Travel There – A Fricking Great Art Collection
While it would have been very easy to spend every waking hour of my New York week at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I didn’t, because I want to feel as if I know any city I visit, not just hit the top site. That’s why we stomped all over Mid-Town and Lower Manhattan, as well as taking advantage of the subway. Hopefully, some day, I will get back to The Met, but I needed more than one museum to know New York.
You could museum into perpetuity in New York. They have a little of everything. Museums like MOMA and Guggenheim are better known, but once I’d read about the Frick Mansion overlooking Central Park, I knew it was the choice for me. My choice was tested when I discovered they were renovating the mansion and a selection of the best items had been moved to a temporary home called Frick Madison, but reading through a list of items in the collection, I kept the Frick on my list.
While the Frick was no further away than our stroll to the Met, at this point of the vacation, less steps are better. As we ate meal bars in our hotel room (we were dead tired of their breakfasts and I could not face another egg) Deb pulled out her handy dandy Metro app and discovered we’d need bus service to get close to the Frick. So with the help of the app, we took the bus. It dropped us into a completely different world a few blocks from our destination.
This was residential New York, the Upper East Side and plenty swanky I will let you know. This was a quiet Saturday morning. We saw a few joggers. There were mommies and daddies out with the latest style of preambulars. We were on hallowed ground.
Coming to Madison Avenue, we made a left and continued to enjoy our surroundings. We arrived on the doorstep of the Frick with time to kill, so I backtracked to a small convenience store I’d seen along the way. You know those movies where someone steps into a small crowded bodega and is suddenly swept up in a robbery or a mugging? Yeah, well this wasn’t that place. The proprietors were oriental. Everything was neat, nothing was crowded and yet the space seemed to have a little of anything you might need.
I was in dire need of caffeine and I was ready to take it in whatever form I could get it, but to my absolute delight, they had my beloved Diet Dr Pepper in a screw top bottle. I could drink what I needed and save the rest for later. I was jubilant. I don’t think anyone had ever been jubilant in their store. They smiled and nodded, but I could tell they wanted the crazy person to leave and return them to their previously quiet and neat atmosphere.
Then it was Frick time. The first floor is a functional floor with offices, ticket sales and a store. We walked into the first gallery on the second floor. Holbiens, Hals and other fabulous painters from Holland and the Netherlands. Then BAM, the Rembrandt self portrait we all know. We may not even know it is a Rembrandt self portrait, but we’ve all seen the guy with a mustache in a funny hat, washed in golden light. A roomful of Van Dykes and three of the only 34 Vermeers which exist in the world today. We’re only in the first set of galleries and we’ve already seem more Old Master paintings than most bigger museums have in their entire collection!
The third floor has many of the decorative arts, which many of you will recall is my absolute favorite thing in a museum. Carpets, porcelain (so much Meissan) and of all things, clocks. There was a lot of Italian art of all varieties and in the Spanish section, several El Greco’s, which I love.
The decorative arts also filled the fourth floor and these were French – oooh la la! Not in necessarily in manufacture, but taste – think Sèvres and Meissan. Continuing on the fourth floor was a gallery filled with Frangonard’s Progress of Love. Like the Rembrandt self-portrait, these are paintings you’ve seen reproductions of all your life. To see them in person and all together was stunning.
Then, as if you are not already gob-smocked from all you’ve seen, there is a room of Impressionist paintings, finishes out the floor. Not a comprehensive collection, but stunning nonetheless. At that point, I just wanted to go back to the second floor and do it all over, but other entertainments beckoned and we were hungry!
If I went back to New York tomorrow, I would first go to The Met and then back to the Frick – and hopefully, the renovation of the mansion would be over and I could see these masterworks in their usual venue, placed in his gorgeous home, just as Mr. Frick thought they should be. Then I would go to the Guggenheim and MOMA. The Frick is just that good.
But it’s lunch time! Come back next week and we’ll cross Central Park to the Tavern on the Green.