Posts Tagged ‘Metropolitan Museum of Art’

Service of a Night of Contrasts: Art in 1905 vs AI in 2023

Thursday, November 16th, 2023

30 minutes well spent listening to the Met Museum virtual tour of the Fauvism show.

On a recent night I was watching the virtual premiere of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s tour of the exhibition “Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism.” At precisely the same time a friend attended a workshop about artificial intelligence—AI.

The years in question: 1905 and 2023.

I recommend that you spare 30 minutes to check out the museum tour conducted by Dita Amory, Robert Lehman Curator in Charge at the Met, and Ann Dumas, Consulting Curator of European Art at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. They tell us that in just over two months, in Collioure, a French fishing village, the artists “changed the course of French painting,” introducing modernism.

According to the notes accompanying the YouTube video, “With this new direction in painting, Matisse and Derain manipulated color in radical ways—nature took on hues responding to the artists’ sensations rather than reality. At the Salon d’Automne in 1905, when Matisse and Derain unveiled their controversial canvases, a prominent French journalist labeled them ‘les Fauves,’ or wild beasts.”

From the AI workshop, my friend shared an interesting AI-powered tool, Angry Email Translator, that will turn a nasty email into a polite, professional one. The workshop leader quoted Daniel Pink: “AI won’t replace humans. Humans using AI will replace humans not using AI.” His warning: “Be vigilant about the dangers” and advice: “Pay close attention and learn new skills.”

This morning, Dr. Arthur Caplan, Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU shared some examples on WOR 710 radio. Take a radiology scan. With AI, the scan can be compared to hundreds of others. The experience of the radiologist can’t be nearly as extensive in identifying something that looks dangerous versus no problem. In addition, Caplan said, AI never needs to go to sleep and never gets tired which can happen to someone staring at scans all day.

Astronomer Carl Sagan said in 1979: “We live in an extraordinary age.” We still do. Isn’t it remarkable that we are alive to have access to such diverse, fascinating information?

Fifth Avenue in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fall 2023

Service of Signs the Pandemic is in Our Rear View Windows

Monday, November 6th, 2023

Columbus Circle crowd on NYC Marathon day.
Chips handed out on 42nd Street

I saw something last Friday that exemplifies “pandemic over” at least in the minds of some marketers.

Until the Pandemic, 42nd street during lunch hour was a great place for companies to pass out samples of new products such as yogurt, drinks, snacks and the like. That activity stopped during the pandemic and even though the picture isn’t rosy yet, it’s taken a while for marketers to think there are enough people to reach and that pedestrians would be willing to touch/take food or drinks from a stranger. According to New York Post reporter Carl Campanile, “Foot traffic in New York City’s business districts is still down 33% from what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic — one of the lowest recovery rates in the country, a new survey reveals.”

Fifth Avenue steps from the Met Museum

Nevertheless on Friday young people were handing out 2 small bags [photo right, above] on behalf of Deep River Snacks—original sea salt and mesquite BBQ flavored—kettle cooked potato chips. Not bad if you like that style of chip.

A few days later some 50 thousand runners participated in The New York City Marathon and goodness knows how many thousands of spectators cheered them on over the 26.1 miles. Unfortunate timing had me at Columbus Circle where thousands planned to meet their friends [top photo above] with the finish line nearby in Central Park near Tavern on the Green.

While some citizens would never frequent them ever, for quite some time now tourists and New Yorkers have again been buying food from street vendors, some in fancy trucks, others in makeshift setups [photo left, above]. They are all over the place from in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue [photo below] to mid and downtown.

In a headcount of bus passengers on Friday afternoon one of 17 wore a mask. I hardly saw one at a sold-out concert in Alice Tully Hall on Saturday night.

What if any signs have you identified that illustrate the public has turned the page on the Pandemic? Is this a mistake?

On Fifth Avenue in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Service of Elevators, Busses and Trains that Seem to Know When You’re Late

Monday, May 8th, 2023

This ensemble is made of rabbit fur. It’s at the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibition at the Met Museum

Have you noticed that if you’re running late elevators, buses and trains don’t cooperate? Waits for the first two are interminable and the trains stop and sit between stations. This usually happens when someone is picking you up to dash to an event.

Even if you leave early, such glitches can create stress. One of my “things” is I hate to be late.

Thursday I had a hard-to-get timed ticket for a member preview of the Karl Lagerfeld exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I got in a bus in plenty of time until traffic and a driver-in-training felled my schedule. The driver didn’t know how to reenter traffic after letting passengers on and off and he would then stop at almost every green light.

