arts 01.11.12

Walking Off the Big Apple

A selection of noteworthy murals around the city.

Madeline creator Ludwig Bemelmans painted the beloved murals at Bemelmans in the Carlyle. Spot the ice-skating elephant, rabbits at a picnic, and a self-portrait of the artist. Grandson John Bemelmans Marciano continues the family legacy with new Madeline books.

Everett Shinn's murals at the Plaza's Oak Bar got an extra bid to immortality since they provided the background in a key scene early in "North by Northwest." The Oak Room restaurant closed permanently, alas, this summer; the bar's future is uncertain.

Maxfield Parrish's Old King Cole was originally in the Knickerbocker Hotel, but seems at home in the King Cole Bar of the regal St. Regis. And yet, there's some low comedy afoot: the king, who bears a suspicious resemblance to John Jacob Astor, is depicted at the moment of breaking wind.

Almost a century ago, West 67th Street was an artist's enclave and the street's cafe, now The Leopard at des Artistes, was their meeting place. Howard Chandler Christy, an artist who lived upstairs, created the frolicking Christy girl, a 2.0 version of the Gibson girl.

Upstairs at "21", you'll find Brooklyn artist Wynne Evans' delightful murals, set in the 1930s, depicting Rockefeller Center in spring, summer at Bethesda Fountain, fall at Grand Army Plaza, and winter in Times Square.

Apartment Building
Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and Einstein are the subjects of the Seward Park Murals by Hugo Gellert.

The surgery center at New York Hospital has a vibrant NYC cityscape, courtesy of Aspen Murals.

Office Buildings
Labor and commerce have never looked quite so beguiling as they do on the walls of the murals at the Woolworth Building lobby. Sadly, the lobby is no longer open to the public.

Labor and commerce inevitably clashed when Diego Rivera was hired to do a mural at Rockefeller Center and the artist decided to slip Lenin into the mix. Man at the Crossroads was destroyed in short order. The MoMA exhibition of Rivera murals runs through May 14th.

Old park scenes, by Allen Saalburg, grace the walls of Central Park's
Arsenal at 5th and 64th.

Handball Court
On a handball court wall at 128th and Second Avenue, Keith Haring painted Crack is Wack in 1986. The Brooklyn Museum will have a large exhibition of Haring's work opening March 16th.

Among our favorite murals in the city are Max Spivak's The Circus and The Grand Finale of an Opera at the Queens Library, Astoria Branch. Two of the original five have been restored and are now on the library's main floor. The other three were destroyed.

Alfred J. Tulk was prolific muralist from the 1920s to the 1908s. His District School mural is on the building exterior at 3rd Avenue and 120th Street.

No public arts roundup would be complete without some controversy. On the wall of the White Street Detention Center, White and Baxter, is a mural by Richard Haas with LES immigration as its theme. When it first appeared, residents protested that one of the panels was offensive, since it included a woman in a halter-top, a homeless person, and other such 'outrages.'

Did we leave out one of your favorites? Let us know on our blog!

Cultural and literary notes, plus self-guided walks, courtesy of Walking Off the Big Apple, a strolling guide to New York City.

4 World Trade Center Comes into View; and a Walk on John Street

While walking around the city this month or while visiting friends with lofty views, it's easy to spot the soaring tower of 1 World Trade Center in the skyline of Lower Manhattan. The steel structure of this tallest of the World Trade Center buildings has now surpassed ninety floors, and workers have completed the facade more than half way up. 1WTC has been particularly showy at night during the holiday season, festooned with multicolor lights twinkling all the way to the sky.

But walk to a different street - for example, Greene Street in Soho or even Fifth Avenue in the 40s - and look south, and the tower of 4 World Trade Center comes into play on the horizon. Eventually rising to 72 stories, this minimalist work at 150 Greenwich Street by architect Fumihiko Maki will eventually become just as an important part of the visual and social landscape as the other nearby skyscrapers. As the building slowly slips into our peripheral city vision, 4WTC is worthy of our attention.

Mercer Street

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