Historical and Contemporary All at Once

My friend Carolyn and I adventured downtown today for a bit of history and the art of 5 minutes ago.

What’s so wonderful about the Merchant’s House Museum is that the furnishings are intact from when the last family member Gertrude died in the 1930s.  She apparently did not have a penchant for change and kept the house reflective of her family’s life from the 1840s forward.  She even lived without electricity, except for a couple of outlets.

Fan DoorWhen the wealthy merchant family moved here, architectural styles were shifting from Federal to Greek Revival, as you can see in the front doorway.  You have the lovely fanlight above the door–Federal–and the Ionic style columns of the Greek Revival.  The house has the verticality of the Federal style with the balance and symmetry of Greek Revival, notable in the double parlors.  Check out the gasolier lighting and the beautiful plaster work, mirrored in each the parlor.

Gasolier and molding

What I also love about the house are the oldest extant Irish servant quarters in New York.  Not terrible, although you climb a lot of narrow, steep stairs to get there.  Some would say their apartment is about the same size and not in as good condition.

Then we moved a few blocks south to the New Museum, where we didn’t have the benefit of a tour with Penny, but I benefited from Carolyn’s sharp eye and good taste.

She instantly preferred Rosemarie Trockel’s ordered sensibility to the artists influenced by her.  Trockel definitely has a way with texture, as you may be able to make out here.  And she uses interesting materials, including acrystal, which is an acrylic resin, along with wool, platinum, and felt.

As always, I can be a bit baffled by the New Museum, a reminder that I’m not hep anymore.

We then debriefed at the lounge of the Bowery Hotel.  We sat in those low-slung brown chairs at center, right by the fireplace.  If you haven’t seen this place, stop in at E3rd and 3rd Avenue.  It brought us full circle to a historic feeling place that’s completely contemporary, literally–a fitting mash-up for the day.