Anne-Marie Belli







Art, Books & Culture by Anne-Marie Belli

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A Bad Character by Deepti Kapor

Posted on February 23rd, 2015


This short debut novel follows the arc of an intense, short-lived love affair. It can easily be read in one sitting.  The narrator is Idha, 21-year old university student, who moves to Dehli after her father’s flight to Singapore and her mother’s death.  She lives with an aunt who is determined to marry her off in classic Indian custom.  Idha feels stifled, angry and disenfranchised.  While sitting at a café, she falls for an ugly, dark skinned man, drawn by his inappropriateness and a chance to escape from her dull existence. He introduces her to sex, drugs and a cross-section of the city. The affair proves an act of desperation, defiance and misplaced passion for Idha.  The prose is simple, poetic and lyrical. It is an artistic, non-linear tale.

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AMB’s Top Ten Books for 2014

Posted on December 9th, 2014
Americanah, Chimande Adichie
Luminairies, Eleanor Catton
Every Day is for the Thief, Teju Cole
1914, Jean Echenoz
Book of Ages, Jill Lepore
10:04, Ben Lerner
My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgard
The Dog, Joseph O’Neill
Lost for Words, Edward St. Aubyn
Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
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Nameless in Dubai–The Dog by Joseph O’Neill

Posted on November 13th, 2014
Unknown-1In Joseph O’Neill’s previous novel, Netherland*, we followed a disenfranchised man, adjusting to a new metropolis and the end of his marriage.  In The Dog**, the male protagonist flees New York and leaves his girlfriend mid-fertility treatment.  Nameless, save “X”, finds himself working for a family of Lebanese billionaires in Dubai.  Although there is not a great deal of action in this novel, I reveled in the magnificent language.   The Dog is a brilliant satire, at turns poignant and funny, especially when “X” discusses many of the preposterous aspects of his life in Dubai.
Consider this:
“Behind the wall one can see a sizable cluster of palm trees and, aloft amid the palms, a gaping three-meter satellite dish that would interest me very much if I were a pterodactyl looking for a nest.” (P.149)
*Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, 2009
**Long listed for the Man Booker Award 2014
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Ben Lerner serves up an amazing tale

Posted on September 25th, 2014

20613582Ben Lerner’s second novel is one of the most remarkable books I’ve read since…reading   his first novel Leaving the Atocha Station (2011). He combines and overlaps tales, characters, artwork and poetry in a smart, clever, entertaining way.  Somehow Lerner weaves together disparate topics from Christian Marclay’s Clock, to a celebration of a book deal;  from friends in insemination to a New Yorker piece.  His use of language is magnificent,  as he draws on his power of poetry.

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Colacello lives to tell the tale

Posted on August 21st, 2014

warholBob Colacello’s Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, is, arguably, the most entertaining, informative memoir of Warhol and his fascinating world.  Written in 1988, soon after Warhol’s death, it chronicles Colacello’s astounding 13 years as Warhol’s companion, collaborator and employee (1970-1983).

As a graduate student in Film Studies at Columbia in the early 70’s, Colacello nailed a job editing Warhol’s magazine Interview.  He was paid a paltry $25 per article.  For Holy Terror, he drew on copious journal entries, lending a sense of authenticity and immediacy to his tale.  After his Warhol years, Colacello became a contributor to Vanity Fair.

For the 2014 reissue of Holy Terror, 25 years out, Colacello has written an introductory update dubbed “So Much Has Happened.”  Holy Terror is still the ultimate insider’s view of Warhol and his enterprise, combining intimate reflections and celebrity shimmer.


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15 Minutes of Jeff Koons

Posted on August 7th, 2014

Honestly, 15 minutes, that’s all it takes to see an entire building worth of the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum.  Haven’t we seen this all before?  Hasn’t Koons been shocking people for years under the guise of conceptually conceived, beautifully crafted art objects?  This show brought nothing new to the table for me.  Even the porn seemed familiar.  The galleries are arranged chronologically and thematically.  One room is designated “Banality,”  which really applies to the whole exhibit.  I kept thinking of Andy Warhol and how he would respond to this show.  He would likely be impressed and envious of Koons’s stardom and net worth.

