At the Guggenheim: The Book Fairy Strikes Again!

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Hello and welcome back Guys and Gals!

I hope your summer was refreshing to body and soul, whether you were at-home or abroad, at the seashore or in the mountains. Mine was spent in front of the computer screen, happily researching and writing another memoir. Why leave home if you’re having such a good time?

What I discovered is that the city in summer has its joys, especially if the thermometer behaves itself, staying in the 70s and low 80s. Which must have been the case because when the electric bill arrived last week, it was the lowest summertime bill I’ve seen in years.  

On the Upside...

In summer, the restaurants were noticeably less crowded and less noisy, the maître d’ delighted to see you come through the door—reservation or no reservation. No muss, no fuss, no bother. Museums were less crowded and movie theaters were rolling out the red carpet, as attendance this summer was the lowest it has been in years. Then, too, getting a cab proved a snap and when calling UBER, the iPhone regularly showed six or seven drivers hovering nearby, ready to pick you up within minutes. All of which made getting from place to place a breeze, the time cut in half.  If not the fare. 

On the Downside...

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What continued unabated was the construction all over town, with scarcely a block not having scaffolding on a building or a portion of its roadbed torn up. Getting around Midtown was the worst, as it has been for more than a year.

The construction I've been watching from the kitchen window is a luxury condo, 1010 Park Avenue, rising on a site where there had been a rectory belonging to the Park Avenue Christian Church. The spiffy up-and-coming building will have a fifty-foot pool, a mere eleven residences, and a $50 million penthouse. Woo! If interested, do not delay.

The Book Fairy Strikes Again!

Another ‘if interested, do not delay,’ is an exhilarating exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, The Salon de la Rose + Croix, a rare offering. But before I tell you about that, let me tell you what brought me to the museum that day; a Book Fairy had left a copy of Veronica’s Grave on a settee at the Guggy! Only a few weeks earlier, a Book Fairy on the West Coast had left a copy at the Masters' Pageant in Laguna, California. What fun!

If you're wondering if that's truly the Guggenheim, with red velvet walls and a Dior blue velvet sofa, it is. As a break from the blistering white they've long championed, the designers have given a few rooms the ambiance of an elegant nineteenth century salon, a setting more in keeping with this refined exhibit. 

Who are the Book Fairies?

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Have you ever read a book so good, you wanted to share it with friends? That's what the Book Fairies do.  Around the world, the Book Fairies are leaving their favorite reads for others to find.

They might leave a copy on a park bench, in a restaurant or a coffee shop, at the top of the Eiffel Tower or the foot of Big Ben, or at a museum. Why? Simply because they hope to make the person who finds it smile, to turn what might have been an ordinary day into an extraordinary day. 

At the Guggy...

But let’s go back to where I left off at the Guggy, a day when, serendipitously, I came across a fascinating exhibition of the work of a group of artists I knew nothing about: Mystical Symbolism: Le Salon de la Rose + Croix.  

What is the Salon de la Rose + Croix?

The R+C was an annual exhibition in Paris, established by the French author and critic Joséphin Péladan (1858-1918).  The salon, which was by invitation only and lasted for six years (1892- 1897), featured the works of the Symbolists, painters who rejected the secular outlook permeating late nineteenth century art. If their style emphasized elongated figures, sinuous lines and flattened forms, their aim was to create the dreams and myths surrounding Beauty, to promote the cult of the Ideal versus that of the Real.

Around the same time, there was another short-lived group of painters, poets and critics in England known as the Pre-Raphaelites. Again, these were artists with a preference for the spiritual values of late Medieval and early Renaissance art. Specifically for art produced before Raphael. By the way, this group included the painter Burne-Jones whose mythological scenes are said to have influenced the writing of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by R. R. Tolkien. 

The Salon de la Rose+Croix is a charming show of forty paintings, an exhibit the New York Times' critic called:  “Art that promises an escape from the world at hand.”  Not a bad idea at times like these when the news is bleak. Symbolism is one of the precursors of modernism, a path less-traveled, that the museum is committed to exploring.

And that's not all. Currently on exhibit at the Guggenheim are the paintings that formed the nucleus of that collection, extraordinary paintings amassed mostly by Solomon Guggenheim and his niece Peggy Guggenheim: Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim. A quote from none other than Peggy Guggenheim sets the tone for the show: "My motto was 'Buy a picture a day' and I lived up to it." And what pictures they bought!

From left to right: Kandinsky; Leger; Delaunay; and Marc Chagall's 'Paris through the Window.' 

For me, it was a fabulous day spent with old friends, including a favorite by Pierre Bonnard of his wife Marthe that had been painted in the south of France. As I linger in front of it, I find myself wishing she'd say something, invite me in for a cup of coffee. But it looks as though breakfast is over, everyone gone for the day. If so, I'll drop by 'The Wright,' seen at the beginning of the post, the in-house restaurant named for the architect of the Guggenheim, Frank Lloyd Wright.

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That's it for today mes amies.  I should add there's much good news coming from HarperCollins Canada regarding Missing Mother, the reincarnation of Veronica's Grave, but I'll save that for another day.

The show Mystical Symbolism closes October 4th, when it's moving on to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.  A notice on the website says admission is reduced through October 5, 2017, while they change exhibitions. The Guggenheim Museum is on Fifth Avenue, between 88th and 89th Streets.

It's a wonderful time to visit New York, to visit the Guggenheim, so be sure to share this with your friends...much obliged. Merci beaucoup...