Never mind that the mighty Hapsburgs have not reigned for nearly a century, their imperial splendor still permeates the jewel in the crown of Central Europe. With a rich heritage rivaling London, Paris and Rome, Vienna deserves more than a few days. The artistic genius spawned from a city that reveres culture and its preservation includes Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, Mahler and Bruckner. At the end of the 19th century, Vienna’s artists and architects paved the way into the next century with an unprecedented artistic revolution. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos were among them. With its palaces, museums and concert halls, you can immerse yourself in their glory here.
You will spend most of your time in the fabled District 1 at the center of Vienna. Stephansdom (St. Stephan’s Cathedral) is an immense punctuation mark that illuminates the city center and provides a reliable landmark. The beautiful blue Danube also defines Vienna as it winds its way through the city. The light rail and the U-Bahn (underground train) make it über easy to see it all.
Everything, everywhere is opulent, grand, and rigorously maintained. Austrians are well-educated and speak English beautifully, which makes travel easy, but be sure to greet locals with a hardy grüss gott. And when in Wien, we recommend that everyone — including you men, wear a fabulous scarf — scarves (along with great boots) are de rigueur. People dress in Vienna; they are bound by tradition and good-manners. Even the dogs of Vienna are well-mannered, and are seen-but-not-heard in the finest cafes and restaurants.
Museums in Vienna are pure joy. The didactic wall panels are scholarly, readable and almost always translated into English. The galleries are well-maintained, restrooms impeccable, and exhibition brochures well-crafted. In the historic heart of the city near The Hofburg, you’ll find the Museum Quarter — an inspired collision of modern and Baroque. The museums located here include the Leopold Museum, MUMOK, Kunsthalle, Architekturzentrum, ZOOM Kinder Museum and Quartier 21.
Let’s start at the Renzo Piano-designed Leopold, which houses the former private art collection of Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold, and boasts the largest holdings of Egon Schiele works. On long-term loan from the collector’s daughter Francesca Habsburg is a stunning selection of master artworks from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. They are woven in among the Leopold Collection to reveal the influences of international artists on Schiele, Klimt and others. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, the Leopold is currently presenting works from its collections that have rarely — if ever — been shown. The two exhibitions are Melancholy and Provocation: The Egon Schiele Project, through January 30, 2012; and The Excitement Continues: Contemporary art from the Leopold Collection II, October 14-January 30.
You’ll notice MUMOK’s dark, basalt edifice, as it tends to stand out from amongst its more staid Museum Quarter neighbors. Just recently (this September) it reopened after a thorough redesign. With Karola Kraus, its relatively new director at the helm, MUMOK houses the national 20th-century collection (7,000 works) with the requisite superstars you would expect (Warhol, Pollock, Twombly), and so many more; 230 of them courtesy of a bequest by billionaire industrialist Herr Ludwig. Much of the collection is devoted to Viennese Actionism of the late 20th century. The temporary exhibitions here put the emphasis on cutting-edge, and often command much of the available space. Currently showing is Museum of Desires, which puts the spotlight on the contrast between permanent collection holdings and outside, large-scale works. The Kunsthalle has gigantic halls for temporary exhibitions as well, featuring hyper-avant-garde works (October 21-February 12: Vanity: Fashion Photography from the F.C. Gundlach Collection). Architekturzentrium has a permanent show of Viennese architecture of the 20th and 21st centuries that lends a nice context to the Vienna experience, along with temporary exhibitions highlighting architects and their work. November 9-February 13, see Glenn Murcutt: Architecture for Place, exploring the work of the Pritzker Prize-winning Australian. ZOOM is dedicated to art for the little ones, while Quartier 21 provides a “support structure” for the applied arts, with emphasis on digital culture and design, with more than forty cultural venues residing in one 7,000 square foot space — including a center for international artists’ residencies. Take a breather at the Leopold Café and savor the curried pumpkin soup.
Nearby is the Vienna Secession, an exhibition space-cum-icon signifying the spirit of impending change around 1900. Visiting artists are challenged with the space both inside and outside the building, and the result is typically marvelous. Through November 20, you can catch the season’s inaugural exhibition, The Fifth Column, a group show featuring seven international artists including Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans, who presented the new safety curtain at the Vienna State Opera recently, and artist Dora Garcia, who represented Spain at this year’s Venice Bienniale. The Secession was founded in 1897 by a group led by Gustav Klimt. Architect Joseph Maria Olbrich was among them, and designed the Secession building as a paean to early Modernism. The highlight of the permanent collection here is Beethoven’s Frieze, a masterwork by Klimt considered to be a pivotal moment in Viennese Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil. This movement’s manifesto decidedly changed the course of art, architecture and design — look for examples of it everywhere as you wander this glorious city.
An absolute must is the Kunsthistorisches or Museum of Fine Art. Many members of the House of Hapsburg, who ruled the greater part of the western world in the 16th and 17th centuries in particular, collected masterworks without the pesky restraint of monetary concerns. It stands on the same level as the Louvre, the Prado and the Vatican. There are immense holdings of Raphael, Veronese, Correggio, Caravaggio, Titian, Rembrandt and Brueghel. Many art history pilgrimages are made to view the most comprehensive collection of Nederlandish 16th-century artist Pieter Brueghel the Elder — Hunters in the Snow is worth the visit alone. Appropriately, catch Winter Tales: Depictions of Winter in European Art from Bruegel to Beuys, October 18-January 8. By the way, the café here is divine; have lunch under its grand dome adorned with paintings, sculpture and gilt-tipped black marble columns.