Koon Small

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Enter Norwegian Author Karl Ove Knausgaard

Posted on July 1st, 2014


Who could write 6 volumes at 500 plus pages a clip about themselves and keep us compelled and interested?  I would have thought it impossible, but I’ve fallen for Karl Ove Knausgaard’s work.  The series is called My Struggle.  His descriptions of ordinary moments are amazing.  I started with Vol. 2, as it was the first to fall from the truck, and I circled back to read the beginning of Vol. 1.  It’s not likely I will read them all, but I’m glad to know about Knausgaard’s creation.  Some call him the Proust of the 21st Century.  I’m not sure about that, but he is definitely worth knowing about.

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MoMA Honors Lygia Clark (1921-88)

Posted on July 1st, 2014

Well known in her native Brazil and posthumously presented here in North America for the first time, Lygia Clark’s career transcended many artistic styles and theories.  This show is called “The Abandonment of Art,” but I found myself simply focusing on and enjoying the art.  I liked the feeling of walking through this installation with its varied definitions of space flowing from abstract paintings to sculptural work.  Although Lygia’s art is often discussed in conceptual terms, I found it approachable and interesting straight up.  I was struck by a small, architectonic assemblage of match boxes that seemed to draw from her Paul Klee-like paintings and suggest her sculptural works to come.  Placed chronologically in the middle of the show, the matchbox piece hinges beautifully between her European avant-garde inspired paintings and her later metal sculptures and interactive works. There are a series of participatory pieces in the final gallery, but I didn’t play.  It has been said that her oeuvre was an important precursor to participation art.


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On the Centennial of the Great War, a triumphant novel, 1914

Posted on July 1st, 2014



Written by the celebrated French writer, Jean Echenoz, this short novel explores the lives of five young Frenchmen, beginning in the summer of 1914.  Although we suspect this wartime story will not go well, it proves both poignant and powerful.  The prose flows poetic, and history is condensed into a compelling story.  In the opening pages, we travel along with Anthime as he rides his bicycle into town.  From his hilltop vantage point, we are quickly immersed into the lives and histories of these young men, two of whom are interested in the same woman. Echenoz deftly takes us from a balmy summer day to the chaos and carnage of war.  This book a gem.  I only wish I could have read it in the original French.

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Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Posted on March 28th, 2014


In Book of Ages, Jill Lapore chronicles and illuminates the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his sister Jane.  Benny and Jenny, as they were called, were the youngest and longest lived of 17 Franklin children.  Born in 1712, wed at 16 (purportedly pregnant), Jane was a great grandmother when she died at 82.  She had a hard-knock life, burdened with debts incurred by her husband and renting rooms to pay the bills.  Jane could read and write, a rarity among women in her day, and thus was able to communicate with her famous, peripatetic  brother.  She started her book of ages to record births, deaths and marriages in her family.  This would be a very short list for me, but an extensive one for her.  This fascinating book defies categorization and offers new insight into a time we already know much about.

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“Americanah,” Adichie’s compelling third novel

Posted on March 7th, 2014
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest novel, “Americanah” opens with a Nigerian woman, a visiting profesor at Princeton, as she waits for the train to Trenton.  She has to travel to Trenton because no one in Princeton can braid her hair.  This situation tips you off to the exploration of race and wry humor to come.  Through Imfelu’s story and the clever blog she develops, we learn about the African experience in America.  Adichie succeeds in offering social critique without being didactic.
Born in Nigeria in 1977, Adichie has written three novels, Purple Hibiscus(2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah(2013), and a short story collection, The Thing around Your Neck (2009).  She has received the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2008).
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Jewels Dazzle at NY City Ballet

