Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Way Off the Beaten Path

New York is full of wonders. Here is a short selection of places around town that are worth a visit.

Trinity Church Cemetery (Trinity Church) Photo by Gryffindor
The Strangest Gravestone in Trinity Church: From 1846 when it was built, until 1890, Trinity Church was the tallest building in New York. Reaching to a height of 280 feet, it was finally overtaken after over 40 years by the New York World Building. The church is built adjacent to New York’s oldest graveyard, containing the oldest carved gravestone, that of Richard Churcher. The five-year-old died in 1681. Not far from Churcher is the city’s strangest gravestone, that of James Leeson. He was an innkeeper and mason, and died in 1794. His stone is carved with mysterious symbols across the top. It was many years before anyone could figure out what those weird markings symbolized until someone finally understood that the markings were written in obscure masonic “pigpen” cypher. The mystery was solved and the inscription simply reads, “REMEMBER DEATH.”

Meet the Real Winnie the Pooh: In the Children’s Center of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue is something special to anyone who has ever been, or still is, a child. The real Winnie the Pooh, the stuffed bear purchased by A.A. Milne for his son Christopher is on display, along with his companions Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger. Pooh Bear was bought in Harrods in London in 1921, and then presented as a gift to the library by Milne’s American publisher E.P. Dutton in 1987, along with the other beloved characters from the Hundred Acre Woods.


The Walk of Fame: Move over Hollywood Boulevard! New York has its very own star-studded street, located at Theater 80, St. Mark’s Place, East Village. Opened in 1971 by ex-actor and movie fan Howard Otway, Theater 80 showed films from the 1930s to the 1950s, Hollywood’s Golden Age. On opening night Otway asked a few film stars to a fancy party and then to leave their hand and footprints in softened cement, along with their signatures on the sidewalk right outside the theater. Go take a look and see the prints of d Dom DeLuise, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy and Gloria Swanson. Some others, like that of Joan Rivers, came later. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Museum Mania is Another Name for New York

Photo by Gary Bembridge
I have no idea if New York has more museums than any other city in the world, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Big Apple holds that distinction, or at least comes close. No matter what you love, there is a museum for it here in this city that never sleeps.

From the most famous, such as the Guggenheim to the Met, and to the least mentioned like Dyckman Farmhouse, the Museum at Eldridge Street, and even the titillating Museum of Sex, there is a museum here for you.

Let’s just explore a few of my favorites:

  • ·       The New York Hall ofScience: Bring the kids and have a blast. The museum houses more than 450 interactive exhibits designed to draw visitors of all ages and backgrounds into the amazing world of science. Between March and December there is an outdoor Science Playground covering 30,000 square feet. Located in Queens at 47-01 111th Street.
  • ·        Fraunces Tavern: This off-the-beaten-track museum is a complex of five buildings containing nine galleries. You will see American history come to life here when you visit the famous Long Room, the place where George Washington took his leave from his officers of the Continental Army on December 4th, 1783. The world’s largest collection of John Ward Dunsmore paintings are housed here, along with many fascinating relics from the days of Colonial America. Located at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad.
  • ·        The Skyscraper Museum: Nothing says New York better than “Skyscraper,” and this is the place to learn all about that amazing advancement in engineering and urban settlement. Located gorgeously at the foot of Manhattan near Battery Park, this museum is itself a design achievement. There is a contemporary gallery of architecture by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, any admirer of modern architecture will appreciate what this museum has to offer. Located at 39 Battery Place.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Supporting Communism Through Art: A Look at the 1930s Intersection of Politics and Art

"An old sailor snapped in Jackson Square, New Orleans"
by photographer Ben Shahn (1898-1969). For United States Resettlement Administration.
The 1930s were a tough time for society. In the aftermath of the devastation called World War I, the economic disaster known as the depression, and the geopolitical turmoil shaking the planet, it is no wonder that many artists were part of the movement to find a solution within the communist revolution.

Some of the best known of these communist supporting artists were Alice Neel, Stuart Davis and Ben Shahn. These artists, and others, often created art in the service of the cause of communism and the Communist Party, USA.

The ideology of communism preached that art needed to be freed from its formalist “bourgeois decadence.” Nevertheless, as a codeword for cubism, “formalism” still found its way into the work of these artists, in particular, Neel and Davis. These artists never completely sacrificed their artistic intelligence on the altar of political didacticism. To a lesser extent this was also true of their fellow artists, who are much less known.

The works of about twenty of these artists are now on display, including Neel, Davis and Shahn, at a new exhibition entitled “You Say You Want a Revolution: American Artists and the Communist Party,” at the Galerie St. Etienne, which takes a little explored look at this troubled time in history.

The Galerie St. Etienne is located at 24 West 57th Street. Entrance is free. 11am-5pm every Tuesday-Saturday until February 11, 2017.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Phoenix Ancient Art Bringing the Pantheon to the Armory for TEFAF New York Fall 2016

Teaming up with the Dutch expert stand-builder Stabilo, Phoenix Ancient Art will be presenting its exquisite collection of antiquities at the TEFAF New York Fall 2016 show within a re-creation of the great Pantheon of Rome.

