Neue Galerie and Holiday Delights

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By Elizabeth Sobieski


When New Yorkers seek winter holiday glamour, joy and glorious exhibitions in a museum, their first thought is frequently of the Metropolitan Museum’s medieval sculpture hall, with its twenty foot spruce Christmas tree adorned with antique cherubs, towering above the baroque crèche, while classic live and recorded seasonal music wafts through the hall.

But there is a smaller museum, also on the Upper East Side, set within a Beaux Arts mansion on 86th and Fifth, which celebrates the season even more glowingly than the Met.

The Neue Galerie, with its focus on early twentieth century art and design from Vienna, Berlin, and other parts of mitteleuropa, creates an old world Christmas unique in New York.  Even its most famous artwork, Gustav Klimt’s  “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer”, one of the most revered paintings in the world, appears created  for the holidays, with its rounded gold embellishments reminding one of traditional Christmas decorations.

The Neue is also one of the most unique places in the city to shop; the warm wood paneled bookstore and gift shop are laden with Central and Eastern European tree decorations and beautifully boxed glazed gingerbread ”liebkuchen”.  Of course there are fantastic art books, but also stunning dishes and jewelry, often based on designs from before the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Even a Wiener Werkstaette (from the legendary artisanal Vienna Workshop which lasted from 1903-1932) book on flowers has a red and green cover that subtlety references the holiday.  Handsome leaping stags appear on green hot chocolate mugs.  Festive dog biscuits attract my attention, even though I am canine-less at present.  Aerin Lauder‘s Nendez Cypress candle provides the perfect winter scent.

The excellent and brilliantly styled restaurants at the Neue Galerie are imprinted with the atmosphere of a Vienna winter with various goodies under glass and drinks served upon silver platters.  The Café Sabarsky is named for the late art dealer Serge Sabarsky, who conceived of the museum along with the philanthropist and former United States ambassador to Austria, Ronald S. Lauder.  I can’t keep my eyes or mouth from relishing the irresistible Sachertortes, apple strudel, linzertortes, viennoiserie, and apricot crepes.  The Sabarsky is only open to museum members for lunch, but open to the public at dinner, while the lower level Café Fledermaus is open to all for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Both serve some of the best coffee drinks in the city, and in my mind I hear Julie Andrews singing about her favorite things.   There is also excellent savory food, including such specialties as chicken paprikas and wiener schnitzel, and live cabaret performances on certain evenings.

I attended a recent function at the Neue celebrating the generous Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, which donates contemporary art to US embassies and consulates, and was handed freshly opened chestnuts that had been roasted on an open fire.  You see what I mean about the Neue being so of the season.

The exhibition on display through January 21 (The masterpieces by Klimt, Kandinsky, Klee, Kirchner, and other artists like George Grosz and Otto Dix, whose names don’t start with a ‘k’, are on permanent display), is of two extraordinary and under known German Expressionist artists, who often employed a Christmas hued palate, Franz Marc and Auguste Macke, both killed as young men during World War I, reminding us that our most important holiday wish should always be for peace.

Los Angeles Artist Kimberly Brooks

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By Elizabeth Sobieski
When I grow up, I want to be like the multi-hyphenate artist Kimberly Brooks.  (Only I
sort of grew up before she did, so this particular ambition would be difficult to realize.)
 Kimberly is just concluding a retrospective focused on her fifteen year career as a
painter of magical and mysterious, and often jewel and metal-toned canvases, evoking
both history and timelessness, somehow equally as haunted as inviting.  Her stunning
exhibition, “Fever Dreams”, is on display at the Mt. San Antonio College of Art Gallery,
in the LA suburb of Walnut, featuring 32 paintings and 20 works on paper.  Her oil-on-
linen paintings of varying sizes combine elements of abstraction with figuration.  They
are luminous dreamscapes, as opulent as they are spiritual. 
 I have been assiduously following the Venice-based artist’s career over the last eight or
nine years.  In 2010, along with being a deeply committed painter, she founded the Arts
& Sciences section of the “Huffington Post”(to which I have contributed on a regular
 Her vivid artwork then focused on women of great style (which Kimberly also is), but
most particularly on influential professional stylists like Grace
Coddington and Elizabeth Stewart, with an emphasis on pattern, fabric and the
female form. Her paintings now are even more masterful, and often have an Orientalist
quality, depicting lavish dream-inducing interiors and phantom-like exteriors.
 Along with being a supremely talented artist, esteemed editor, award-winning teacher,
and striking blonde beauty, she also has given a much watched TEDx talk on the
subject of creativity. 
 A native of San Francisco and a graduate of Berkeley, the now Angeleno artist is the
mother of two college-age children and the wife of the equally extraordinary Albert
Brooks.  Yes, that Albert Brooks.  Incredibles attract.  She is also he daughter of the
late Dr. Leonard Shlain, author of “Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and
 Kimberly Brooks and her work have been written about in numerous publications
including “Vanity Fair.”  The commentary for the Mt. San Antonio show depicts some of
her most recent paintings:  “In the large triptych “Through the Looking Glass” Brooks
features an inception-like image of a landscape within another painting of a landscape.
In “Jerusalem”, a vibrant mosaic on silver dances next to and on top of a loose
underpainting and geometric floor.  In the diptych, “Bel Air”, a vase-strewn ledge
overlooks an ancient forest as if peering from a balcony within a tapestry.”