Posted on January 26th, 2014


The other night,  I saw one of the most beautiful ballets I’ve ever seen.  New York City Ballet’s Jewels, choreographed by George Balanchine in 1947, presents three dances without stories based on the themes of Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds.  (It seems he was inspired by Van Cleef and Arpels back in the day.)  Jewels features my favorite aspects of a Balanchine ballet–stunning dance movements;  beautiful, evocative  music;  simple, abstract sets; and twinkling tutus and tiaras.  It is simply breath-taking.  Balanchine selected music by Faure,  Stravinsky and Tchaichovsky for this masterpiece.   However, every  aspect of Jewels is subsumed to the primacy of the dancing.  These incredibly talented dancers honor Balanchine’s legacy with their speed, strength and musicality.   Examples of the prized, old school costumes with their sparkling jewels are on display in the lobby for a close-up view, including the Diamonds costume once worn by Wendy Whelan.  Thank you Kathryn O’Donnell for an amazing experience!

DukePHOTO5From Jewels


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JAR Jewelry Show at the Met

Posted on January 9th, 2014


I had heard about a jewelry exhibit at the Met, so I decided to move beyond my fine art interests and check out this popular show.  American jeweler Joel A. Rosenthal, aka JAR, moved to Paris and began selling jewelry in the 1970’s, currying wealthy clients along the way.  The installation at the Met offers a blackened tunnel that highlights prosaic, glittering objects, depicting flowers, bugs and organic shapes that seemed to enchant the other viewers.  As I exited the gallery, there was a man modeling jewels for sale that cost in the thousands of dollars.  I was truly nauseated that the Met had come to this–a glorified trunk show.  I later asked sophisticated, intelligent art world luminaries, and they were enraptured with the show, about 20% of which I found interesting.  I was stunned and found no one to agree with me. Thank you, Roberta Smith of the New York Times, for capturing and revealing the horror of this show.  Amen.


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The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Posted on January 9th, 2014

BggjiQn2m8sCThe 2013 Man-Booker award winner may seem daunting by size.  But as someone who rarely reads a novel longer than 300 pages, I was absolutely enchanted with this book.  It struck me as Deadwood meets War and Peace.  The fascinating cast of characters circle around the gold rush in New Zealand in the mid 1860’s.  It is truly unlike anything I have ever read– at once a challenge and a delight.

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AMB’s Top Ten Reads for 2013

Posted on December 1st, 2013

It’s been a another great year for fiction. But, I’ve slipped a little humor and poetry in my annual mix of favorites.  Among the new authors I’ve discovered and enjoyed are Karen Ann Fowler, Elena Ferrante and George Saunders.   Email me your thoughts and suggestions or come on by Crawford Doyle Booksellers, 1082 Madison Avenue, NYC (between 81-82).  Happy Holidays!

  • The Circle, Dave Eggers
  • Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Ann Fowler
  • It Chooses You, Miranda July
  • Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner
  • How It All Began, Penelope Lively
  • Someone, Alice McDermott
  • Stag’s Leap, Sharon Olds
  • 10th of December, George Saunders
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette?, Maria Semple
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The Circle by Dave Eggers

Posted on November 24th, 2013

bokshop circle

With The Circle, Dave Eggers serves up another carefully crafted, fast paced, and highly entertaining novel.  It opens with 24 year old Mae Holland on her first day of work at the Circle, an amalgam of Google, Facebook, and Twitter-like companies.  An ambitious, idealistic college grad, Mae eagerly conforms to the protocol of this new tech giant that employs 12,00o in a utopian work place, where technology is harnessed for the greater good of the world.  Much of this advancement relies on surrendering one’s personal privacy.  The Circle demands and reveres transparency.  Nothing can be erased.  At one point, Mae wears a camera 24/7, broadcasting her actions, except for 3 minute bathroom breaks, which later become her only time for private talks and sexual quickies. After enjoying this clever, funny, insightful book, I was shocked to realize that I am a luddite.  According to WIRED!,  the Circle is “what the Internet looks like if you don’t understand it.”

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Neapolitan Novelist (Or Not) Elena Ferrante

Posted on August 7th, 2013


You may have read some nom de plume shenanigans about Italian author Elena Ferrante, but that doesn’t really matter.  She is a novelist you will want to know about.  I’m still reeling from her intensely personal and shockingly candid novel Days of Abandonment (2005).

