By Razi Schwartz
I recently stumbled upon the Dahesh Museum of Art — heard of it? Well, yes, if you’re a savvy, fabulous New Yorker you probably have — and if not, don’t even sweat it, because Razi has come to the rescue — you will be without information no longer! The Dahesh Museum of Art is, in a nutshell, gorgeous and unlike any museum I’ve seen. The art is a collection of academic artists from the 19th and 20th centuries — think SVA, but from…a really long time ago. The museum’s founding was inspired by the collection of a certain Mr. Dahesh, a Lebanese author and philosopher Mr. Dahesh, a Lebanese author and philosopher. Um, honestly, I cannot lie to my public — I would love to have the Schwartz Museum of Fine…whatever, really. Of course, my museum collection would probably be filled with back issues of early 21st century US Weekly and InStyle Magazines … Something to be proud of? Maybe not. But, hell, that might be considered pop art someday people, SOMEDAY!
Anyhow, aside from glancing at the museum’s stunning and somehow familiar collection, the museum offers a plethora (totally the first time I’ve been able to work this word into my work!) of activities, special exhibits and film and lecture series. Since I’m now a huge fan of all things Dahesh, I thought I’d do a quick run down of what they have going on in December, so y’all can check it out when you ditch work to do your holiday shopping — the museum is located conveniently on Madison Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets — and if you wanna tell me you won’t be over there shopping, just stop kidding yourselves!
The current exhibition is called The Legacy of Homer: Four Centuries of Art from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. The works in this exhibit are based on the impact of Homer, the renowned poet, upon the finest visual artists from the 17th – 20th century France. This is a little-known collection from the Ecole, and it shouldn’t be missed. We all know Homer, we all had to read him at one time or another, and seeing how these artists of yore envisioned him in their own mind is, well, just awesome. Who’s a part of said collection? David, Ingres, David d’Angers, Rude, Flandrin, Regnault, and Carpeaux, to name a few. The exhibit also features Jacques-Louis David’s enormous “Andromache Mourning Hector,” which is usually on loan to the Louvre. Yes, the Louvre. In French, that means…fabulousness times ten.
In an ongoing Homer theme, the museum is also currently featuring a film series entitled the Homer Lives! Film Festival. I love that. The first film in the series has already come and gone (tear), but there are two more films playing on Sunday, December 11th that shouldn’t be missed. At 11am, check out Ulysses’ Gaze, directed by Theo Angelopouloswhere a “Greek exile returns home to attend a screening of his controversial film. But his real goal is to recover the mythical reels shot by the Manakia brothers, who, at the dawn of the cinematic age, criss-crossed the war-torn Balkans to record what they saw.” I love complicated-esque plot lines — we’re watching a film about a guy going to watch a screening of his film. Sheer brilliance. The second film, at 3pm is Le Mepris, which means Contempt en francais. Mmmm, contempt. Bonjour Jean-Luc Godard, where in this one of his many films “A screenwriter attempting to doctor a new version of Homer’s Odyssey is torn between the demands of an arrogant European director, a crude American producer, and his disillusioned wife. If the plot isn’t reason enough to see the film, it also stars Jack Palance and Brigit Bardot — Brigit needs no introduction, and really, neither does Jack — especially after his impressive single-armed push-up show at the Oscars … I don’t remember what year it was, but the image is ingrained in my head forever. The films are free to museum members, and non-members need to pay regular admission plus $5. Really a bargain considering what movies cost these days…sheesh.
Oh! And the lectures! You guessed it, we’re still visiting the Greeks in these, but…who doesn’t love the Greeks. They have big, fat, Greek weddings. So, only one lecture in this month’s series has passed, which means you have THREE to still see. Yay for three! The first one is tonight at 6:30pm, and will be focusing on Romare Bearden’s Odysseus Series. Romare Bearden was a master collagist who completed a series of 20 large-format depictions of Homer’s Odyssey. In the artist’s own words, through his art he sought to allow “a child in Benin or in Louisiana… to understand the myth better.” The lecture will be lead by Columbia Univesity’s Professor Robert O’Meally. The lecture is included in the cost of admission, so…hoorah!
The second lecture in the series is on Saturday, December 10th at 2:30pm, and features some sweet Dances from the Greek Isles. There will be awesome music, awesome dancing, and you’ll learn about the making and meaning of regional costumes and dance styles – from ancient to modern times. Bring the kids. Kids love music. This lecture/dance is free to museum members, $10 for non-museum member adults, and $5 for non-museum member kids under 12. Seriously, just join the museum.
The third lecture is a mini concert on Friday, December 16th from 7-8pm featuring Christmas Carols Performed by Boricua College Chorus (New York). 1. I love Christmas Carols even though I’m Jewish. 2. I love concerts. 3. I know all the words and like to sing along. The cost for this is the same as the Dances from the Greek Isles, but it’s $5 for kids under 16 — which really aren’t kids, they’re teenagers at that point.
Of course there is more goodness to be found at this museum — a gallery shop, Cafe Opaline, and ongoing Gallery Talks and Family Programs. It’s just such a lovely experience, and a great way to spend a day in Manhattan in between Bendels and Barney’s.
Dahesh Museum of the Art, 580 Madison Avenue (between 56th and 57th street).