When you think art in Manhattan, everyone’s mind goes to Chelsea, but there’s actually a ton going on a little further downtown now. For starters, the big deal in the art world this season will be the grand opening of the Whitney Museum in its new Meatpacking District digs. Right between the High Line and the Hudson, the giant new building is a vast departure from its longtime Upper East Side home, and famed architect Renzo Piano designed galleries that pay equal attention to art and the stunning views, plus a beautiful outdoor gathering space. The first big show when the Whitney reopens on May 1 will be “America Is Hard to See,” a huge U.S. art retrospective encompassing some 650 works from the museum’s world-class collection. The restaurant, Untitled on the High Line, will remain a Danny Meyer project and will be helmed by executive chef Michael Anthony and chef de cuisine Suzanne Cupps, currently sous-chef of the Tavern room at Gramercy Tavern, but it will be a very new restaurant complete with a fresh new menu. (Read about Meyer's new drinkery in "Secret Spot".) Also coming to the area this May is the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, a very eclectic al fresco art fair where I love seeing all kinds of locals selling everything from handmade jewelry to portrait paintings created on the spot. To me, what is most exciting in the world of contemporary art is the number of very young art collectors. Never was that more evident than when my husband and I took our daughter to the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair a couple of weeks ago. The show opened on the day of a big snowstorm, which seemed to deter no one as the Metropolitan Pavilion was filled to capacity by early in the evening. Ironically, it was the uptown stylish gallery owner of the Voltz Clarke gallery who inspired me to head to the downtown show. Blair Clarke, who fills her New York City apartment with the work of the artists she represents, recently introduced me to the work of Natasha Law, an artist who paints these simple but striking silhouettes. Voltz Clarke also earned a well-deserved shout out as one of the Top 10 finds at the recent PULSE art fair.
Here’s the Upper East Side opening I’m most excited about right now: After a three-year, $81 million renovation, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in Carnegie Hill finally reopened last Friday, December 12 (my birthday—and also the same day back in 1902 that Andrew Carnegie moved into the mansion with his wife and daughter). I saw them putting up the holiday lights on the museum last week to signify the opening was near and it is absolutely beautiful. Inside, the renovation has preserved the Carnegie Mansion’s antique ambiance, with intricately carved teak wood running throughout, while updating it with 60 percent more gallery space, all fully equipped for cutting-edge design exhibits like the very exciting Immersion Room, where the Cooper Hewitt’s much-lauded collection of wall coverings are displayed and visitors can sketch their own designs and project them onto the wall. The most intriguing allure of the museum is the melding of the traditional with the modern. A passive museum no longer, it is filled with interactive digital tools that bring out the accidental designer in all of us. It was as accessible to me as it was to my eight-year-old son. I was particularly thrilled to watch a 3-D printer in action, churning out objects such as a prosthetic limb (coincidently high school math students at my daughter’s school across the street are doing the same thing). Tip: buy your tickets online to save $2 and more importantly—skip the lines.