Written with a powerful, austere style, Ferrante follows the psychological dissolution of Olga, whose husband walks out on her for a young friend of the family. Her life plunges into a state of disintegration.  We experience her mental and emotional fragmentation, as she hovers just this side of coherence. She finds herself with a tenuous grip on reality, barely caring for her children, walking the dog, paying the bills …  Along her disjointed, painful path of abandonment, she comes to realize she has over invested in her family life and her husband in particular.   Despite all her difficulties, Olga manages to prevail.  I’ll leave it at that.

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“Love Song of Jonny Valentine” is a romp

Posted on July 1st, 2013





I was both repelled and attracted by the shimmery, silver cover of this first novel by Teddy Wayne.  It’s a Justin Bieberish tale, told from the point of view of 11 year old pop star Jonny Valentine, nee Jonathan Valentino.  He’s a tween phenom presided over by his stage mom, and phalanx of stylists, voice coaches, physical trainers and a tutor who doubles as a body guard.  I was surprised to find such an entertaining, poignant, revealing read inside this cover.  If the topic intrigues you at all, this is a solid summer read!

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Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

Posted on June 5th, 2013



Since I’ve developed such an affinity for novels written by poets, I thought I’d actually read some poetry.  So I looked at this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds.  She has been called a poet of sex and psyche as seen in this collection, focusing on her divorce after 30 years.  There is a sense of intimacy, urgency and wisdom to this poignant series of poems.

The following Wikipedia entry speaks to Sharon Olds’ convictions and poetic voice.

In 2005, First Lady Laura Bush invited Olds to the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Olds responded, declining the invitation in an open letter published in the October 10th, 2005 issue of The Nation. The letter closes: “So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it”

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“Bring Up the Bodies” “With Pleasure!”

Posted on February 16th, 2013

13507212 While many authors have dealt with the Tudor England of Henry VIII, Hilary Mantel succeeds in creating a fresh, engaging, brilliantly crafted novel in Bring Up the Bodies.  Although the plot is simple and often told–out with Anne Boleyn and in with Jane Seymour–this is an enormously engrossing tale.  As for the issue of historical veracity, I don’t care. It’s all fiction to me!

With a particular focus on the life and role of Thomas Cromwell, Bring Up the Bodies is a timeless study of power and influence, told in a unique language incorporating English, olde and new.  Mantel conveys Thomas Cromwell’s native intelligence, crafty diplomacy, and financial acumen.  He showed a remarkable ability to “read” his boss, the king, and most everyone else.  But his generally even and good-natured demeanor takes a turn for the worse with his ruthless and hasty prosecution of Anne Boleyn.  He demonstrates a vicious, effective method  of playing witnesses off each other in order to satisfy the king’s wishes.

Hilary Mantel made Man Booker history as the first woman and the first Brit to win the award twice.  Also, along with her equally magnificent Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies is the first sequel to win in the award’s 43 year history.

Below, Thomas Cromwell as portrayed by Hans Holbein (1533), Frick Museum.


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Ancient Light, by John Banville

Posted on January 13th, 2013

I found my self stopping to reread sentences in this gem of a novel by Man-Booker award winner John Banville, who also writes poetry and mysteries (under the name Benjamin Black).  I loved The Sea, and Ancient Light shows Banville’s sparkling, evocative prose PLUS a story, in which a 15 year old “comes of age” with his best friend’s mother.  Banville creates a lyrical story of power and pathos.  It’s not creepy; it’s just life.

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Inventing Abstraction 1910- 25: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art

Posted on January 12th, 2013

MoMA’s centennial exhibit offers a chromatic joy and conceptual celebration that is not to be missed.  You can float through and revel at works by Kandinsky and the Russians, Leger and the Parisians,  Mondrian and the Dutch, plus Americans from the Steiglitz circle without looking at any wall text, although there is plenty if you like.  I found the wall of paintings by Malevich faced with a totemic sculpture by Brancusi one of many stunning juxtapositions in this interdisciplinary show, which  includes needle point, stained glass, music poetry and film.

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AMB’s Top Ten Novels 2012

Posted on December 6th, 2012

If you don’t fancy style over story, then this probably won’t be the list for you.

