This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

COVID-19 & NEW YORK CITY ARTS AND CULTURE

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Since May 2001, twi-ny has been recommending cool things to do throughout the five boroughs, popular and under-the-radar events that draw people out of their homes to experience film, theater, dance, art, literature, music, food, comedy, and more as part of a live audience in the most vibrant community on Earth.

With the spread of Covid-19 and the closing of all cultural institutions, sports venues, bars, and restaurants (for dining in), we feel it is our duty to prioritize the health and well-being of our loyal readers. So, for the next several weeks at least, we won’t be covering any public events in which men, women, and children must congregate in groups, a more unlikely scenario day by day anyway.

That said, as George Bernard Shaw once noted, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”

Some parks are still open, great places to breathe in fresh air, feel the sunshine, and watch the changing of winter into spring. We will occasionally be pointing out various statues, sculptures, and installations, but check them out only if you are already going outside and will happen to be nearby.

You don’t have to shut yourself away completely for the next weeks and months — for now, you can still go grocery shopping and pick up takeout — but do think of others as you go about your daily life, which is going to be very different for a while. We want each and every one of you to take care of yourselves and your families, follow the guidelines for social distancing, and consider the health and well-being of those around you.

We look forward to seeing you indoors and at festivals and major outdoor events as soon as possible, once New York, America, and the rest of the planet are ready to get back to business. Until then, you can find us every so often under the sun, moon, clouds, and stars, finding respite in this amazing city now in crisis.

FIRST SATURDAY: GEOGRAPHIES OF GENDER

Naima Green

Naima Green will discuss her feminist card game, Pur·suit, after which attendees can play with the decks (photo © Naima Green)

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, March 7, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
212-864-5400
www.brooklynmuseum.org

The Brooklyn Museum honors Women’s History Month for its free First Saturday March gathering with “Geographies of Gender,” programs dealing with issues of gender, queerness, and color. There will be live performances by Thelma, Christopher Unpezverde Núñez (the autobiographical Yo, Obsolete), Ushamami, DJ Sabine Blaizin, Brown Girls Burlesque (Black Femme Warrior, with Hoodoo Hussy, Chicava Honeychild, Dakota Mayhem, Skye Syren, Genie Adagio, Delysia La Chatte, and Burgandy Jones), Hanae Utamura (A Letter from Future Past [The Pacific]), and Sammus; an artist talk with Naima Green, Caroline Washington, Rin Kim Ni, and Sable Elyse Smith about Green’s Pur·suit, followed by card games using decks with portraits of queer women and trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people; teen apprentice pop-up talks focusing on gender themes in the Arts of Asia galleries; a curator tour of “Out of Place: A Feminist Look at the Collection” led by curators Catherine Morris and Carmen Hermo; a hands-on art workshop where participants can make textile collages inspired by “Out of Place”; a Belladonna* poetry reading with S*an D. Henry-Smith, Giannina Braschi, and Jesse Rice-Evans; and a night market of Brooklyn vendors with goods made by local women and nonbinary artists. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley,” “Out of Place: A Feminist Look at the Collection,” “African Arts — Global Conversations,” “JR: Chronicles,” “Jeffrey Gibson: When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks,” “Climate in Crisis: Environmental Change in the Indigenous Americas,” and more.

PANEL DISCUSSION & MARATHON READING OF KAFKA’S “THE TRIAL”

(photo by Natalia Kabanow)

Cancellation of Krystian Lupa’s Polish version of Franz Kafka’s The Trial at NYU Skirball has led to panel discussion and marathon reading in defense of artistic freedom (photo by Natalia Kabanow)

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 La Guardia Pl.
Sunday, March 8, free, 1:00 - 10:00
212-992-8484
nyuskirball.org

NYU Skirball is facing its own Kafkaesque drama in its attempt to stage a Polish version of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Krystian Lupa’s adaptation was scheduled to come to the Washington Square theater March 7-8, but the show was canceled when the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (AIM) cut off its funding. “Kafka’s The Trial is the story of political corruption, government censorship, and social malevolence — a story that mirrors our current global realities,” Skirball director Jay Wegman said in a statement. “Sadly, and ironically, the Polish government has pulled its funding in an attempt to silence Krystian Lupa, making this North American premiere impossible.” In a revealing Theatermania article, Wegman went toe-to-toe with AIM acting director Barbara Schabowska, arguing over what really happened, whether it was censorship, sloppiness, or incompetence.

