The kitchen sink was clogged.

The dishwasher was stuck in rinse cycle for a whole night.

The washer’s final spin sounded like a dozen anti-aircraft machine guns.

And we went into the City and had a most wonderful time–Ahhh, the sweet images and sounds of escape.

A good trip to New York always starts with good parking, because after spending 40 minutes circling the blocks in vain and forced to surrender to the $15/hour parking garage you wouldn’t have much good temper left. We found a legal space at the corner of Madison and 77th without much trouble, which is a small miracle according to Murray Tepper because many spots in that area is marked for diplomats.

Our main destination is the “El Greco to Picasso” exhibition in Guggenheim. We heard about it from from NYTimes a while ago, and finally got a chance to see it. Like the article suggests, anything covering 500 years of paintings in such a major force in European art is bound to be a tapas sampler. The taste is still excellent, since the tapas from which it samples are all world-class.

Now that I think of it, Spain seems to have the only unbroken stream of truly great artists in Europe from Renaissance to modern time. Italy was kind of silent after Renaissance; France only has Realism and Impressionism; Flanders has nobody between Rembrandt and Van Gogh; and the rest of the European countries have some spotty presence like Durer, Turner, and Kandinsky. Spain, on the other hand, produced one monumental artist in each of the 5 consecutive centuries: El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Gaudi, and Picasso. Yeah Gaudi is in a different category, but I’m just trying to make a point 🙂

That is actually the theme of the exhibition: the “endless return and reappropriation on a formal and iconographic level that binds together the works of Spanish artists” (from the exhibition page). The unusual order by theme instead of the usual chronicity emphasizes it, however I feel it’s a bit artificial: you can find “common” themes and styles and techniques or whatever you want to find in any random collection of 10 paintings, barring pure abstract expressionism stuff, maybe.

Another downside for this “greatest hits” exhibition is, well, there’s actually no greatest hits from any artist. There’s no way, for example, to borrow Las Meninas from Prado or Les Demoiselles d’Avignon from MoMA–angry visitors would rip down those places feeling cheated. There are well-known pieces, for sure, like several Dali.

It’s still a great exhibition, after all, for an overview of Spanish art. The thematic display is freshening, and I particularly like the fact that all name plaques are placed very far from the paintings, forcing you to focus on the art itself instead of the names of the picture and the artist. I’ve got a terrible habit to look at the name plaques before the art, and sometimes skipping the art piece altogether if the names don’t ring a bell. So in the beginning it was a bit frustrating to spend much time looking for the plaques, but very soon I got used to this “right” way of viewing art itself, even though I can never get rid of the “this must be a Goya” kind of speculation.

One more interesting thing is the reassurance of Picasso’s stupendous productivity. At least 3/4 of the displays contain at least one painting from him. Wikipedia says “it has been estimated that Picasso produced about 13,500 paintings or designs, 100,000 prints or engravings, 34,000 book illustrations and 300 sculptures or ceramics.” I remember seeing a documentary on Andy Warhol where he claimed that on some days he makes more “paintings” than Picasso. How preposterous!

When we got out of the museum, the sky put on a faint glow of the freshly fallen night as the perfect backdrop for those Manhattan streets in fabulous holiday fashion. Our car idled down the super crowded 5th Avenue in a speed that would drive me crazy in any other time of the year, but Christmas ain’t any other time of the year!

The sidewalk was filled with people like I’d never seen before, progressively more toward and climaxed at Rockefeller Center. It’s a miracle that nobody was crushed or stampeded in that multi-block sardine can. We caught a glimpse of the 88′ Christmas tree (this one from Ridgefield, CT)–boy is that magnificent!

And a nice trip to New York must not conclude in traffic jam. Seeing the throngs of people I knew I had to take the secret entrance to Lincoln Tunnel–the only useful thing I learned from my boss in the previous job. In no time we were cruising (or rather, crawling) through the tunnel, leaving thousands of frustrated drivers behind…