  • Ancient Light, John Banville
  • Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers
  • Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner
  • Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers
  • Patrick Melrose Novels, Edward St. Aubyn
  • Canada, Richard Ford
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fontaine
  • Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe
  • Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  • This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
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Yellow Birds — Evocative Iraq War Novel

Posted on December 4th, 2012

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers falls into my new favorite category–first novels by poets.  Evocative is the word that comes to mind, as each powerful chapter creates a mood, a thought, a feeling.  Make no doubt, this is a war novel.  It is the story of two Iraq war soldiers, and one’s failure to bring the other one home in one piece.  It is at once lurid and lyrical.  It offers a sensitive, perceptive portrayal of the Iraq War, told by a veteran.  Tom Wolfe dubs it the All Quiet on the Western Front of our day.  I call it a work of art.

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Our Man in Full – Tom Wolfe Stops by Crawford Doyle Booksellers

Posted on November 17th, 2012

In Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe turns his incredible powers of observation to Miami, capturing a sense of it’s competing communities.  The cast of characters contains a Cuban American cop, an uber WASP Newspaper editor, African-American police chief, Cuban mayor, Russian oligarch, young Yalie reporter, and a psychiatrist specializing in sexual addictions.  Wolfe does a spoof of himself both stylistically (bombastic, energetic),  and thematically (clashing cultures).  But if you are a fan of his work, fictional and non, I think you will enjoy this ride.  I don’t often find 700 plus page novels a quick, entertaining read, but I relished this one.  However, if you cringe at excessive  use of colons :::::: and other grammatical idiosyncracies, hyperbolic descriptions and somewhat stereotypical characters,  then don’t bother.

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Take Home a Nude 2012 — Still sexy, after all these years

Posted on October 21st, 2012

Take Home a Nude is a benefit auction and gala, supporting the New York Academy of Art.  This figurative art school was co-founded by Andy Warhol in the eighties and has been training artists in traditional techniques, in order to create contemporary works, ever since.  This year the celeb studded party raised $800,000 for the school.  My Shadows #23 had five bidders. (Photos by Joseph Sebastian Fichera)

Cap and Gown’s finest from Princeton

Shadows could be nudes…

Liev Schreiber seems to be interested in my work!

Going on the record with Jonah of the New York Observer.

Another star from Cap and Gown and the Triangle Club.

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Storm King Reigns

Posted on October 4th, 2012

Urban art aficionados unite!  Treat yourselves to that otherworldly art experience known as Storm King.  You can’t visit too many times, as each visit offers different delights. Combine it with a visit to Dia Beacon, and you can enjoy extraordinary, unique ways to view art in settings not possible in the city. Thanks to Lisa Mamounas and Tony Maddalena for making the MoMA trip (9/29/12) especially fun.


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Valentino Courts NYC Ballet to a Costume Flop

Posted on September 23rd, 2012

The kick off to the NYC Ballet 2012 fall season featured costumes by famed, tanned designer Valentino.   The world premiere of Bal de Couture with typically uninspired choreography by Peter  Martins, offered world class buffoonery.  The bombastic, frou frou costumes in black and white with red under skirts subsumed the dancers and made them look stubby.  I can’t imagine this heavy-handed combination of fashion first and dance later will bring in a new, younger audience to the ballet.  I did manage to meet Baryshnikov and make him laugh by comparing the recent Marina Abromovic documentary with his episode on Sex and the City.

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Book extravaganza at East Hampton Library

Posted on August 19th, 2012

Peter and Melinda KaminskyOn Saturday, August 11, 2012 the East Hampton Library hosted its eighth annual “Authors Night” benefit.  Guests could engage with over 100 authors gathered under a steamy tent and buy signed books donated by the publishers.  All those egos under one tent lined up alphabetically was amazing.  Quite an egalitarian way to mix it up with famous authors.  For instance, Robert Massie, took umbrage when I told him his book Catherine the Great read like a novel.   After cocktails, the party split up into private homes for dinner with the authors.  Our dinner, hosted by Judith Hope and Tom Twomey, featured the inimitable Robert Caro.  When a friend of mine asked how to get in touch with him, Mr. Caro responded “I’m listed in the phone book.”  And sure enough, he was. (Pictured here is author Peter Kaminsky and his wife Melinda.)


