Posted on December 3rd, 2010

Man About Town

Tom’s Picks

As the winter holidays approach New York art institutions are cutting loose with scads of fascinating exhibitions to attract tourists, locals and potential shoppers.

The Kissers

At Gagosian uptown you can see John Currin’s recent paintings.  All sold, they feature finely rendered, sexually suggestive women—and sexually explicit women (with other women).  These surround the center-piece of the show, a large painting of two middle aged men in shorts, one fitting the other for a new outfit.  Currin combines Old Master technique and virtuoso rendering with bizarre subjects.  A beautiful still life of a white tea set at the lower right of The Women of Franklin Street steals the show from the erotic high jinks above. (980 Madison Ave., through December 23).  Currin is often called a Mannerist, and to see why check out the weirdly proportioned, erotic mythological nudes in the memorable exhibition of Netherlandish Mannerist painter Jan Gossart at the Metropolitan Museum.  (1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, through January17).

Currin’s hyper-realist and fashionably decadent paintings would also fit comfortably in the major, eye-opening art historical exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, Chaos and Classicism. It surveys the artistic reaction to World War I in Europe, when avant-garde artists moved either towards a subversive Dadaism, or towards a new look at tradition.  The latter is the theme of this beautifully installed show, with works that range from the majestic (Picasso) to the unsettling:  long forgotten, or suppressed, Fascist and Nazi paintings and sculptures.

Messerschmidt Head

For some more bizarre art on the Upper East Side, check out the Franz Xaver Messerschmidt show at the wonderful Neue Gallerie.  Messerschmidt was a late 18th century sculptor, an expert portraitist until he developed mental problems and turned to his unique 3D studies of people’s faces making extreme expressions.  This is the first U.S. exhibition of his work, and it is comfortably small, consisting of around 25 heads, upstairs from the lovely exhibition of early 20th century Viennese art and design on the second floor.  If you visit, you might want to save some time for the truly delicious coffees and deserts available in the Café Sabarsky, which is so popular that there is usually a long line—but downstairs the same menu is available in the recreation of Viennna’s Café Fledermaus, which is much less crowded—so far.  (1048 Fifth Avenue at 86th Street, through January 10).