Another great venue for provocative, contemporary exhibits is the Sigmund Freud Museum. In addition to the fascinating permanent collection documenting the life and times of the good doctor, the museum has an impressive number of important contemporary works, and often offers temporary exhibits as well. If you don’t get your fill of contemporary art in Vienna proper, jump a free shuttle to the nearby countryside to see the The Essl Collection, the inspired private collection of Agnes and Karlheinz Essl. The Essls don’t rule out non-Austrian artists — you’ll be treated to the works of many CoBrA artists, plus international heavy-hitters such as Damien Hirst, Frank Stella, and Gerhard Richter. An additional way to get your fix of all things contemporary Austrian is to time your arrival for Vienna Art Week. This year’s events happen November 14-20, and include installations, guided tours, panel talks, open studios, and more.
Another interesting hive of contemporary art activity exists inside, of all things, a re-imagined anti-aircraft flak tower, circa World War II. Entering the tower puts you in mind of a dank, dark, chilling experience, but fear not, you’re inside The MAK Depot of Contemporary Art (subsidiary of the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art), and its freight elevator will soon deposit you into 4,000 square meters worth of work by internationally renowned artists such as Bruce Nauman, Chris Burden, Donald Judd, Jenny Holzer, Anish Kapoor, and many more; plus fun architectural projects, applied arts collections, an Asian collection, and temporary exhibitions. Oh, and don’t miss the amazing view of Vienna from the tower’s roof!
No visit to Vienna would be complete without taking in some of Europe’s most extraordinary palaces. Jump on the U-Bahn and ride to the Schonbrunn, the lavish summer residence of the Hapsburgs, recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Get the (excellent) audio guide and walk through the 40 rooms that are open to the public (out of the 1,441 rooms in all). Sumptuous — but a tad more restrained than French monarchal living quarters — this is the place of great historic moments. Mozart played a concert here for Empress Maria Theresa in 1792 at age six, and subsequently developed a crush on the Empress’s daughter, Marie Antoinette; later Napoleonic territories were carved up among countries in these rooms. Plan to lunch at the Gloriette Café, situated on a hill opposite the palace and accented by the astonishing Neptune Fountain (commissioned in 1776 by the Empress). Your walk there will afford you the opportunity to see one of the best-preserved Baroque gardens in the world. Enjoy the views from the fabulous high-ceilinged café while you nosh on vegetable strudel and sip excellent Austrian “bier”.
For over six centuries, the Vienna Hofburg was the administrative center, seat of government and main residence of the Austrian rulers. Buy a combo ticket to see the Imperial Apartments (those occupied by Emperor Franz Josef and his willowy young wife Elisabeth or “Sisi”), Sisi Museum and the Imperial Silver Collection. Again, get the audio guide and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of the imperial family and the Rococo Revival style chosen by the Emperor in 1857. The Sisi Museum takes you through the long-haired beauty’s dramatic life and assassination. The priceless porcelain, silver, copper and linens are mind-boggling, and paint a picture of centuries-old traditions and formality that lives on today.
Now managed by Elisabeth Gurtler, owner of the Hotel Sacher (as in the torte), the exquisite Spanish Riding School with its majestic Lipizzaner stallions and dedicated riders honoring a tradition that dates back over 400 years is a must. Performance tickets must be ordered in advance but you can attend a morning training session with music. General Patton saved these graceful — almost mythical — creatures toward the end of World War II.
Take a palace break at the legendary Demel. The window displays are figures made of pastry that give a nod to current happenings. The interior is luxurious with handcarved wood ceilings and display cases that contain incomparable chocolates and pastry. The kitchen is enclosed by glass walls, offering a view of the master pastry chefs and chocolatiers performing their magic. Have a leisurely lunch and be sure to sample the apfelstrudel with your demitasse cup of perfect Viennese coffee. Visit the store and stock up on the beautifully wrapped confections for all the chocolate lovers in your life.
Since 1903, the Belvedere has housed one of Austria’s largest art museums and is renowned as guardian of the world’s largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt, along with collections of the work of Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. This extensive Baroque palace is comprised of the former summer digs of the Hapsburgs; allow for lots of time here, and not just for the Klimts. There are also the Palace Stables, nestled in the enormous and meticulously cared for gardens, as well as several exhibition and collection spaces: 21er Haus, Augarten Contemporary, and Orangery. Starting mid-November, you can also visit 21er Haus here — the makeover of 20er Haus — which will house Austrian art from 1945 to the present. 20er Haus was built in 1958 as Austria’s Pavilion for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels and designed by Karl Schwanzer, later converted into a Museum of Twentieth Century Art in Vienna in 1962. Schwanzer’s student, Adolf Krischanitz, was in charge of the recent renovation. As for temporary exhibitions, through December, be sure to catch Canadian artist Marianna Gartner’s An Eye for An Eye, part of the Belvedere’s Intervention series, wherein contemporary artists are invited twice a year to “deal with the Belvedere’s collection and architecture.” A visit to the Belvedere is a feast for the eyes, spanning the Middle Ages to contemporary — The Kiss still makes us swoon.
Jump on the light rail that whisks you around the Ringstrasse (the Ring) that encircles the city center. Jump off at the Staatsoper and look at the concert schedule. Vienna is synonymous with classical music, and for total immersion we recommend the Opera House. It stands proud as a symbol of resurgence after World War II, during which it suffered tremendously from bombing. The story of its initial construction is the stuff of legend, and its directorship is a position only eclipsed by the Austrian presidency. If you are opera-phobic, take a tour — they are given regularly and scheduled around rehearsals. Less expensive tickets are also sold for the standing room area; have a glass of champagne while you watch one act and take in the splendor. Be sure to take in a performance at the Musikverein, the home of the famed Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Choir Boys. The main hall is considered to have the world’s finest acoustics.