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Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Posted on July 22nd, 2012

Whether a Dave Eggers believer or not, I would recommend this beautifully crafted novel that deals with a 50-something man, who represents an American company presenting a hologram to the King of Saudi Arabia. He is engulfed in the Great Recession and sliding into irrelevance both personal and professional. Eggers’s language is elegant, spare and restrained (unlike his previous works) and the tone is forlorn, yet funny. The authenticity of the characters will capture your imagination and carry you swiftly along.

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LongHouse Reserve Summer Gala 2012

Posted on July 22nd, 2012

LongHouse Reserve is a 16 acre oasis in East Hampton, NY, that features outdoor sculptures and specimen plants. Founded by fabric design great, Jack Lenor Larsen, it includes works by Dale Chihuly, Yoko Ono, and Toshiko Takaezu, with whom I studied at Princeton. (See installation view) The 2012 Summer Gala honored Dorothy Lichtenstein and Robert Wilson on Mr. Larsen’s 85th birthday. Phillip Glass performed a sublime piece in honor of all, celebrating decades of creativity, collaboration and support. (The Reserve is open to the public May-October.)

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Cooking with Fernet Branca–recipe for literary farce

Posted on July 1st, 2012

Cooking with Fernet Branca is a zany farce set in the Tuscan hills that pits two expats in a neighborly tussle.  It’s not a recent novel, but Amy Hedison reminds me, it is a refreshing summer read.  Gerald Samper is a Brit, who ghost-writes for celebrities, locked in a hilarious contretemps with Marta, a successful musician from a fictitious Soviet-bloc country.  The author, James Hamilton-Paterson, intersperses recipes (that may or may not be real), swished down with punishing slugs of Fernet Branca, a high-octane, viscous, herb-based liquor.

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MoMA’s Monet Manqué

Posted on June 7th, 2012


It was a clear blue bright blazing June day in 2012 when we parked our motorcycle and walked from Place de la Concorde to the Jardin des Tuilleries. Upon entering the elliptically shaped Monet galleries at Paris’s Musee de L’Orangerie in the Jardin, one cannot help but be transported to another realm. The 50-foot long paintings of water lillies welcome and envelope you. The building provides a stunning interior space and the paintings propel a transcendent experience.  In New York, MoMa used to give me this same feeling…but sadly no more.  For many years they presented their Monet water lilies in a private serene contemplative space. Seeing the Parisian installation I yearned for the way MoMA used to honor their water lilies.  They should go back to the reverential installation of yore.  N’est-ce pas?

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Magical Moment with Robert Caro

Posted on May 7th, 2012

Last Sunday, a couple entered Crawford Doyle Booksellers unannounced and paused to enjoy the place.  Acting on a hunch, I approached Robert Caro and his wife Ina to sign their books that we had in stock.  The experience that followed was one of my most memorable of many wonderful encounters at CDB.  A mere introduction became a multifaceted chat about his love of the bookshop and art history, shared experiences at Princeton, his article on Melvin Belli (no relation), my thesis and more.  Like a true journalist he shaped an interesting conversation through careful questions and true engagement.  When I offered him a copy of Lid magazine with my art in it, he said only if I would sign it!

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Sisters Brothers Odd Combo

Posted on May 6th, 2012


The contradictory title, Sisters Brothers, tips us off to the odd, quirky, incongruous tale to follow. The novel tracks two brothers, famed assasins, through their exploits in the wild wild west of Oregon and California in the 1850s.  Narrated by Eli Sisters, this grizzly, bloody buddy story also offers a sense of melancholy, thoughtfulness and humor.  Patrick de Witt manages to infuse a Cormac McCarthyesque adventure with  wit and empathy.