Instead, Skirball is hosting a panel discussion and marathon reading of The Trial, presented in conjunction with the Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, PEN America, and CUNY’s Segal Center. The free March 8 program begins at 1:00 with “Art in Danger, Artists at Risk,” a panel featuring Monika Fabijanska, Holly Hughes, Felix Kaputu, André Lepecki, Julie Trébault, and Lupa, moderated by Catharine R. Stimpson, as they explore issues of artistic freedom, particularly amid the global populist movement. “The declaration of Minister Gliński is clear,” Lupa said in a statement. “Artists who do not sympathize with the current leadership’s cultural policy, who criticize its values, decisions, and actions, will be treated as enemies of Poland and will not be supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in any form.” From 3:00 to about 10:00, there will be a marathon reading of Kafka’s posthumously published 1925 novel, with such special guests as Salman Rushdie, Kathleen Chalfant, Zadie Smith, and Kwame Anthony Appiah. Advance RSVP is recommended but not required; there will also be limited spots available to the public the day of the event. “Someone must have been spreading lies about Josef K, for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one morning.” And so it begins.

HENRY CHALFANT: ART vs. TRANSIT, 1977-1987

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Henry Chalfant’s train photos fill up a wall and more at Bronx Museum exhibit (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse at 165th St.
Through March 8, free
718-681-6000
www.bronxmuseum.org

In 1985, the MTA began its Arts for Transit and Urban Design program (now known as MTA Arts & Design), connecting art with public transportation. But before that, art and transit went together like oil and water; hence the name of a fab exhibit that continues at the Bronx Museum through March 8, “Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977–1987,” the title of which was also inspired by the late graffiti artist SHY147. After arriving in New York City from Pittsburgh in 1973 and beginning as a sculptor, Chalfant was quickly enamored with street art, train graffiti, and hip-hop culture and started documenting it. Since train graffiti was impermanent — in addition to the MTA relentlessly trying to clean trains, other taggers and writers would spray paint right over existing tags — his photographs often became the only evidence of the work, so much so that soon graffiti artists would call him up to ask him to take pictures of trains and buildings they’d tagged. Chalfant would go to aboveground stations such as Intervale Avenue and East Tremont on the 2 and 5 lines and take multiple photos with his 35mm camera as trains whizzed by; he would then develop the photos and splice them together to create panoramic shots of full trains.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Duster UA visits re-creation of Henry Chalfant’s SoHo studio (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

This first US museum retrospective, which was curated by Spanish graffiti artist SUSO33 for the Centro de Arte Tomás y Valiente in Madrid, includes dozens of Chalfant’s long, rectangular photographs, hung on the walls one above another, from floor to ceiling, exploding in a glorious blaze of colors and shapes, with wild lettering and cartoonish characters. Among the artists whose work he preserved on film are Dondi, Futura, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, Zephyr, Blade, Crash, DAZE, Dez, Kel, Mare, SEEN, Skeme, and T-Kid, some of whom are interviewed for a short film made by multimedia, multidisciplinary artist, producer, and chronicler Sacha Jenkins. I was fortunate enough to watch the film, which is screened continuously within a re-creation of Chalfant’s SoHo studio, alongside a graffiti artist who added biting commentary about some of the figures in the film and pointed out one of his pieces as it passed by.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Life-size cloth murals are arranged like train cars at the Bronx museum (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

In the back room, a series of wooden structures are covered with full-length cloth murals to replicate spray-painted subway cars at actual size, while dozens of Chalfant’s photos are projected at the top of a wall at one end of the room, roaring into the station, then pulling out, complete with sound effects. Also on view are some of Chalfant’s notebooks and more than a hundred photographs of the burgeoning street hip-hop culture as well as newspaper and magazine articles and other ephemera. “The story of the neglected children of NYC, victims of poverty, racism, poor schools lacking art and music instruction who overcame their circumstances with creative expression, is a powerful and inspiring one,” Chalfant says in the beautiful bilingual catalog. “There are plenty of examples in the various cultures that emerged from the mean streets of New York that have been a powerful inspiration to youth everywhere. I’m happy and proud to be bringing it home.” The catalog also features essays by Jenkins, Sharp, SUSO33, and Carlos Mare.