To get to the heart of the matter, visit St. Stephan’s Cathedral and stroll about the pedestrian-only Stephansplatz. The cathedral is surreal in scale and is the most powerful symbol in the city, if not the country. Originating in 1147, St. Stephan’s has witnessed cycles of destruction and reconstruction resulting in an amalgam of 13th-century Romanesque and High Gothic styles. Mozart’s wedding and funeral took place here. Take a guided tour, or grab the English-language description book and go it alone.
When you need to return to the 21st century, have a cocktail at the American Bar, just around the corner. Designed by Adolf Loos (“decoration is a crime”), and about the size of a chocolate box, the bar is a prime watering hole. Lest you arrive early in the evening, you won’t stand a chance of getting in. Satisfy your retail urge along the Graben with its über luxurious boutiques and shops, and look for Loos’s signature architecture along the way. He despised the Baroque, and was the key figure that ushered in Modernism. The contrast of his buildings against the handsome horse-drawn carriages passing by is charming.
Visit the Judenplatz, the site of the 15th century Jewish community. Here you find rich Baroque architecture lining the square and, in stark contrast, a centerpiece by British sculptor Rachel Whiteread. Her Holocaust Memorial is subtle but arresting: a library turned inside out — you see rows and rows of cast book spines. Nearby, Café Central is the epitome of the Viennese coffeehouse, with an interior that resembles a cathedral, complete with vaulted ceilings. Spend time like the Viennese do — you will never feel rushed to leave. A few noteworthy discussions have been had here over coffee and schnitzel; Leon Trotsky, for one, planned the Russian Revolution here.
While in the neighborhood, check out The Third Man Portal at 8 Schreyvogelgasse, the hiding spot of character Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in Carol Reed’s classic 1949 film noir. Have lunch at Café Sperl, established in 1880, and grab a newspaper to read from the vast selection.
For another jaw-dropping cathedral, visit the neo-Gothic, gray limestoned Votivekirsche; odds are you will find a violinist practicing before the evening’s concert. A young Franz Josef was stabbed on this site, and his Hapsburg family was so grateful for his survival that they ordered the construction of this cathedral. As Mel Brooks once said, “it’s good to be king.”
–Tracy Keys, special Viennese correspondent for ARTExpress, whom we thank for her beautiful photographs as well.
Hotel Am Stephansplatz, Stephansplatz 9, Tel. 43-1-53-405-0, hotelamstephansplatz.at. We love this hotel for its proximity to St. Stephan’s Cathedral and its pedestrian-only street. Its clean design, contemporary art, lovely staff and fabulous breakfast room are unbeatable. And, hardwood floors are always a nice touch in a hotel room. Bar Aragall, named after a famous Catalan tenor, is a perfect place to have a glass of bubbly before heading to a concert.
Hotel Bristol, Kärntner Ring 1, Tel. 43-1-51-516-0, bristolvienna.com. A member of the Starwood Luxury Collection, the Hotel Bristol treats guests to spectacular vistas in the city center. The rooms with a direct view of the Vienna State Opera are named after the opera house’s directors. And you reside á la Gustav Mahler or Herbert von Karajan, who once also directed the fate of the great house of music vis-à-vis the Hotel Bristol.
DO & CO Hotel Vienna, 1010 Vienna, Stephansplatz 12, Tel. 43-0-1-24-188, doco.com. Located in Vienna’s District 1, at the center of the most historic part of this mindbogglingly historic city. Opened in May, the hotel consists of 41 luxurious rooms plus two suites on the sixth floor of the famous, glass-walled Haas Haus building, but it is the view that really takes your breath away. What you see from the Haus is a straight-on, full-size, real-life panorama of St. Stephen’s Cathedral — Stephansdom — that has defined Vienna since 1147 AD. It is the sound of this Cathedral’s massive Pummerin (big bell) that announces the official arrival of the New Year in Austria.
Palais Coburg, Coburgbastei 4, Tel. 43-1-51-818-114, coburg.at. A gleaming, neo-Classical building with 35 suites. Its restoration combines steel and glass with traditional gold-leaf and gilt.
Hotel Sacher, Philharmonikerstrasse 4, Tel. 43-1-514-560, sacher.com. Tradition combined with modern spirit. Founded in 1876 by Eduard Sacher, it soon became a world famous meeting point for politicians, artists and the aristocracy. Sacher was the son of the creator of the original Sacher-Torte, a unique chocolate cake. Since 1934, the hotel has been run by the Gürtler family, who is very intent on maintaining the hotel’s old tradition. A glance from its windows confirms the hotel’s spectacular location — directly in the city center, close to the pedestrian shopping area on Kärntner Strasse, opposite the Opera House and only a short walk away from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the elegant Ringstrasse, a road which boasts an impressive array of Vienna’s major sites, such as the Burgtheater Imperial Court Theatre and the City Hall.
RESTAURANTS & PUBS
American Bar, Kartnerdurchgang 9, Tel. 43-512-328-3, loosbar.at. Its marble, mahogany and brass room was designed by Adolf Loos in 1908 in response to his visit to America.
Café Central, Herrengasse 14, Tel. 43-1-533-37-642-4. This is one of Vienna’s beautiful classic cafes with vaulted ceilings and delicious food. The formally attired wait staff, linen and beautiful silverware add to the ambiance without being stuffy. It is essential — and surprisingly affordable.