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Frieze Strikes NYC

Posted on May 5th, 2012

People don’t believe me, but Jenny Glassman and I walked for an hour before we came to the end of the caterpiller shaped tent. The space is stunning, natural light diffused through the white skin and pouring in floor to ceiling windows. The fair felt like a fun combo of Miami/Basel and The Armory Show. However, Holland Cotter suggests we might be experiencing Stockholm Syndrome in terms of the success and ubiquity of these art shows come fairs. The block of dirt below is not, they claim, inspired by Walter De Maria’s Earth Room, rather it is a nostalgic piece of dirt from the artist’s Tuscan backyard cast in bronze. On the other hand,  Vik  Muniz’s George Washington Crossing the Delaware is sure to please.  The high  point of these affairs is seeing art world luminaries and friends like Sarah Lee Elson in town from London.

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Gary Shteyngart Lives the Laugh–Paris Review Party

Posted on April 15th, 2012

Thanks to my friend Gary Lippman, I had the opportunity to ambush some of my favorite authors at the Paris Review Spring Fling last week.  As Gary Shteyngart and his wife tried to navigate the sea of tables, I sprinted to accost him, not even sure I had the right author in mind.  He proved to be as hilarious and bookish as I imagined from his novels, the most recent of which is Super Sad True Love Story.

It took three successful books and innumerable accolades from writers I admire for me to sample Shteyngart’s work.  Despite the “dystopia” label, Super Sad,  pushes only so far into the future with a heady brew of humor and social commentary packaged in a clever, well-wrought novel. It made me laugh and I hope you will too.

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Leaving Atocha Station

Posted on April 1st, 2012

If you favor a novel as art object, this is for you.  Ben Lerner, a published poet, debuts with a novel that had people talking at Crawford Doyle Booksellers. People who love a well crafted novel–clever, hip, funny, witty, ironic, and engaging.  This tale follows an American slacker on a fellowship in Madrid, where he mostly ignores his mission to smoke hash, meet new friends and experience the city.

“[Leaving the Atocha Station is] hilarious and cracklingly intelligent, fully alive and original in every sentence, and abuzz with the feel of our late-late-modern moment. . . . — Jonathan Franzen in The Guardian’s Books of the Year 2011

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MoMA PS1 – Henry Taylor

Posted on March 27th, 2012

Taylor / Family

These paintings are powerful, approachable, penetrating, dynamic portrayals of the artist’s friends and neighbors.  How refreshing to see big paintings in the hallowed land of conceptual art!  Too bad the curator had to kill the thrill by laying on the artspeak, beginning with the “these are icons” bit.  Icon is perhaps the most overused and misapplied word in current usage.  It refers to a devotional object of the Christian faith, generally covered in gilt with incisions and tempera paint.  Yes, it also refers to superlative, representative examples of a given item.  But, how can so many things in virtually every category on earth be iconic?

The curator also spoke of the gravitas of the work, comparing it to Ingres, Matisse, Whistler and Alice Neel.  Actually, I think they speak for themselves, which is also a refreshing experience. Check out this show.  It’s only up until April 9.

Taylor / Matise


Taylor / Salon Style

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Enchanted Island–Met Opera seeks to enchant a younger, hipper audience

Posted on March 15th, 2012


This year, the Metropolitan Opera took a gamble in creating a new opera, Enchanted Island, with the intention of broadening their audience and breathing life into the art form, which may or may not need updating.  They took beautiful, beloved highlights of Baroque operas, stringing together music by Vivaldi, Handel, Rameau and other 18th century European talents into a new composition.  For the story, they borrowed from Shakespeare, another proven source, combining elements of the Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These familiar themes and music were staged with bombastic, operatic costumes coupled with 21st century lighting and effects (video and mermaids suspended in space).  The proposition may sound far-fetched or formulaic, but the result is an utter delight!  Even fun.  Plus, if you find following the lyrics a bit trying, they have English subtitles for songs in English.