Phoenix's Display Booth Design Brings to Mind the Roman Pantheon
The unique Phoenix Pantheon booth will be appearing at the Park Avenue Armory for the TEFAF show from October 22-26, and will include a vaulted dome ceiling and a central oculus which will light up the space. Phoenix’s Pantheon is not only meant to display the great art which the antiquities dealer is showcasing, but to bring to mind Hadrian, the great Roman Emperor, who was noted not only as emperor, but also as a patron of the arts and as an architect in his own right.

Co-founder of Phoenix Ancient Art Hicham Aboutaam explained his own admiration and fascination with the Pantheon.

“I never miss an opportunity to visit and experience the Pantheon whenever I am in Rome,” he said.

“The inspiration of this domed temple, a unique masterwork of architecture, lies not only in its perfect form and unparalleled preservation, but also in the embodiment of the spirit of the Classical world seen in all of its ancient glory -- all the more remarkable as it is still visible in our own time.”

Phoenix is creating their booth version of the Pantheon as the perfect display case for the ancient artwork from their collection which were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

Hadrian was an admirer of Greek culture, which the Roman Empire engulfed and incorporated into its own culture approximately 2,000 plus years ago. His favorite artwork was Roman pieces which were inspired by the great Greek works of the Classical Period. Hadrian’s tastes influenced a style which came to be known later as Hadrianic Classicism.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Destroyed Arch Given Second Life Using Modern Technology

Hadrian Gate of Ancient Palmyra. Photo by O.Mustafin
Using modern technology, a 1,800 year-old Roman arch destroyed by Isis last year made a triumphant re-appearance in the heart of New York City’s financial district.

In May 2015, after the extremist terrorist organization ISIS captured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, they began a campaign of destruction, including destroying precious ancient artefacts and murder. In August 2015 ISIS beheaded the famous antiquities scholar of Palmyra, Khaled al-Asaad, after he refused to tell his captors where valuable artefacts from the city were moved to for safe-keeping.

In October of 2015 the extremists blew up Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph, but that did not stop some from fighting back in an extraordinary way. A team of archaeologists from Oxford University’s Institute for Digital archaeology (IDA) was determined to recreate the arch.

Using photographs of the original arch, the reproduction is two-thirds the original size and was built from Egyptian marble using 3D technology.

Before its arrival in front of New York’s City Hall, the 11-tonne arch was first on display at London’s Trafalgar Square last April. It is scheduled to move to Dubai after spending one proud week in New York.

With its close proximity in space to the World Trade Center Memorial, and in time to the recent Chelsea bombing which injured 29 people, the arch is certainly a symbol of man’s triumph over evil.
“It is our hope that the arch, itself an icon of destruction and rebirth, will remind visitors of both the universality of suffering and the indomitable human capacity to rebuild what has been lost,” said the Executive Director of the IDA, Roger Michael.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Blockchain Accounting Consortium Under Consideration

The main chain (black) consists of the longest series of blocks from the genesis block (green) to the current block. Orphan blocks (purple) exist outside of the main chain. Illustration courtesy of Wikipedia.
Four of the country’s largest accounting firms met in New York City to discuss the possibility of creating a distributed ledger consortium.

The meeting was held at Microsoft’s headquarters in NYC with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and blockchain specialists from Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC. Together these “Big Four” firms had $123.7 billion in revenue last year.

The format of the meeting will be a series of roundtable discussions discussing hot the accounting industry can work together to develop new blockchain standards.

Hosting the meeting is the startup Consensys, an ethereum-focused company. The head of blockchain accounting at Consensys, Griffin Anderson, who helped organize the meeting, said that the goal of the meeting is to identify precisely how a blockchain can help companies to do their job more efficiently, no matter which network they may decide to use.


"We are bringing together accounting blockchain industry experts to explore and to determine the value of a joint accounting and blockchain industry consortium," said Anderson.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Just Say Abracadabra!

Do you love when things just disappear? Or appear out of thin air? Are you a Harry Potter fan? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should rush down to Tannen’s Magic Shop, the oldest magic store in New York City.

And just how old is old, you might ask? Well, it’s not quite as old as the city itself, but still, how many shops do you know of that will be having their 100th birthday in a mere ten years? That’s what I thought.
In its new location in Herald Square, a visit to this shop is a study in mind-bending beauty. The products are many and varied, such as invisible paint, “pure smoke,” multiplying billiard balls, and lots, lots more. For your convenience they are organized into intriguing categories, such as: cigarette magic, coin magic, dove magic, knife magic, and onward.

The shop has served the needs of every famous, and not so famous, New York magician for these past 90 years. You can count on the proprietors of Tannen’s to show you what you need to know about each trick- but only if you are a real, or at least in-training magician.

Want to learn the “tricks of the trade?” Tannen’s can arrange that via magic camp and classes. Located just down the hall from the Flosso-Hornman-Martinka store, where the great Harry Houdini used to reside as president, just a visit to Tannen’s will make you feel magical.