Chalfant, a Stanford grad whose 1984 collaboration with Martha Cooper, Subway Art, is the bible of the genre and who coproduced with director Tony Silver the seminal 1983 documentary Style Wars, did the world a great service by capturing these works of art, which turned drab silver train cars into canvases of free expression, where men and women on the margins could scream out for all to experience. Be on the lookout for such photos as “Dondi,” “EYE JAMMIE by AOne,” “Mad (by Seen),” “Style Wars by Noc 167,” and “Stop the Bomb.”

Exhibit extends past New York and into other cities where hip-hop and graffiti blossomed (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Exhibit extends past New York and into other cities where hip-hop and graffiti blossomed (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

On March 6, the Bronx Museum will host a free screening of Chalfant’s award-winning 2006 documentary, From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale; advance registration is recommended here. Also at the museum is the eye-opening “José Parlá: It’s Yours,” a major solo show by the Miami-born, longtime Bronx resident and former street artist known as “Ease”; his dazzling paintings and collages require up-close viewing to fully experience his exploration of gentrification and systemic racism while also celebrating street art and the Bronx.

THE BOOKSELLERS

The Booksellers

Rare-book dealers such as Adam Weinberger scour through private homes to find buried treasure in The Booksellers

THE BOOKSELLERS (D. W. Young, 2019)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Opens Friday, March 6
212-255-2243
booksellersdocumentary.com
quadcinema.com

“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading,” Maurice Sendak is quoted as saying in D. W. Young’s wonderfully literate documentary The Booksellers, which opens at the Quad March 6. I have to admit to being a little biased, as I work in the children’s book industry in another part of my life, and I serve as the managing editor on Sendak’s old and newly discovered works. The film follows the exploits of a group of dedicated bibliophiles who treasure books as unique works of art, buying, selling, and collecting them not merely for the money but for the thrill of it. “The relationship of the individual to the book is very much like a love affair,” Americana collector Michael Zinman explains.

Sisters Adina Cohen, Judith Lowry and Naomi Hample, owners of the Argosy Book Store, at the store on East 59th Street in Manhattan

Sisters Adina Cohen, Judith Lowry, and Naomi Hample of Argosy Book Store keep the family legacy alive

In the film, which features narration by executive producer Parker Posey, Young visits the Antiquarian Book Fair at Park Avenue Armory and speaks with a wide range of intellectual characters, including author and cultural commentator Fran Lebowitz, who relates her experiences in rare-book stores; bestselling writer Susan Orlean, who discusses her archives; leather-bound connoisseur Bibi Mohamed of Imperial Fine Books, who talks about going to her first estate sale; late-twentieth-century specialist Arthur Fournier; Nicholas D. Lowry and Stephen Massey of Antiques Roadshow, the latter of whom was the auctioneer for the most expensive book ever sold, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Hammer codex; sci-fi expert and author Henry Wessells; Justin Schiller, who worked with Sendak and other children’s book authors; Rebecca Romney of Pawn Stars; Jim Cummins, who owns some four hundred thousand books; Erik DuRon and Jess Kuronen of Left Bank Books; Nancy Bass Wyden of the Strand; and Adina Cohen, Naomi Hample, and Judith Lowry, the three sisters who own the Argosy Book Store, continuing the family legacy.