This exhibition was just selected “Artillery” magazine’s “Pick of the Week”.  Kimberly
Brooks is also the author of the upcoming book: “The Essential Guide: Oil Painting Safe
Practices & Supplies.”
To learn more about the artist, please take a look at:

Fawn, 2018

Russian Room

Blue Drawing Room

Blond-It: The Blogs Palm Beach Art by Elizabeth Sobieski

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We are all aware that Miami experiences its annual December celebration of high life and hysteria, and transmogrifies into the temporary center of the world’s art market during the highfalutin Art Basel week,  but I want to announce here that its sometimes rarified neighbor to the north is also witnessing a burgeoning art scene.  And it isn’t just for the Lily Pulitzer set with their omnipresent polo sculptures and distinguished family portraits.

Starting November 30, just before Miami’s Art Basel, Palm Beach is holding its first ‘New Wave Art Wknd’, bringing in all the top local collectors, artists, curators and gallery folk.  Conceived by Palm Beach and Los Angeles gallery owner Sarah Gavlak, oft-cited for her focus on women and LGBTQ artists, there will be seminars, dinners and such major collectors as Beth Rudin DeWoody, Jane Holzer, Ann Tenenbaum, Lisa and Richard Perry, and John and Amy Phelan  offering private tours of their notable collections. 

Last winter, Beth Rudin DeWoody opened her extraordinary artspace, The Bunker, a 20,000 square foot former Art Deco munitions factory in West Palm Beach, to showcase a rotating inventory of the 10,000 or so highly original, highly personal, and often amusing  works of contemporary and modern art that she has long collected. Beth is considered one of the world’s major collectors and is also a longtime board member at the Whitney Museum.   She is married to the esteemed photographer Firooz Zahedi. whom you know from all those table top books and striking ‘Vanity Fair’ images.

The day after Thanksgiving, just past the start of Palm Beach’s busy social season, when most of the snowbirds had already flocked south, I had the opportunity to attend the opening of Wendy Fritz’ Fritz Gallery on Royal Poinciana, probably the handsomest gallery Palm Beach has ever experienced, an enormous soaring ceilinged space with an antique ‘Phantom of the Opera’ type crystal chandelier breaking the capacious white box.  The Asia-influenced multimedia artist Mira Lehr, whose work has been exhibited at the New Museum, the Smithsonian, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, and the Getty, has earned her solo opening show.  Described as an eco-feminist, Lehr’s exhibition, on view through January 2, is focuses on seeking a solution to decimated aquatic systems.  But trust me, Lehr’s art also looks beautiful.  Other local dealers were at Fritz to see the stunning new space, including West Palm’s Paul Fisher and Wellington’s Jean Chisholm. The gallerist’s mother, artist Donna Long (sister of Gordon Getty)  and jazz  chanteuse and disco diva Asha Puthli were striking guests at the opening.  Lehr’s show will be followed by the latest work from the esteemed collage and assemblage artist Bruce Helander, the doyen of Palm Beach’s art scene, whose work is in fifty permanent museum collections.  Helander’s talented and leggy Colombian wife, Claudia Helander, has cultivated another artform, majestic living art at the Esplanade on Worth Avenue, walls sprouting framed air plants, succulents and florals. 

The Helander show at Fritz will be followed by the impressive and often massive scaled and stunning abstract expressionist paintings by South Florida artist J. Steven Manolis, a former Salomon Brothers partner turned veteran of three solo museum shows.

And the Palm Beach vicinity is attracting artists as new residents including the lyrical painter Judi Regal, formerly Chicago-based. 

Noted for her soft focus landscapes and depictions of nature, Elizabeth Thompson, of both New York and Delray Beach, which neighbors Palm Beach, is presenting  forty years of her painting at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, south of Palm Beach.  The opening artist reception will be held on December 6.  And Michael Bloomberg, through his Bloomberg Philanthropies, has made a major donation to the City of Coral Springs in partnership with the nearby City of Parkland, the sight of the Stoneman Douglas shootings, in order to enable the Coral Springs Museum of Art to develop public art focusing on healing after gun violence.

And while the Palm Beaches with their many galleries, some new and some long established, may seem small when compared to Miami,  it is always a positive surprise to watch the outstanding work being created in the area, especially  when the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County presents its showings of local artists. 

And West Palm Beach now has a mini Wynwood of its own, the vibrant young Northwood Village, designated an art district.  So far,  though, Northwood Village is not chockablock with the graffiti-like murals that adorn Miami’s buzzy art neighborhood.

Palm Beach’s classic (and contemporary) standout Norton Museum of Art is presently closed.  But it is expanding, expanding, expanding, and will be reopening in February.

And of course I’m not saying you shouldn’t also visit Miami Beach and its world renowned Art Basel, just that there’s a new and concurrent and more tranquil art world to explore nearby. And the super quick and clean Brightline train can deliver you between Miami and West Palm Beach in little more than an hour.  (And if you just happen to be in Miami, even after Art Basel, I urge you to please visit Martin Margulies collection at The Warehouse in Wynwood.  His new Anselm Keifers are astounding.)

Fritz Gallery Opening, Palm Beach



“Tracing the Red Thread”, Mira Lehr Solo Exhibition, Fritz Gallery, Palm Beach

Living Art by Claudia Helander, The Esplanade, Palm Beach
Anselm Kiefer, The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Miami, Art Basel 2018