I began to squirm in my seat and to warn my friend by text as tick, tick, tick happened and I felt helpless. I still had a few long blocks to trot to the museum once the bus arrived at my stop.

I spoke with a passenger opposite me in the almost empty bus. He said, “Lucky we’re not stuck in an elevator.” I mentioned a memorable instance when a Business Week employee spent the weekend–Friday night through Sunday–in one. He said he remembered. He also said that many of the elevator starters are elderly and can’t hear the high-pitched ring indicating that someone is stuck in an elevator.

He told me of a recent job—turns out he was an elevator repair man—where a guy was stuck in an elevator overnight. He was suspicious when he opened the elevator door and asked the trapped victim how come he didn’t have to go to the bathroom in all that time. The fellow admitted that the elevator starter let him out to use the facilities. My bus companion then asked the person why he was playing this game. Answer: For 12 hours overtime. “Ah,” said the repairman, “I wouldn’t try for more than two. There’s video in every elevator and your boss will see in the tape that you stepped in and out. You’ll lose your job.”

Then he said to me, “Don’t you feel better? Didn’t I distract you?”

I imagine that he needs to entertain many a person until he lets them free from one of the malfunctioning contraptions he fixes. You’d need someone to calm you if you were floating many feet in the air locked inside a box.

I agreed and thanked him and dashed off the bus a few stops short of my destination. I was in fact late, but we were allowed in to the exhibit anyway, and the whole time my friend was calm and unperturbed.

These things happen and are largely out of our control. Do you get into a swivet when you’re late due to an equipment breakdown or system failure or do you shrug and relax and thank goodness for phones?

From the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibition at the Met Museum

Service of Reserving a Hard-to-Get Ticket

Thursday, April 20th, 2023

I think I now know a little about what it’s like to try to get a ticket to a Springsteen or Rhianna concert even though all I wanted was two timed tickets to the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” member preview at the Met Museum.

Usually, museum members get to choose from four consecutive days to visit an exhibition at their leisure before it opens to the public. We just show up.  For Lagerfeld, there were only two possible member-only days, a Tuesday and a Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

We learned about the drill a month ago in an email that notified members that timed tickets were required and couldn’t be ordered before noon on April 18.

I marked my calendar, was happy I remembered and then, even though my laptop and iPad were open to the notice, it took me 10 frantic minutes to find a hotlink to reserve a time. By then, I was number 783 in the virtual line and the estimated time to get to the front of it was over an hour. I was advised to look for the next email to confirm my spot and then to keep an eye out for another email that would return me to the line.

And, we were warned to take care, because the place in line would only be kept for a certain amount of time once the museum tagged the hopeful member. I forget how long I had to respond because I didn’t pay attention: I was keeping my eye on my email box.

All went well, I got the day and time I wanted or so I thought until the confirmation showed up with two times: One 10:00 a.m., at the top and the other, which was noon, the time I’d requested. [Photo below].

Once I read the fine print, I saw that the first time—10:00 a.m.–was when the exhibition opened. It was meaningless information on a ticket for noon entry. I wonder how many people won’t read the mouse type instructions and will be confused by the two times on their e-tickets. I predict that either there will be a crowd at 10:00 or the membership office will be inundated with calls.

I got it into my head that I would see this exhibition in preview just as music fans focus on acquiring concert tickets no matter what. I’m curious: Do most people have time to do this more than once or do they hire someone to do the ticket-acquiring for them or do they take days off from work?

Service of Why the Faux When the Real is Right Here?

Monday, January 30th, 2023


Claude Monet: Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I’ve covered this topic from food substitutes to forged paintings over the 15 years I’ve written the blog. A different slant hit me after two conversations on the same day last week. From one friend, who lives in the south: “Cannot help but envy you being near such great artwork.” Another friend grumbled “What’s the point?” after having seen a commercial for Monet’s Garden: The Immersive Experience downtown on Wall Street.

The website describes the experience as follows: “Art enthusiasts will have their moment to surround themselves with moving Monet visuals and curated music to create their own impressionist masterpieces. This is not a class, but an immersive, exploratory painting experience where you will get to reconnect, express and be present.” It was to close the end of January but has been extended for another month.

Anyone who has spent as little as an hour at a major museum anywhere around the world will have noticed students with sketchbook in hand studying and sketching the pictures or sculptures by masters that are in front of them.

So why go downtown to see digital images when you can see original Claude Monet’s in museums such as MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum? The downtown immersive experience charges $25 for kids, $28 for students and up to $45 per adult. If you live in NYC you need only give a donation of any amount—or pay nothing–to visit the Met. MoMA charges $25 for adults, $18 for seniors, $14 for students and children under 16 are free. Plus you can sign up for free entrance days.