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John Chamberlain: From Compression to Expression

Posted on March 5th, 2012


In the roadway that is the Guggenheim, John Chamberlain’s sculptures are arranged in a tantalizing, asymmetrical trip up the ramp in a retrospective that opened just two months after the artist’s death.  Even the the bays are reconfigured to catapult you through the installation in a staccato, varying rhythm.  I think John Chamberlain discovered an idiom, made it his own and successfully explored it thoroughly for a half century.  No small feat and a sign of greatness in my book.  His early composites of carefully selected squashed car parts betray a sense of compressed power, while his later work tends to spread out and expand beyond their inner cores.  Some refer to his art as the sculptural response to the power, exuberance, and, yes, masculinity of Abstract Expressionism.  While he was an uncanny colorist in his use of ravaged pieces of metal, I prefer his monochromatic and more simply hued creations.

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Clemente Rules Works-on-Paper

Posted on February 29th, 2012


The Tarots, a book of watercolors by Francesco Clemente, shows just how powerful a watercolor can be.  Don’t be scared off by the subject. The project offers a phenomenal opportunity to portray figures, in this case Clemente’s friends from the art world, in glorious, lightly handled washes.  Clemente combines technical virtuosity with penetrating presentations of these personalities, many of whom  you will likely be able to recognize.  I can’t say that I’ve read the small print, but I did revel in this collection of luminaries and clever designs.  Throughout the images in the book, Clemente demonstrates a brilliant use of color and composition, dramatically cutting edges and defining space.   Bravo!

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Posted on February 26th, 2012


In Print/out, one passes beneath a grid of clothes lines strung with sheets of  8 ½ x 12 inch paper that creates a literal and figurative transition through the exhibit.  This will not be your average print show or an adequate installation.  Prints, multiples, works on paper, whatever we call the art objects, stretch our imaginations beyond the typical.  The extraordinary panoply of works presented in galleries on two floors makes for lively, entertaining viewing.  It is refreshing to see prints by artists better known for working in other media.

There are many curious methods of printmaking presented, including using video, as well as riffs on old favorites seen in the juxtaposition of Pollock/Picasso dry points..  There are artists quoting artists, as shown by Warholesque silver balloons on high.  The history of various influential print presses can be felt throughout. Ellen Gallagher, along with Elizabeth Peyton and others, had a fellowship at Two Palms Press.  Her series includes a Rolling Stones Some Girls visual language that feels clever, witty, serious and arresting.  (It also helps that she is an African American woman in a landscape still dominated by white male artists.)

One experiences many “how did they do it?” moments and a chance to participate in a performance/viewer piece.  The grand scale of the show and the inclusion of some enormous installations transport the viewer far beyond the print world we know and love.  There is much to learn on a straight technical level from this assembly of vastly different works from innovative to familiar.

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Cindy Sherman MoMA

Posted on February 26th, 2012

Me and Cindy

While most of us see Cindy Sherman’s retrospective of 35 years at MoMA as a slam dunk, there were dissenting voices to be heard.   “It can’t stand up to the De Kooning show.”  Ridiculous comparison.  “I need to be convinced.”  Take a good look!  Sherman’s photography is conceptually and formally magnificent, even before I get started about how rarely women artists are addressed in thorough, large-scale exhibitions.  What a loss when the Whitney cancelled the Eva Hesse show and it was divided up into two small, but significant, shows at the Jewish Museum and the Drawing Center.   Sherman’s photography is intelligent, carefully crafted and beguilingly simple.  The various themes addressed in this exhibit reflect the depth and interconnectedness of Sherman’s work.  She continues to pursue related issues of identity and perception in new and refreshing ways.  (However,  I never took to the clown series.)  Bravo to MoMA for presenting her work on this impressive level with the requisite scholarly catalogue.

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Posted on February 26th, 2012

Blood, Bones

I finally had the pleasure of dining at Prune on Saturday evening, but was sorry to have missed Ms. Hamilton.  I work in a bookshop on the UES and her book as been very popular at Crawford Doyle Booksellers (1082 Madison between 81/82).  I like to keep Blood, Bones and Butter  out of the Cooking section, as I think it’s a great memoir, a wild story, well-told.  I’m an all fiction all the time person, who can’t cook and I still loved it.  I hear Gabrielle is on the road with book promotions, but I think she’ll  come see us upon her return.

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