But times have changed, for both good and bad. Dealer Dave Bergman complains, “The internet has killed the hunt,” comparing the excitement of live auctions and the detective-like chase for a title to the boredom of automated online searches and bidding. However, diversity is on the rise, as explored with Kevin Young of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Caroline Schimmel, a leading collector of books by women; and hip-hop archivist and curator Syreeta Gates. “I think the death of the book is highly overrated,” Heather O’Donnell of Honey and Wax Booksellers declares. From her mouth. . . . The Booksellers, which is worth seeing solely for Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Swann Auction Galleries president Nicholas D. Lowry’s fab mustache, is screening in conjunction with the sixtieth anniversary of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, taking place March 5-8 at Park Avenue Armory. The Quad is hosting a series of Q&As opening weekend, with Young and such guests as Posey, Wyden, Romney, O’Donnell, and Nicholas D. Lowry, moderated by Eugene Hernandez and Adam Schartoff.

HOMAGE TO CHANTAL AKERMAN

Chantal Akerman

Cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton will accompany text and film by her former partner, Chantal Akerman, in special tribute at FIAF

French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall, Tinker Auditorium
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
March 6-7, $7-$14 per event, $45 full weekend pass
212-355-6100
fiaf.org

FIAF is paying homage to the life and career of filmmaker Chantal Akerman with five special programs this weekend. Friday night at 7:00, FIAF will screen Akerman’s 2011 film, Almayer’s Folly, which was based on Joseph Conrad’s first novel, followed by a conversation with actor Stanislas Merhar and French journalist Laure Adler. On Saturday at 1:00, Akerman’s 2002 film, From the Other Side, about Mexican immigration in California, will be shown. The tribute continues at 3:15 with the unique documentary Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman, made for French-German television in 1997. At 4:30, the panel discussion “Chantal Akerman’s Legacy” brings together cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton (Akerman’s former partner), screenwriter Leora Barish (Desperately Seeking Susan, Basic Instinct 2), writer-director Henry Bean (Noise, Basic Instinct 2), actor, director, writer, and Akerman student Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess, Support the Girls), and moderator Adler, with a toast at 6:00. The celebration of Akerman, who died in 2015 at the age of sixty-five, concludes Saturday night at 7:00 with “Chantal?,” a live performance by Wieder-Atherton, with works by Bartók, Janáček, and Prokofiev and originals set to Akerman’s written words and her 1968 short Blow Up My City, followed by a Q&A with Wieder-Atherton, Merhar (La Captive, Almayer’s Folly), and Adler. “I wanted to play along with her, her every move, her silences, her dancing at once burlesque and deadly serious, her anxiety as she is humming little tunes,” Wieder-Atherton explained in a statement.

THE LETTERS OF EFRATIA GITAI: A STAGED READING

efratia gitai

“IN TIMES LIKE THESE”: AMOS AND EFRATIA GITAI
MoMA, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Thursday, March 5, $8-$12, 7:00
Series continues through March 9
212-708-9400
www.moma.org
primolevicenter.org/events

In conjunction with the publication of the English-language edition of Efratia Gitai: Correspondence 1929–1994, MoMA will host “‘In Times Like These’: Amos and Efratia Gitai,” a series of events featuring the author’s son, award-winning Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai. Born in 1909 in Palestine to Russian Zionist parents, Efratia Gitai wrote letters throughout her life to Amos, her Bauhaus architect husband Munio Weinraub, and friends, sharing her views on the state of the world, from the Bolshevik Revolution and Viennese psychology to Churchill, Hitler, and kibbutzes. On March 5 at 7:00, Amos Gitai will introduce “The Letters of Efratia Gitai: A Staged Reading,” a ninety-minute presentation featuring Cannes Best Actress winner Barbara Sukowa (Berlin Alexanderplatz, Hannah Arendt) and Belgian actor and producer Ronald Guttman (Coastal Disturbances, Mildred Pierce) dramatizing the letters, which were curated by Rivka Gitai, Amos’s wife; they will be accompanied on piano by sixteen-year-old Yali Levy Schwartz. The series continues through March 9 with screenings of four of Amos Gitai’s films, Carmel, Esther, Berlin-Jerusalem, and Kedma, several of which will be introduced by the filmmaker.