Café Sperl, Gumpendorferstrasse11, Tel. 43-1-586-415-8, cafesperl.at. Not at all touristy, this is the real deal when it comes to coffeehouses. Settle into an overstuffed banquette and order a steaming bowl of kurbiscremsuppe — cream of pumpkin soup — dotted with toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil. The greens are garden-fresh and the coffee is world-class.
Demel, Kohlmarket 14, Tel. 535-17-17-0, demel.at. Linger over a mélange (coffee and crème became “mélange” since Napolean’s rule) while you ponder whether to order a full meal or just the delicious apfelstrudel— a meal in itself!
DO & CO, Stephansplatz 12, Tel. 43-0-1-535-39-69, doco.com. Located at the top floor of the aforementioned hotel, the restaurant affords a rare combination of chic and friendly, we love DO & CO! Wonderful continental menu along with a view of St. Stephan’s from your table makes for a fabulous evening.
Esterhazy Keller, Haarhof 1, Tel. 43-1-533-34-82, esterhazyleller.at. A snug Viennese stalwart that’s squirreled away in the cellars of the Esterhazy Palace, this timeless den has been drawing in the thirsty since 1683. The Esterhazys were one of the most powerful dynasties in Central Europe, but don’t let the princely address put you off — this is very much an informal affair. Order up a pint of beer or glass of wine — which will happily lead to three or four more — and tuck into a platter of cold meats and salads. All the wines come from the Esterhazy Castle cellars in Eisenstadt, and they’ve been enjoyed here for generations.
Figlmuller, Wollzeile 5, Tel. 01-512-61-77, figlmueller.at. Because the flagship restaurant on Wollzeile 5 was not always able to accommodate the large number of guests, a second Figlmüller restaurant was opened in 2001 right around the corner on Bäckerstr. 6. It is a little larger and more modern, but it holds true to the age-old principles that have been upheld at Figlmüller, the place for schnitzel. To ensure that each schnitzel turns out tender and crispy, they do not take any chances with the frying temperature of the vegetable oil, and it takes three different pans to make the perfect schnitzel (the first with very hot fat to make the pores of the meat close quickly, followed by two more pans to carefully fry them). Take a Lipitor and indulge!
Griechenbeisl, Flieschmarket 11, Tel. 553-19-77, greichenbeisl.at. Impressively historic at 500 years old, this is a cozy, ancient treasure with hearty, traditional Austrian fare. If the walls could talk, they would brag about the numerous artists, scholars and politicians who have dined here.
Vis a Vis, Wollzeile 5/Durchgang, Tel. 512-93-50. Very tiny, very local charming place to have a chilled Riesling after an afternoon of palaces.
L. Heiner, Wollzeile 9, Tel. 43-769-6858, heiner.co.at. A confectioner that is resolutely old-school: aproned attendants, embossed chocolate wrappings, and chairs your granny would love in the tea room.
Procacci, Gottweihergasse 2, Tel. 43-1-512-22-11, procacci1885.it. When you’ve reached your limit of riesling and sauerkraut, have a prosecco with the fabulous carpaccio at Procacci. We love its atmosphere, style, service and great food.
Xocolat, Freyung 2, Tel. 1-535-43-63, xocolat.at. Another Viennese treasure for chocolates with a decidedly modern presentation.
Zum Schwarzen Kameel, Bognergasse 5, Tel. 43-1-533-8125, kameel.at. A foodie institution, this gem has been in the business since 1618.
The Belvedere, Prinz Eugen-Str. 27, Tel. 43-1-795-57-0, www.belvedere.at. Hours: Upper Belvedere daily 10-6; Lower Belvedere, Orangery daily 10-6; Weds. 10-9.
Sigmund Freud Museum, Berggasse 19, Tel. 43-1-319-15-96, freud-museum.at. Located in Freud’s former apartment and office, the permanent exhibition documents 47 years of his life and work with his original belongings and room furnishings. Museum admission includes temporary special exhibitions. Open daily, July-Sept. 9-6, Oct.-June 9-5.
MAK (Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art), Stubenring 5, Tel. 43-711-36-231, mak.at. Wed.–Sun. 10-6, closed Mon.
MAK Depot of Contemporary Art, Dannebergplatz 6, Tel. 43-1-711-36-231, mak.at. Originally built as one of six flak towers built to form a protective triangle around St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Flak Tower at Arenbergpark (MAK Depot) now serves as a collection repository as well as installation space for experimental architectural projects. NOTE: Call ahead to be sure the MAK Depot is open — as we went to press, they had temporarily closed for emergency repairs.
Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Wien, Tel. 43-1-525-70-0, http://www.leopoldmuseum.org.
The Hofburg, Hofburg-Michaelerkuppel, A-1010 Wien, Tel, 43-1-533-75-70, FAX 43-1-533-75-70-33, hofburg-wien.at. Sept.-June 9-5:30, July-Aug. 9-6. Ticket office closes an hour prior to closing!
Kunsthistorishes, Burgring 5, A-1010 Wien, Tel. 43-1-525-24-3300, www.khm.at.
Schönbrunn Palace, Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse 47, Tel. 43-1-811-13-239, schoenbrunn.at. Open daily, including public holidays. April-June 8:30-5, July-Aug. 8:30-6, Sept.-Oct. 8:30-5, Nov.-March 8:30-4:30.
Architeckturzentrium, Museumsplatz 1, Tel. 43-1-522-31-15-11, azw.at. Open daily 10-7.
Vienna Secession, Association of Visual Artists, Friedrichstrasse 12, A-1010 Vienna, Tel. 43-1-587-53-07, secession.at. Tues.-Sun. 10-6. Closed May 1, Nov. 1, Dec. 25. Dec. 24: 10-4, Jan. 1 noon-6. Guided tours Sat. 3 PM and Sun. 11 AM, and by appointment (max. 25 persons).
