A Very New York City Day, Plus Chicago

I’m back in New York and observed this by having a very New York City day with my good friend David Gerson. David, you may recall, is an old friend of my mother’s and now a very good friend of mine. 

It was his suggestion that we have a chic day at the Neue Galerie, the home of one of Klimt’s most iconic paintings “Portrait of a Lady in Gold.”

The Neue Galerie is on the Upper West Side just across the street from Central Park, but tucked away so that tourists don’t know about it. Inside, it looks like the type of place Truman Capote would go to, a high-ceilinged cafe of German and Austrian food where you can have a cappuccino in a thimble-sized mug.

After we ate our lunch, we went upstairs to see the painting. David, who knows all things art and theater, told me the story about the painting that we were about to see. 

He explained to me how the painting was stolen by the Nazis and then later returned to the rightful heiress in a massive legal battle that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. The painting had hung in an Austrian museum up until she made her claim, but Austria declared that since they were a sovereign nation, they couldn’t be sued for ownership of the painting. The U.S. Supreme Court saw it differently and it was returned to her, until she eventually sold it to the Neue Galerie in New York. 

The Austrian government was plenty ticked off about it with people saying that Klimt’s painting being removed from Austria would be like the Mona Lisa not being in France (though I hesitate to remind them that the Mona Lisa is actually an Italian painting and is only in France because Napoleon took it). 

I don’t blame her for selling the painting. You could hardly expect her to keep it over her fireplace in her living room in a New York City apartment. Try as I might, I can’t picture her telling her cleaning lady, “Oh, would you mind dusting off the Portrait of the Lady in Gold please? Thanks.”

Photo of me, taken by David Gerson

Either way, I’m glad that she chose to sell it to the German-Austrian museum because that was how I got to see it in person. Interestingly, and unlike so many of the museums I’ve been to, you can’t actually take pictures of it. To make up for it, they let you take a picture with the replica downstairs and right outside of the bathrooms. 

As if seeing a Klimt painting at an art gallery wasn’t enough, we followed this up by getting a drink at a bar and then seeing Chicago on Broadway. I had been dying to see Chicago for years at this point. David was eager to see the show because he wanted to see the drag queen, Jinkx Monsoon, perform as the warden. Being that it is one of– if not the– most iconic musical to ever hit Broadway, I leapt at his suggestion to go see it. 

Even if you don’t love musicals, you will love Chicago, simply because it is just so different. The dance moves were more like gymnastic routines with the women bending down into splits and then pulling themselves up like marionettes being controlled by puppeteers. The perfection of Fosse’s iconic choreography was on full display that night. The set pieces were minimal, as were the costumes. All of the women were dressed in black lingerie and had it been me doing the dance moves, I would have looked like an uncoordinated, half-dressed loser rolling around on the floor. 

The music and the concept behind the show were both so original. The woman who played Roxie, and is apparently a veteran performer of the role, looked as though she could have done it all in her sleep. David and I were completely blown away by her performance in a show filled with show stopping performances.

Then, as if improving my understanding of art wasn’t enough, David also improved my understanding of Broadway. Bob Fosse made Chicago, but he didn’t make Cabaret, although he did direct the movie, and The Chorus Line was made by someone else entirely. These were all things that I needed answers to. 

It was a culture-filled day of classic artwork and Broadway theater, during which I learned a bunch and ate some German and Austrian food at a posh little cafe. It was a fantastic return to New York.

I promise you, I’ll keep it up. 

The Tragic Queen,


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