But it’s not a question of money–which I mention for those who thought the Wall Street view of Monet’s work might be inexpensive therefore better than nothing and a way to get people interested in art. It sounds like a gimmick. What could be better than the real thing? A visit to a museum to stand in front of art that a gifted person has created that perhaps you’ve seen in books that is now just a few inches from your face is thrilling.

There had been a similar immersive show focusing on Van Gogh which must have been financially successful or there wouldn’t have been a reprise. Do you think that a painting that moves–or is huge–in a flashy presentation can be better–more insightful–than the original?

Van Gogh’s “Silent Night” at MoMA

Service of Fashion We Take from 16th Century England

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Flats much like ballet slippers. No smile even though she’s in a comfy housecoat

It’s remarkable how much we imitate the fashion of Tudor England, at least that was my impression after visiting the new exhibition “The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Who knew?

Fancy sneakers Tudor-style

I’ll start with the obvious, the expressions of those portrayed: There’s not a single smile on the walls. My friend Nancie Steinberg postulates that’s because they all had bad teeth. The impetus is different now, but most runway models and those featured in fashion spreads look like they are attending a beloved relative’s funeral after a long night of drinking. The cutting-edge fashions are not making any of them happy.

Next, I noticed the shoes. Peeking out from some of the women’s gowns is footwear reminiscent of sneakers. Nancie, who has attended a few recent weddings, told me that many brides wear sneakers under their gowns at some point. In any case, dressy flats are acceptable formal wear these days. I asked Google when women first wore high heels and learned the 16th century, (but I didn’t see any heels on females in the portraits).

Fashionable women today are also wearing ankle-length dresses for daywear. And speaking of dresses—men on the streets of Manhattan are sporting them along with tunics and exotic accessories much like some in the Tudor-period portraits.

I am a lover of tights. I saw some magnificent ones on men.

You can’t miss the alarmingly tiny waists on women. While we aren’t seeing this look [thank goodness], our skinny models could slip into any of the gowns with room to spare.

The exhibit will be at The Met until January 8, 2023.

We think we’re so innovative in the 21st century, yet here’s another instance of “plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.” Can you think of other examples? What fashions remind you of times long gone by?

Love those tights!

Service of Busybodies

Monday, June 13th, 2022


Image by Prawny from Pixabay

An incident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art made me think of busybodies I have seen on TV such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, Norton and for that matter Ralph Kramden on the “Honeymooners,” Kramer on “Seinfeld” and Marie the mother/mother-in-law/neighbor on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” For those watching the Australian soap “A Place to Call Home,” there’s the well-meaning Doris Collins.

Some are endearing, others annoying. The one at the Met was the latter. As we entered an exhibition one of my friends remarked on how dark it was and I suggested that it might be to protect the pictures. A woman piped up loudly, “You’re wrong! It’s to create a certain ambiance. It has nothing to do with the paintings.” I’d not have remembered the incident had her words not been accompanied by an irritating tone, part edge/part know-it-all arrogance that I dislike. Even if she was correct, I didn’t appreciate her interference.

I asked a guard about this. He said he thought darkened spaces were to preserve the work. Some, he said, happy to chat, are exhibited for only short periods. He referenced the iconic “Great Wave” by Hokusai Katsushika. I looked into it at home and found in the museum’s online archive a 2014 reference to the summer exhibition of Katsushika’s work, the last paragraph of which was: “To prevent fading, we will rotate different impressions of ‘the Great Wave’ from the Met’s collection throughout the summer.” The works are on paper.

And then there are the nosy parkers who beat their breasts over something they see and do nothing. An acquaintance overheard a conversation in a store in which two women were carrying on with the shopkeeper about youngsters about 3 and 4 left alone in a car down the road–windows open, temperature 75. They assumed that the adult[s] were inside a store buying food. But all they did was blabber and point fingers. So what good?

I’ve previously reported on the nosy passenger who told a Metro North conductor that I was cheating the RR out of a fare. In fact the conductor on the first of two trains to get to my destination had mistakenly clicked two squares, including the one for the second part of the ride. He’d circled, dated and initialed his error on my 10 trip ticket. The conductor said to the busybody, “I believe her,” and moved on. The busybody glared at me. His companion shrank in his seat.

Have you come across busybodies? Are any your favorites in literature or film?