La Rose, Graben 29, Tel. 1-553-8064. Gorgeous cashmere sweaters from the old Hungarian family of Rozsi Sznuk.
Loden Plankl, Michaelerplatz 6, Tel. 43-533-8032, loden-plankl.at. Founded in 1830 and situated across from the Hofburg means one thing: your superbly crafted jacket will be made by the same firm that tailored the last four Kaisers. This is the place for a traditional Austrian jacket, simply fabulous dressed up or down. The handmade leather gloves and soft wool scarves are irresistible. You will find lederhosen here as well, should the spirit move you.
Without a doubt, the must-see exhibition of the New York season is MOMA’s de Kooning: A Retrospective. The first full-scale retrospective, it brings together more than 200 of the greatest paintings and drawings of the 20th century, occupying the entire 6th floor of the museum. Virtually all of the iconic images are present, including five of the six celebrated (numbered) Woman works from the 1950s. This show is so stunning that it won’t be eclipsed soon, if ever! Don’t even think about letting it pass by; it will not travel and it is doubtful that anything on this scale could ever be repeated. Also on the top of the list are Gagosian’s two Warhol shows, Andy Warhol: Liz (through October 22) and Andy Warhol: Bardot (October 10-November 12). The opportunity to compare so many works from these two stellar stars.
The food scene in the Big Apple is positively vibrating (at decibels far too high) – largely in small corners of the Lower East Side or in the Flatiron District. At Jean-George Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen (Best New Restaurant 2011 – James Beard Foundation) in ABC Carpet & Home, the farm-to-kitchen fusion menu is full of taste treasures. The roast carrot and avocado salad and the spaghetti with squash blossoms and pistachio pesto were great favorites, and the beautiful cream, gray/beige and white room is especially lovely with magical lighting. Down on Orchard Street, on the edge of Chinatown is arguably one of the hottest spots in Manhattan. Reservations must be made far in advance at the whimsical Fat Radish. An old factory space, it retains the look – red brick walls, hand-lettered signs and lots of bare wood. The crowd is young, chic foodies and they’ve found a great gathering place. The fancied-up sliders are divine! The Dutch is Andrew Carmellini’s new sweet spot (we’ve loved him since A Vocé); Mario Batali’s adventure, Eataly – a food hall with 12 separate dining options – is mind boggling. We tried Le Verdure, a vegetarian destination called “the most original dining space at Eataly.”
Saving the best until last, we were indeed fortunate to snag a table at RedFarm (they had to turn down 1,000 requests that night!). With only 40 seats, you must reserve way in advance. The cheerful 19th-century room with painted brick walls, booths dressed in red-checked seats and a family-style table down the middle couldn’t be less prepossessing but wow, wait until you see/taste the Chinese fusion cuisine! We were bowled over by the Grilled Vegetable Salad, Mushroom & Vegetable Spring Rolls (presented as sculpted flowers), Duck and Fuji Apple Wrap, and Spicy Crispy Beef. We just kept ordering until bursting was imminent. The presentations were, in one word, gorgeous! Ed Schoenfeld (with partners Joe Ng and Jeffrey Chodoron) has – quite rightfully – a huge hit on his big, talented hands!
In case you’ve missed the ubiquitous press, there is a new temple of sweets uptown, on Madison between 70th/71st. The renowned Ladurée, purveyor of the world’s best macaroons, has opened a charming shop on the Upper East Side, where you’ll no doubt have to wait in line for that one, perfect, Meyer-lemon, airy, double-faced “cookie” ($2.70). Oh well, it’s faster than going to Paris!
Also Parisian but parked in Soho, is designer Isabel Marant’s only shop in America. Architect Nicolas André has provided a memorable space, featuring end-grain, pale wood flooring that climbs the walls as well in sculptural building blocks, creating a fanciful atmosphere tented over by natural bent/joined wood spider-leg forms, which define a small accessories room at the center of the space. Of course, the clothes are the stars in this wonderfully inventive showroom.
Finally, our favorite adventure: a tour of Frank Gehry’s first skyscraper, a residential high-rise – the tallest in New York – overlooking the East River and Brooklyn Bridge on one side and Ground Zero, One World Trade Center and the newly unveiled memorial on the other side. Gehry’s undulating, reflective stainless-steel structure gives the impression that a mythical giant has grasped the metal and squeezed it into a folded, rumpled, vertical arrow pointed towards the sky. It is breathtakingly beautiful and the spare, exquisitely realized apartments make you want to pick up stakes and call the movers. The small studios are market priced (beginning at about $3,000 a month with no maintenance fees) and they appear to be popular with Wall Street, NYU and Pace University (across the street) folks. On the other hand, the luxurious unit we saw, with design by Gehry himself, and art by Rauschenberg, Stella, et al, is $13,000 a month! Moving or not, see this magnificent building.
Our hotel on this trip was The Benjamin, a boutique choice at 50th and Lexington. It is a mid-town treasure with fresh, elegant rooms and suites (just over $300), a spa, a top-rated restaurant – The National – and, best of all, superb service. The staff is not only efficient and capable, everyone is, without fail, NICE!
If you’re planning a fall beach retreat on Oahu, don’t forget that, yes, there is art in Honolulu. The fine, small Contemporary Museum is now a division of the Honolulu Academy of Arts, but remains in its bucolic residential setting at Spalding House, perched high above the city with splendid views. I never visit Honolulu without dropping in to see the only permanent, multi-space David Hockney installation anywhere – sets for his memorable Parade: An Evening of French Musical Theater, first produced at the Metropolitan Opera in 1981, and recreated for the Walker Art Center’s exhibition Hockney Paints the Stage, 1983 – the portion here from Maurice Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les Sortilèges.” Hockney’s enchanting, fairy-tale vision never fails to delight and, set in its own pavilion on the sculpture-park lawn, it is an especially happy respite from Waikiki.
