Art, Central Park, jazz, Cate Blanchett, and great soup. Even in the midst of political turmoil and protest, New York delivers. Excess All Areas went looking for some cultural respite care
A New York pitstop smack bang in the middle of a week of bad politics (the inauguration and all it unleashed)…? Let culture be the antidote.
First a 12-year-old single malt Glenlivet in the Hudson Common bar at the Hudson Hotel (358 West 58th Street) while luggage (and coat) catch up.
The midtown Hudson is for the independent, resourceful traveller. Take the lime-lit escalator from the street to the warm, cavernous lobby, with its muted lighting and ivy-covered ceiling, lots of nooks and comfortable armchairs for waiting around in, the Common (craft beer central), a smaller Library Bar with antique billiards table, and the big, glam nightspot, the Hudson Bar. (When it’s not snowing, there’s a roof terrace.) Arrived without charger, ear phones or cables? There’s a dispensing machine off the lobby.
A slick, modern Studio Delux room, wood-panelled and white leather and designed by Philippe Starck, with separate lounge room and bedroom, averages out at US$180 per night over 5 nights. Plus the 6 taxes (only in New York!) per night tacked onto that, totalling an extra $US314. All up $US1217 (A$1610)
When presidential politics starts looking uncivilised, head for the very civilised Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Avenue). The arms and armour rooms seem the appropriate place to start under the circumstances – for those medieval times when metal protection was almost haute couture and pistols, rapiers and shields were embellished within an inch of their lives.
The true haute couture from the 18th century to this century is downstairs in the Costume Institute exhibition, Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion, that scoops lovers of plush fashion up into the arms of Worth, Lanvin, Chanel, Victor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood, Dior, Galliano – a 60-piece curation of sublime beauty. It winds up February 5 in anticipation of Rei Kawakubo/Comme Des Garçons which runs from May 4 to September 4. The Costume Institute is an archive of some 35,000 sublime costumes and accessories.
To soothe the soul, find the galleries dedicated to French and Italian sculpture and decorative arts on the first floor and mezzanine. Browse for a book or an arty memento in the Met Shop and ruminate over an organic poached egg set into in a lake of polenta in the Petrie Court Cafe, looking out over Central Park.
Searching for screen gems
The not-for-profit movie house, the Film Forum, at 209 West Houston, yields gold art house nuggets such as director Tony Palmer’s long lost footage of Leonard Cohen’s 1972 European tour, Leonard Cohen: Bird On A Wire, and Panique, a reinterpretation of the Georges Simenon novel Mr Hire’s Engagement. Upcoming (March 10-21) is Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
Warming winter soup
There’s no problem that can’t be solved without the butternut pumpkin bisque (and maybe a crab and squid ink linguine) at the atmospheric Crosby Bar in Soho’s Crosby Street Hotel, one of the warmly eclectic Firmdale portfolio (watch for the Whitby in Midtown, opening soon).
Wisdom at the Whitney
Hadn’t seen the Whitney Museum of American Art since its US$422 million rebuild and move to 99 Gansevoort Street at the southern end of the High Line in 2015. The imposing Renzo Piano building, with its terraces and art temptations is spacious and has a great view from the rooftop cafe. He sought to incorporate in his design, Piano told The New Yorker, “Social life, urbanity, invention, construction, technology, poetry, light—an immense rich bouillabaisse.” That soup, again.
Be absorbed by both painted and photographic portraiture in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection; Andrea Zittel’s A to Z 1993 Living Unit, a modular living area that turns austerity into both art form and a desire for a simpler life; and Urs Fischer’s massive 2015 wax candle sculpture, Standing Julian, that is/was the artist Julian Schnabel (it can be recast and lit anew when it has melted).
Jazz at the Lincoln
Nice synchronicity. Passing the Lincoln Centre 20 minutes before the Branford Marsalis Quartet is due to perform with Grammy award-winning crooner Kurt Elling. Big Tick. And a glass of Sancerre with a lobster roll at the Ascent Bar on the way out.
Burning kilojoules in Central Park
Can’t visit New York without a walk in Central Park whatever the season, to blow away the cobwebs. On a crisp January Saturday, it’s full of would-be Olympic ice skaters, cyclists, and joggers. The crab cakes at the Boathouse are as delicious as ever.
Magnetic Madison Avenue
Exit around 74th, stroll over to Madison Avenue and zig zag your way (the shop you want will always be on the other side of the road) down to 57th, where Tiffany blue, on Fifth Avenue and 57th, will be a distraction. Madison Avenue is Designer Central. Alexander McQueen, Celine, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier, La Perla, Chloe, Oliver Peoples, Gucci, Christian Louboutin. And the very fetching Barneys at 61st, which has a trailblazing niche perfume emporium in its basement and, in January, up to 75 per cent off the fashion on the floors above.
Best discovery, though, is the gobsmacking mineral art of Mardani (766 Madison Avenue), a collector’s cave of tourmaline, malachite, quartz and dozens of other treasures from the world’s kaleidoscopic underground.
A Melbourne flat white
Now you need a good coffee. Take a left at East 56th, walk along to Lexington and look for Little Collins, between East 56th and East 55th, where Australians are teaching Americans a thing or two about coffee.
In step with Broadway
Broadway delivers as usual, this winter with the luminous Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in The Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Present, based on Chekhov’s unpublished play Platonov. Blanchett is a birthday girl both reluctant and expectant. Roxburgh is his usual rakish self, a master of both timing and two timing.
So, civilisation is not altogether yet dead.