New York Postcard – Week 1, April 2016
We had a great first week in the big apple although not at the pace we once did. No museums yet although Christie’s auctions of great masters and antiquities was far better than most galleries … about 400 lots of unbelievably stunning works (http://www.christies.com/salelanding/index.aspx?intSaleID=25989 ) . There were paintings by Fragonard, Boucher, Corot, Bellini, Gandolfi, El Greco, Daddi, Botticelli, Mantegna, Rubens, Van Cleve, Vermeyen, Breughel (I and II), Buonisegna, Guardi, Cimaroli and many, many others whose names are less familiar to me. There was every style of European art imaginable, portraits, religious art, still life, scientific, landscapes, agricultural scene, archaeological subjects, etc, etc. I went back three times to gander at the offerings and was even tempted to make a bid (a futile one, it turned out).
The first evening in town we stopped for a peek in the windows. But we realized that 49th Street was closed off with pedestrians ushered across the road as a very fancy car was painstakingly backed out of the showroom across the side-walk. Somebody said it was the original Batmobile but in fact it had been the launch of Bugatti’s new sports car in partnership with Christie’s. We were told that they are only making 400 models, each costing over 2 million dollars! What are the poor people driving? [I learned that the original 1955 Batmobile was actually auctioned for 4.6 million dollars and is now in Arizona]
The sale was highly successful but all accounts and our painting of Mount Vesuvius, estimated at $8000 actually sold for $23,000 - I kid you not!! And the beautiful Egyptian hieroglyphic stela which I would love to own and was estimated at 25k went for $161,000 !!¡¡!! I blame deep Chinese pockets competing with the rest and pushing prices over the lunar crazy level. I had distantly thought that such a HUGE auction might see people running out of money before the end. But not so! This IS the Big Apple after all.
In other respects, New York is New York. It was very cold, even below zero some nights. Always busy and not yet spring time people still have that stern look, hoping for a break in the weather which came the next week, along with blossoms, flowers and blue skies. I am still amazed at the animation and diversity of people in the city. Almost every subway car has someone who could be in the record books: tall, short, fat, thin, hairy, ugly, gorgeous, noisy, etc. There are also those who travel one station and sing, recite poetry, give a life story, etc and then ask for money.
I used to read (and occasionally write to) Opera-L list-server and found it stimulatingly if sometimes slightly irritating. Now, however, I find serious discussion of opera seems subsidiary to goss and floss which is very disappointing for a once lively forum. We saw two operas at the Met (Butterfly, Elisir d’Amore) and a NY Philharmonic concert. I could have thirteen pages on the wonderful experiences (including an elderly man's walker going missing during the intermission at the Met causing minor pandemonium). One of the most staggering stage performances I have seen since Sutherland days was happening yet days went by with nothing on Opera-L. It seemed to have contributors buzzing with the crucial issue of the hairlines of tenors - as if baritones and mezzos don't matter! – but one might add that Sondra Radvenovsky rips off her entire hair-piece in the finale of Roberto Devereux with devastating dramatic effect. But more about that magic opera later. And more later about our second of three weeks in the city.
Written by Andrew Byrne ..