This month London will be the center of the art world October 13-16 during the Frieze Fair. Hope for nice weather for the “Sculpture Park” held, as the fair is, in Regent’s Park – in this case in the lovely English Garden. There will be work by Thomas Houseago, Kiki Smith, Gavin Turk . . . and more. The keynote lecture will be by Wolfgang Tillmans and the world’s blue-chip galleries will be present, including White Cube, Gagosian, Marian Goodman, Matthew Marks, Pace, and all of the usual suspects. Frieze is distinguished by its adventuresome, out-there programming and the result is a VERY popular fair.
And, speaking of David Hockney, plan to be in London between January 12 and April 9, 2012 to celebrate his 75th birthday (actually July 9th) on the occasion of his Royal Academy of Arts landscape retrospective, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture. While the exhibition, curated by Marco Livingstone and Edith Devaney, spans fifty years, his recent large scale, plein-air paintings of the Yorkshire countryside will be the special focus. Organized in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, there are no travel dates in the U.S. at the moment, so don’t miss it abroad.
Coincidentally, one of the paintings which will be a prominent feature of the exhibition, Garrowby Hill, 1998, spent the summer in Las Vegas, in the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art exhibit, A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney, on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The small but charming show is scheduled to run until January 8th, which gives Garrowby Hill about two weeks to get to London. Stay tuned. And, if you’re in Vegas, you’ll be hard-put to miss the public art installed throughout CityCenter, the spectacular resort complex that includes hotels, residences, shopping and casino sites. The “Fine Art Collection at CityCenter” includes work by Maya Lin, Jenny Holzer, Nancy Rubins, Claes Oldenburg, Frank Stella, Richard Long, Henry Moore . . . more! Ask at one of the hotel concierge desks for a map. Two favorites are Maya Lin’s silver riff on the profile of the Colorado River hanging virtually the entire length of the arrival space, high above the check-in desk at Aria, and Nancy Rubins’ colossal mash-up of bright red, yellow and blue aluminum canoes titled Big Edge (outside the Aria). The Cosmopolitan next door has a huge art program comprised of new media works by emerging or noted artists, including Leo Villareal and Yoko Ono, spread throughout the entire hotel. Unfortunately, the works are not well identified, there is no map, and I stood forever at the concierge desk, waiting for a requested peek at the only record of the project, a six-hundred-page ring binder! Perhaps if enough visitors step up and demand maps, maybe they’ll get the idea!
This is where we come full circle to Frank Gehry. Do not visit Vegas without a brief detour downtown to see the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Gehry’s rippling stainless-steel panels are punctured here by evenly spaced square apertures that give the effect of a geometrically patterned skin. In the interior-domed event space, electronic shades control the burning sun and turn the pattern into a reverse Mondrian of white squares. Tours of the interior of the adjoining medical building can be arranged by appointment and two terrific works can be seen without appointment – one in the event space, a marvelous, large-scale Rosenquist painting – and one in an exterior garden, a fabulous, marine-blue pyramid of glass by Peter Alexander. The Alexander is a site-specific work that cools the desert sun and meshes random forms with the building’s rigid gird in a magical marriage.
IN NEW YORK
ABC Kitchen, 35 East 18th Street, Tel. 212-475-5829, abckitchennyc.com. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s farm-to-table, white-washed stone basement eatery has been named among the top ten newcomers of 2010/2011 by all manner of food folks, from New York Magazine to the James Beard Foundation. The man in the kitchen here is Dan Kluger, and his cuisine is a fine blanche between “culinary artistry” and devotion to the farm fare. Roasted Beets with Housemade Yogurt, Housemade Chicken and Pork Sausage with Warm Potato and Whole Grain Mustard Salad, Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad, and the Cookie Plate with linzer lemon drop, dark chocolate chip, chocolate chip pecan bar and oatmeal cherry varieties were big favorites. The non-dessert dishes tend to be spicy, so order with care.
RedFarm, 529 Hudson Street, Tel. 212-792-9700, redfarmnyc.com. As we go to press, RedFarm has barely been open a month, and the next available dinner reservation is sometime toward the end of October, and people are waiting two and one-half hours on the street in the hope of getting gone of the 40 seats. It is referred to as a dim sum restaurant but that doesn’t touch the art or variety of what’s to come. It was, by leaps and bounds, my favorite food experience this time around, and I’m thrilled for the success of owners Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng.
The Fat Radish, 17 Orchard Street, between Hester and Canal, Tel. 212-300-4053, thefatradishnyc.com. British, if you use your imagination, we loved the Sweet Pea Summer Pie with crème fraiche and mint, the Bacon Cheeseburger with duck fat fries and house pickles, the Cheesemonger’s Plate . . . and more! Ben Towill, chef/partner, comes from Silkstone (high-end catering) and knows how to please the stylish young crowd. I’ve never had a better burger!
Ladurée, 864 Madison Avenue (between 70th/71st), Tel. 646-558-3157. It’s worth standing in line in the rain (I did!) for the world’s best macarons— served up in this totally Parisian little shop.
Le Verdure, in Eataly, 200 5th Avenue, Tel. 212-229-2560, eatalyny.com/eat. Called the “most original” of the twelve dining options in Eataly (Mario Batali’s enormous food hall), Le Verdure is the vegetarian standout. We fell for insalata primavera, piazza, and exploring the vast array of goodies in the crowded hall.
