Last Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, was a perfect fall day under a flawless blue sky, and New Yorkers each marked the anniversary of 9/11 in their own way. I was in the city for a quick visit and decided to walk 30+ blocks down from 80th Street on the Upper East Side to Rockefeller Center and back again, photographing some of the visual delights that make New York my favorite city, with surprises around every corner.
In Central Park, someone had embellished the statue of Alice in Wonderland by stretching a pair of red child’s pants over the ears of the White Rabbit. No one took it off, and everyone who passed by smiled.
From a taxi I had glimpsed the series of whimsical sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle on Park Avenue, but this time I walked the street from 60th to 52nd, photographing each one. I originally thought these playful, voluptuous figures were meant to celebrate the pleasures of summertime, but learned that the exhibit was to mark the tenth anniversary of the artist’s death.
A sour review in the New York Times by Ken Johnson called these nine pieces “woefully outdated, more tacky than visionary”, but I felt they matched perfectly with the New York summer vibe.
I’ll cast my vote with Kelsey Savage from Auction Central who wrote “The vibrant women meld perfectly with all the color surrounding them on the iconic avenue—vibrant sundresses, the perfect summer blue sky, men’s rainbow tie.”
This sculpture, called “The Three Graces” (“Les Trois Graces”) was right in front of Lever House, the famous skyscraper where I started my first job in 1964.
Across the street, in the courtyard of the Seagram Building, are some tubular abstract metal sculptures by John Chamberlain resembling giant worms or intestines. They’re made of crushed sheet metal.
I loved watching the mad-men in suits coming out of the Seagram building as they reacted to (or ignored) the sculptures. My favorite thing about street art is watching sophisticated New Yorkers interact with or ignore it.
Many years ago (and also last year), there were super-giant spiders by Louise Bourgeois in the courtyard of Rockefeller Center. I loved photographing the passers-by and guards casually walking under and leaning against these terrifying-looking monsters.
On my way down Park Avenue I also found art in the shop windows: like this gown made of autumn leaves
And angels in the architecture.
Barney’s windows on Madison Avenue are always worth a detour—inevitably they’re wacky and surprising. Right now all Barney’s windows celebrate shoes.
There’s the window with live fish and floating shoes called “Swimming with the Louboutins”. Another window called “Barney’s 500” has stilettos on tiny cars zipping around a multi-level track.
My favorite window was stationary—“Count the Shoes.” The contest, which continues into October, is to guess correctly the number of shoes in this window to win a huge shopping spree. Naturally I went inside to submit my estimate.
I had lunch in Rockefeller Center on the spot where the skating rink is in the winter, but in summer, it’s the Garden Café. I got a table very close to the statue of Prometheus that dominates the scene. I even treated myself to a frozen margarita.
I think half the joy of walking in New York is people-watching, for instance this well-dressed elderly couple.
The next day, Wednesday, I scooted over to the Metropolitan Museum to get a sneak peek (thanks to Members Preview) of the “Regarding Andy Warhol” show, which opens on Tuesday. Then I took the elevator to another favorite spot—the roof garden of the Met—where there’s usually intriguing outdoor sculpture and fantastic views of the city.
Right now there’s “Cloud City” by Tomas Saraceno—an interactive environment that you can climb around in—something like a jungle gym. I passed on that privilege, because it was time to drive back to Massachusetts. But I’ll be back soon to get another fix of New York in the fall, its most exciting season.