rd Street; small café, nice gift shop/book store
El Museo del Barrio – 1230 Fifth Avenue @104th Street; small café; gift shop