The Dutch, 131 Sullivan Street, Greenwich Village, Tel. 212-677-6200, thedutchnyc.com. Andrew Carmellini’s “American Restaurant, Bar and Oyster Room” — inspired by “corner taverns” and “neighborhood bistros” — is high on local produce and old-fashioned Village fun. Like all of the hip, young places here, it’s on the top-ten list and, also like them, is very noisy. Noise is the price you’ll pay if you eat with the in crowd in Manhattan!
Isabel Marant, 469 Broome Street (at Greene), Tel. 212-219-2284, isabelmarant.com. Open just a year and a half in SoHo — the only U.S. shop — Isabel Marant’s high-design boutique provides a perfect context for her inventive, informed style.
New York by Gehry, 8 Spruce Street, newyorkbygehry. com. The tallest residential structure in America is arguably the most beautiful. You can catch a glimpse of it from most anywhere in town, but do go downtown and see it up close — even go in to look at rentals with the real estate professionals on site. The views are beyond the most rhapsodic description!
The Benjamin, 125 East 50th Street, Tel. 212-715-2500, thebenjamin.com. A lovely midtown hotel with NO bedbug reports (many of the nicest hotels do have bedbug reports!). The staff is very gracious and the rooms are exceptionally clean.
The Contemporary Museum-Spalding House, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive, Tel. 808-526-0232, honoluluacademy.org. October 21-January 29, The Contemporary Museum will present Escape from the Vault: A Few Great Paintings and Sculptures — the cream of the collection with works by Stella, Judd, Motherwell, Sam Francis and more. This fine, small, contemporary facility is now part of the beautiful Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 South Beretania, where a visit should include a leisurely luncheon on the very popular patio.
Side Street Inn on Da Strip, 614 Kapahulu Avenue, Tel. 808-739-3939, sidestreetinn.com. Don’t be fooled by the sports bar atmosphere; this is a huge local favorite. The food is Asian-fusion family-style and you won’t (shouldn’t) be able to resist Big Island Smoked Pork, Chinese Sliders, Pulehu Short Ribs, Crusted Ahi Filet . . . more. The TV football just can’t spoil the food.
Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road, Tel. 808-923-2311, halekulani.com. If you want to eat at the Halekulani without breaking the bank at La Mer, opt for House Without A Key, the popular indoor/outdoor spot for drinks, sunset, music, and $25 prix-fixe dinner from the Sunset Kiawe Grill every Tuesday and Thursday, 5 PM-8:30 PM.
IN LAS VEGAS
Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, 888 West Bonneville, Tel. 702-483-6000, keepmemoryalive.org. This extraordinary facility is complemented by its extraordinary building by Frank Gehry — a most happy marriage!
CityCenter Las Vegas, 3780 Las Vegas Boulevard South, citycenter.com. CityCenter is an urban community filled with fine art and spectacular architecture. It includes the 4004-room Aria hotel and casino, the Mandarin Oriental, Crystals shopping pavilion, Vdara Hotel & Spa, and the Harmon Hotel and Veer Towers (Harmon Hotel is to be demolished due to construction defects.) Architects include: Harmon Tower — Sir Norman Foster; Veer Towers — Helmut Jahn; Mandarin Oriental — Kohn Pedersen Fox; Aria — Pelli Clark Pelli; Crystals — Daniel Libeskind. The Cosmopolitan is sited between the Bellagio and CityCenter proper at 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South.
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly W1, Tel. 44 (0) 844 209 0051, royalacademy.org.uk; 10 AM-6 PM Sat.-Thurs., 10 AM-10 PM Fri.; Saturdays from October 22, 9 AM-10 PM. The beautiful new restaurant at the RA is open daily 10-6, and serves dinner until 11 PM Fri.-Sat. Through December 11, the Main Galleries will feature Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement.
Frieze Art Fair, Regent’s Park, Tel. 44 (0)115 993 4484 (bookings). Oct. 13-16, hours: Thurs.-Sat. 12 noon-7 PM, Sun. noon-6 PM. Tickets can be purchased online.
Corinthia, Whitehall Place, Tel. 011-44-207-930 8181, corinthia.com. Among the striking historic buildings being revamped for the Olympics, the most highly anticipated is the Corinthia — a former Ministry of Defense building, it is now a luxurious hotel destination.
Blueprint Cafe, 28 Shad Thames, in the Design Museum, blueprintcafe.co.uk. Chef Jeremy Lee has been championing the “eat local” movement for 15 years and treats Londoners to fine seasonal dining – plus a visit to the museum itself is a must.
Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, Tel. 011-44-207-267-3641, deanstreettownhouse.com. Among the chefs embracing English cuisine, Stephen Tonkin wins fans with deeply traditional dishes. Try — of course — his Welsh rarebit.
Guides & Blogs
Anthony Haywood, Caroline Sieg. Lonely Planet Vienna, 2010.
Peter Gieler. Austria - Culture Smart!: a quick guide to customs & etiquette, 2007.
Time Out Vienna, 2011.
Wien International(wieninternational.at/en). A comprehensive blog (covering politics, the economy, etc. in addition to culture) updated weekly, with what’s happening throughout Vienna.
History & Literature
Carl E. Schorske. Fin-de-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture, 1980.
Donald Daviau. Vienna: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, 2008.
Frederic Morton. A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889, 1980.
Art & Architecture
Christian Brandstatter, ed. Vienna 1900: Art, Life & Culture, 2011.
