5 paintings everyone should see in NYC, according to the curators who love them

5 paintings everyone should see in NYC, according to the curators who love them

New York City museums are home to some of the most recognizable and influential works in art history. It’s the city that lays claim to Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” Claude Monet’s monumental “Water Lilies” and a dizzying number of paintings by old masters.

As a result, the options available to art lovers can be overwhelming, whether you’re a first time visitor or a life-long city resident. So, for those of you who’ve come down with a case of analysis paralysis, we’ve polled local curators and museum staff about paintings everyone should see when they take a trip to the Big Apple.

Scroll below to see their selections, or watch a 45-second explainer in the video below.

5 paintings everyone should see in NYC, according to curators who love them

🖼 What paintings should you make a point to see while visiting New York City? bit.ly/2YeYpKh

Posted by ALL ARTS on Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Pablo Picasso’s “Seated Female Nude” (1908)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pablo Picasso, “Seated Female Nude,” 1908. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. © 2019 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Andrea Bayer, the director for collections and administration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said no trip to the famed institution is complete without a stop at Pablo Picasso’s “Seated Female Nude,” created in 1908. “In my new role where I get to work with every curatorial department at the Met, it is especially stimulating when you encounter a work of art that speaks across time and cultures,” she explained. Like Picasso’s more famous “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1908) and his portrait of writer Gertrude Stein, Picasso’s “Seated Female Nude” incorporates facial features inspired by African sculpture and is a shining example of the artist’s early Cubist works.

The oil-on-canvas piece is new to the museum, arriving as a gift from Leonard A. Lauder for the institution’s 150th anniversary. “Now that we have it installed at the Met, we are able to hang it literally looking across the hall towards our great African sculpture galleries,” Bayer said. “You will see many more of these magnificent new anniversary gifts to our collection in the new year — works that help us tell ever more nuanced stories about the history of global cultures.”

Rembrandt’s “The Polish Rider” (1655)
The Frick Collection

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, “The Polish Rider,” ca. 1655. Courtesy of the Frick Collection. Photo: Michael Bodycomb.

For fans of old masters, a trip to the Frick Collection on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is a must. There, you can find works from El Greco, Jan van Eyck, Botticini and, of course, Rembrandt.

Xavier F. Salomon, who serves as the Peter Jay Sharp chief curator at the museum, said he’s especially fond of the Dutch painter’s “The Polish Rider” (1655). Touting the piece as “the most enigmatic and dreamy painting” in the museum, Salomon studied the work extensively and even published a book about it. “After traveling around Poland in the footsteps of the painting,” he said, “I always return home to New York, and I think of Frank O’Hara’s 1960 poem ‘Having a Coke with You’: ‘I look / at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world / except possibly for the ‘Polish Rider’ occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick / which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together for the first time …”

Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (1907)
Neue Galerie

Gustav Klimt, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” 1912. Courtesy of Neue Galerie, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Ronald S. Lauder, the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer, and the Estée Lauder Fund.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of Austrian modern art, Gustav Klimt’s gold-flecked portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer now resides in Neue Galerie in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It came stateside in 2006, after a high-profile legal battle between the Austrian government and the niece of Bloch-Bauer, who triumphantly argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and an Austrian restitution committee that the painting was looted from her family during the Nazi’s reign of terror. The expressionist painting, dubbed the Austrian “Mona Lisa” by fans, remains a rare example of the repatriation of stolen art.

Janis Staggs, the director of curatorial and manager of publications at Neue Galerie, said she hoped visitors see the painting, which inspired numerous documentaries and a film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, in person.”Adele Bloch-Bauer is the only person that Klimt ever painted twice in a full-length portrait, and it was among the Bloch-Bauer family’s most prized possessions, given the subject matter and that it was Klimt’s only portrait in the so-called ‘golden style.'”

Florine Stettheimer’s “Heat” (1919)
Brooklyn Museum

Florine Stettheimer, “Heat,” 1919.  Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum. Gift of the Estate of Ettie Stettheimer.

Florine Stettheimer may be best known for her theatrical depictions of a newly modernized New York City, but it’s her more intimate paintings that captivate Jessica Murphy, the manager of visitor engagement at the Brooklyn Museum. “Florine Stettheimer painted this family portrait one summer in honor of her mother’s birthday,” Murphy said of “Heat,” painted in 1919. “She depicts herself, at lower right, surrounded by her mother and three sisters, capturing each woman’s individual style as well as their shared characteristics and their ease in one other’s company.”

Stettheimer, a lifelong New Yorker, holds the distinction of being the first female artist to receive a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. “She has been one of my favorite artists for a long time, and I’m continually inspired by her imaginative portrayals of these creative, independent women and their lives in New York,” Murphy said.

Alvin Baltrop’s Untitled Photographs (Circa 1975)
Bronx Museum

One of four gelatin silver prints by Alvin Baltrop. Courtesy of the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Acquired with funds provided by the Ford Foundation.

Sergio Bessa, the director of curatorial programs at the Bronx Museum, said his most beloved works in the institution’s collection came by happenstance. He had been looking for some additional works to flesh out an exhibition on artist Gordon Matta-Clark, and discovered four untitled gelatin silver prints by Alvin Baltrop in the process. The works by the Bronx-born photographer, who documented gay life in the 1970s and 1980s, is now a staple in the museum’s permanent collection.

“The Bronx Museum was created in 1971, during an unforeseen economic crisis that deeply affected New York City, and particularly the outer boroughs,” Bessa said. “A significant part of our permanent collection proposes to engage the viewer in a critical understanding of that troubled era through works that stress the value or culture and creativity in difficult times.”

Top Image: Gustav Klimt, "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," 1912. Courtesy of Neue Galerie, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Ronald S. Lauder, the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer, and the Estée Lauder Fund.