Dispatch from a sheltered-in-place New York

This enterprise started out of a wish to have shared experiences around art, but the truth is, I have barely looked at art over the last month. In normal circumstances, I’m typically in contact with artworks and artists on a daily basis, in both a professional and a personal capacity. But, since mid-March, when the art world in New York City went online, I have yet to explore the overwhelming online offerings from museums and galleries now pilling up on my inbox and social media.

Life as we knew it has come to a halt. We are navigating an uncharted territory, and many of us feel fear, stress and anxiety. My last post, about a selection of exhibits I was looking forward to, now seems way out of touch, almost offensive. Who cares about this sort of thing when the nearby field hospital keeps reminding you that life is a blow? The introvert in me, normally comfortable working remotely and pretty good at self-isolating from others, now craves connection. I worry about my loved ones, my work colleagues, the city, the future. The year planning — once manageable and comfortably predictable — has become sparse and tentative. The city “that never sleeps” now feels noticeable tired, recluse. Where has all that bustling creative energy gone? For the time being, it’s been concentrating on a daily city-wide round of applauses for essential workers at 7 pm.

Between working, trying to score an Instacart delivery slot, and adjusting to this new normal, there hasn’t been much time left to brave the ubiquitous “instagram lives” and the glossy and brand new online viewing rooms, let alone to gaze artworks in a sustained mode. I saw only one thoroughly: Betty Parsons, at Alexander Gray. The storied art-dealer who showed the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhart, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg and others, was a talented painter on her own right, infusing highly saturated color and rhythmic brushstrokes in her works. No wonder it was almost soothing going from piece to piece, and feel transported to some another “era”, where one can wander around works of art and feel uplifted.

During my leisure time, I’m enjoying the free live drawing classes from The Princeton University Art Museum, the ballet classes by New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck (her profile on Instagram, where the classes take place, is @tilerpeck) as well some of the long reads from A.I.R. Gallery and David Zwirner. I just finished “Letters to a Young Painter”, from the latter. It’s a small volume that contains the delightful letters Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to Balthus, the artist, then a teenager boy. There I found a timely advise from Rilke to the young artist, one that reminded me of how art doesn’t obey the confines of any time and space: “Be strong, have courage, my dear, and be in good health, that’s all one can hope for when one is waiting”.

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