Jonathan Moberly, et al (eds.). Vienna: Objects and Rituals, 1998.
Rolf Toman, ed. VIENNA (Architecture Compacts), 2010.
Johann Kraftner, ed. Liechtenstein Museum: A House for the Arts, 2004.
Marie-Amelie Zu Salm-Salm, ed. Klimt, Schiele, Moser, Kokoschka: Vienna 1900, 2005.
Peter Vergo. Art in Vienna, 1994.
Kirk Varnedoe. Vienna, 1900: Art, Architecture, Design, 1986.
Eric Kandel. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present, 2012. (We have pre-ordered our copy by this Nobel Prize winner; sounds fascinating.)
and, strictly for fun . . .
Frank Tallis. A Death in Vienna, 2007.
J. Sydney Jones. Requiem in Vienna: A Viennese Mystery, 2010.
Graham Green. The Third Man, 1949. If you haven’t seen it lately, get the DVD of the classic film — it still dazzles!
Through Oct. 16 MCA Chicago Joseph Cornell Unlocks the MCA Collection
Through Oct. 16 Architecture & Design Museum, L.A. Eames Design (Pacific Standard Time)
Through Oct. 20 4th Moscow Bienniale of Contemporary Art
Through Nov. 13 12th Istanbul Biennial
Through Nov. 20 Bode Museum, Berlin Renaissance Faces: Masterpieces of Italian Portraiture
Through Nov. 27 54th Biennale di Venezia
Through Dec. 31 Reina Sofía, Madrid Rodney Graham
Through Dec. 31 Glyptotek, Copenhagen Paul Gaugin and Polynesia
Through Dec. 31 11th Lyons Biennial, A Terrible Beauty is Born
Through Jan. 8 Hammer, L.A. Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980 (PST)
Through Jan. 8 Pittsburgh Biennial (Andy Warhol Museum and other venues)
Through Jan. 8 CAFAM, Los Angeles The Alchemy of June Schwarcz (PST)
Through Jan. 8 Hayward Gallery, London Pipilotti Rist
Through Jan. 8 Museum of Art & Design, NY Picasso to Koons: Artist as Jeweler
Through Jan. 8 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek Vija Celmins
Through Jan. 8 Menil Collection, Houston Walter De Maria: Trilogies
Through Jan. 8 Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden Raphael, Dürer and Grunewald Paint the Madonna
Through Jan. 9 MOMA, New York de Kooning
Through Jan. 9 Centre Pompidou, Paris Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye
Through Jan. 15 Victoria & Albert Museum, London Post Modernism 1970-1990
Through Jan. 15 LACMA, L.A. Kienholz: Five Car Stud 1969-1972 (PST)
Through Jan. 15 Queen’s Gallery, London Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein
Through Jan. 22 Armory Center, Pasadena Wallace Berman and Robert Heinecken (PST)
Through Jan. 22 MCA, San Diego Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface (PST)
Through Jan. 22 OCMA, Newport Beach State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970 (PST)
Through Jan. 22 Laguna Art Museum Best Kept Secret: UCI 1964-1971 (PST)
Through Jan. 28 Otis, L.A. Doin’ it in Public: Feminism & Art/The Woman’s Building (PST)
Through Jan. 30 Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin Joseph Beuys
Through Feb. 5 Getty Museum, L.A. Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting & Sculpture 1950-1970 (PST)
Through Mar. 25 LACMA, L.A. California Design 1930-1965 (PST)
Oct.-April Los Angeles, more than 60 venues, Pacific Standard Time
Oct. 2-Feb. 13 Geffen Contemporary/MOCA, L.A. Under the Big Black Sun (PST)
Oct. 4- Dec. 27 Wattis Institute, San Francisco More American Photographs
Oct. 6-Jan. 8 Tate Modern, London Gerhard Richter: Panorama
Oct. 6-Jan. 22 Barbican Art Gallery, London OMA/Progress (Rem Koolhaas)
Oct. 7-9 Chinati’s 25th Anniversary Weekend
Oct. 8-Jan. 15 Moderna Museet, Stockholm Turner, Monet, Twombly: Later Paintings
Oct. 13-16 Frieze Art Fair, London
Oct. 16-Jan. 15 Dallas Museum of Art Mark Bradford
Oct. 18-Feb. 5 Jeu de Paume, Paris Diane Arbus
Oct. 20-23 FIAC, Paris
Oct. 20-Jan. 29 Cont. Museum, Honolulu Through the Fire, From Dirt to Dazzle: Ceramic Works
Oct. 21-Nov. 20 Aspen Art Mus. 2011 Roaring Fork Open; Eric Fischl’s America Now & Here
Oct. 22-Jan. 29 New Orleans, Prospect.2 (biennial, various venues)
Oct. 23-Dec. 11 3rd Athens Biennale (various venues)
Oct. 28-Oct. 31 Art Toronto
Nov. 3-Jan. 8 Honolulu Acad. Masterpieces of Landscape: Painting from the Forbidden City
Nov. 4-Jan. 2 Whitney Museum, NY Maurizio Cattelan
Nov. 4-6 Artissima 18, Torino
Nov. 5-Feb. 20 SFMOMA, San Francisco Francesca Woodman
Nov. 9-Feb. 5 National Gallery, London Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan
Nov. 10-Jan. 29 Whitney Museum, NY Sherrie Levine: Mayhem
Nov. 23-April 2 Centre Pompidou, Paris Art and Dance in the 20th and 21st Century
Nov. 30-Dec. 4 Art Miami 2011
Dec. 1-4 NADA Miami Beach
Dec. 1-4 Art/Basel/Miami Beach, accompanied by 8 smaller fairs