Service of Above and Beyond

Thursday, March 10th, 2022



Image by marekr from Pixabay

Though service sometimes seems to have its dry spells, lately I’ve experienced a riches of the best, even if I had to nudge one instance along.

Old Fashioned Service

As you could tell from my last post I’m not thrilled with the lifting of pandemic mandates with so many unanswered questions and inconsistencies. For example, if the pandemic is over and face coverings useless why are they required anywhere? Which businesses and organizations plan to continue to check vaccine status?

To find out I left a message at the Metropolitan Museum of Art members department last week to learn if the organization was still asking for proof of vaccines. I never expected to hear from anyone. I’ve left messages on voicemail at other places before, such as on my councilman Keith Powers’ [followed, in his case, by an e-mail], and never heard back. Hence the surprise when a cheerful woman called Tuesday to tell me the vaccine restriction at the Met is gone. Oh well.

White Glove Service 1

I just came from Staples looking to replace the mouse for my laptop. I know, I know–I should use the touchpad like 99.9% of the world but I don’t. The young man I lucked into tested the mouse I brought–extremely polite asking if it was OK before heading to the back. He thought it was fine yet I still wanted to buy a backup and I said that it would be worth $20 to me. “Oh, you don’t have to pay that much!” he said handing me one for $13.99. He wished me good luck, hoping there wasn’t something wrong with the laptop portal [me too] and we had a brief discussion about the beauty of old gadgets that work perfectly well. He was in his 20s, hip enough with his long hair, and yet an old soul in this regard who gets five gold stars for service.

White Glove Service 2

Where I live, once a year handymen check the 510 apartments to change AC filters, confirm that smoke detectors work and so forth. All tenants know is that the inspections will take place between certain hours over a matter of weeks. That didn’t suit me. I wanted to know the day they’d come to my apartment, at the least.

I make use of every surface including the AC/heating element covers where plants sit so I planned to move them–but when? The staff slide open the covers to switch out the filters. And for countless other reasons, with advance notice, I could be sure to be home.

So I found out who was on the inspection team and tracked one of them down, asking him for a heads up the day before they’d land on my floor. I handed him a note with my phone and apartment numbers. They warned me and more, giving me a choice of times and they arrived on the dot! I was prepared, they were in and out in short order and everyone–especially me–was happy.

Have you enjoyed service that was above and beyond lately?

Service of Volunteers II

Thursday, October 28th, 2021

What is it about museums? The last time I wrote about volunteers was in 2012 and oddly, it also involved a museum’s shabby treatment of its volunteers. Then the Brooklyn Museum suddenly disbanded its 64 year old Community Committee formed to raise the museum’s profile, start a docent program, give presentations in low-income schools with items from the collection, and plan events. The committee was kicked to the curb.

This time it’s the Art Institute of Chicago that dismissed its 82 docents ending the program in a letter. The goal of the new program, wrote Robin Pogrebin in her New York Times article, is to “forge closer ties with the racially and economically diverse city it serves.”

She reported “The docents — longtime, dedicated volunteers who know the Institute and its collections intimately — lamented the decision.” The Chicago Tribune “denounced the move in an editorial headlined ‘Shame on the Art Institute for summarily canning its volunteer docents.’”


Image by Hermann Traub from Pixabay  

The editorial “described the dismissal of the docents as ‘a callous move in a cruel time in America’ and called on Mr. Rondeau to ‘apologize and find some kind of compromise that does not involve the spectacle of long-serving devotees of a great museum left to feel like they’ve been put out with the gift-store trash.’” James Rondeau is the museum director.

According to Pogrebin “The new plan calls for hiring paid educators — Ms. Stein invited the volunteers to apply for those positions — and then developing a new program over the next few years.” Veronica Stein is “the executive director of learning and public engagement for the museum’s Woman’s Board, which supports education activities.”

Pogrebin reported: “The docents at institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston are all volunteers. ‘For many years we have worked concertedly to attract a diverse corps of docents,’ said Gary Tinterow, the Houston museum’s director, ‘and we look forward to continued diversification of staff and volunteers.’”

I come from a long line of volunteers–Two grandmothers, mother and father, uncles and aunts rolled up many a sleeve for decades–and my sister continues to do so. I’ve done my share and can speak only for myself: It seems so easy to disrespect and discount volunteers and cut off their contributions in a trice like unwanted suckers on a tree trunk–so why not do it? Are volunteers treated with disrespect because they are not salaried? Is it because many are retired and therefore old and not in sync with what an organization wants its image to be? Are museums alone or is this behavior typical of all organizations that use volunteers?



Image by StockSnap from Pixabay  
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