Fall Preview

Museums

One of the current affectations among those who view art professionally is that Artist X (deceased) is "looking better and better." Except in cases of spectacular restorations, the changes actually dwell in the viewer's powers of perception, which, with luck, indeed do improve over time, especially where artists of high originality are concerned.

The objectionable phrase will no doubt be uttered with abandon this fall both at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, each of which hosts a major retrospective of an artist last honored in this fashion nearly four decades ago. At the Met, the hour has come again for Paul Signac, that underappreciated member of a vastly popular confraternity. Unfamiliar? The title of the show, Signac, 1863-1935: Master Neo-Impressionist (October 9-December 30), telegraphs most of the salient facts (except his first name). The material spans Signac's career from his early years under the influence of Monet through his subsequent association with Seurat on to his late period, where his personality becomes most distinct. MoMA pays tribute to Alberto Giacometti (October 11-January 8), best known as the sculptor of spidery, attenuated figures that charge the space around them with an aura of spooky watchfulness. This time, his paintings and drawings share equal billing, and his lesser-known work in plaster complements the familiar bronzes.

The unpredictable Guggenheim Museum, which has in recent seasons devoted blockbusters to China, the year 1900, and the motorcycle, now invites us on a spin through Brazil: Body and Soul (October 12-January 27). A Baroque altarpiece occupies the rotunda floor, but never fear: Contemporary artists are heard from, too, in vibrant, multicultural cacophony. Overlapping with this extravaganza, the Guggenheim also hosts Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People (opening on November 16). A celebration of a United States of picket fences, Mom, and apple pie as immortalized on magazine covers of the midcentury, the show herewith reaches the terminus of its triumphant, two-year-long national tour.

The Whitney Museum of American Art, true to its name and mission, gives the marquee to a pair of U.S. nationals. Alex Katz: Small Paintings (through December 2) reacquaints us with a cool, urbane poet of civilized, upper-middle-class city life. Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence (opening November 8) takes us to Harlem in the Jazz Age, which transformed Lawrence as Paris transformed Picasso.

A nostalgia trip for grandparents, time travel for the kids, a Tut's tomb for the historian of the 20th century: the Brooklyn Museum of Art presents Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960 (October 12-January 6). If the Corvette Roadster, Tupperware, and the Slinky strike you as dubious museum fare, move along to representative canvases of Jackson Pollock, who sometimes painted with a trowel; Robert Rauschenberg, cherisher of the found object; or Mark Rothko, in whom darkness grows luminous. The Zen sculpture of Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder's airy fantasies are on hand, too.

Still hungry? Niche attractions abound. A poppy or a lily in your medieval hand will be apt props for a visit to Oscar Wilde: A Life in Six Acts, a show of manuscripts, first editions, and memorabilia at The Morgan Library (through January 13). The New York Public Library displays American Originals: Treasures from the National Archives, including the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, Thomas Edison's patent application for his incandescent light bulb, and inaugural addresses in the handwriting of presidents who delivered them (October 5-January 5).

Drawings by Charles Addams: Cultural Differences (September 14-January 26), also at the New York Public Library, should prove a macabre treat for anyone who grew up with The New Yorker—or just about anyone for that matter. Hirschfeld's New York, at the Museum of the City of New York (October 13-January 27), records the Broadway scene of the past half-century through the eyes and pen of its most inspired observer.

— Matthew Gurewitsch


Radiant Symmetry

A comprehensive history of the lustrous pearl—from the earliest evidence in Mesopotamia to the latest fashions on Madison Avenue—arrives October 13 at the American Museum of Natural History. Among the 600 objects on view will be the 14.5-pound Pearl of Allah, the largest known example in the world.

The rechristened American Folk Art Museum opens on December 11 in its new 53rd Street building, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates. One of the inaugural shows, American Radiance, will feature the collection of Ralph Esmerian, the museum's chairman.


Galleries

The arena where art vies with commerce for supremacy is the New York gallery scene. Whether your fancy runs to antiquities from some distant continent or the latest ephemera from around the corner, you will find plenty to tempt you. But of course contemporary artists are the real players around here.

In the mood for food for thought? Jenny Holzer, whose fortune-cookie profundities have been chiseled into stone and flashed in lights, returns for her first New York gallery show in seven years, inaugurating the new digs of Cheim & Read (547 West 25th Street; October 17-November 17). Artemis Greenberg Van Doren shows pen-and-ink portraits from the '60s to the '80s by David Hockney, which will no doubt include some familiar faces and make the sitters feel pleasantly celebrated and, alas, a little older (730 Fifth Avenue; October 10-November 10).

Richard Serra, whose sculptures are seen this year at the Venice Biennale, will show six new pieces of heavy metal at Gagosian (555 West 24th Street; through December). Paintings from 1987 by Willem de Kooning, old master among the Abstract Expressionists, are the draw at Matthew Marks Gallery (522 West 22nd Street; November 3-December 22). At the Andrea Rosen Gallery, John Currin (anointed at the last Whitney Biennial) continues to indulge his fascination with the female nude, expressed in a fusion of "old-master" techniques and magazine-cover iconography (525 West 24th Street; November 2-December 15).

Mary Boone unveils new work by Peter Wegner, assembler of cool, subtly colored abstractions (541 West 24th Street; through October 20). His spiritual father, the estimable Sol LeWitt, turns up at Paula Cooper (534 West 21st Street; through October 13). Marian Goodman presents Gerhard Richter (24 West 57th Street; through October 27), who has recently concentrated on vivid bursts and tendrils of color but now revisits the magnetic powers of bursts and tendrils of nearly monochrome gray (in anticipation of his MoMA retrospective, in February). Next up at the same gallery is Gabriel Orozco, who transmogrifies ordinary things—a skull, a bicycle, a billiard table—into ritual objects from a parallel world.

Kid stuff or the height of sophistication? Take your pick with the irresistible sculpture of Tom Otterness, whose king-sized pennies and Lilliputian construction workers have tickled viewers of all ages in public spaces around the country. Free Money and Other Fairy Tales (through October 20) opens Marlborough's season uptown (40 West 57th Street) and at its Chelsea space (211 West 19th Street). The gallery promises a mix of Otterness classics and novelties marking "a major departure" (just what we like!).

— M.G.


Classical Music

The centennial of Giuseppe Verdi's death this year all but guaranteed that everyone's favorite opera composer would be in the limelight. The Metropolitan Opera's opening-night gala, on September 24, honored Verdi by presenting acts from Rigoletto, Otello, and Un Ballo in Maschera starring Plácido Domingo, Deborah Voigt, and Roberto Alagna, and conducted by James Levine. The celebration continues with a new staging of Luisa Miller on October 26; Valery Gergiev, the Met's principal guest conductor, leading Don Carlo on December 29; and a revival of Franco Zeffirelli's classic Falstaff production later in the season.

Richard Wagner, Verdi's great German contemporary, has only one opera in the Metropolitan's repertory this season—Die Meistersinger, opening on November 17—but the composer's admirers still have much to anticipate. The New York City Opera launched its season on September 11 with a new production of The Flying Dutchman (through October 2), young Wagner's first big success, and on October 20, starting at 6 p.m., the Chicago Symphony under Daniel Barenboim gives a complete concert performance of Tristan und Isolde in Carnegie Hall. The Chicagoans warm up for that five-hour event the evening before with Act I of the same composer's Die Walküre.

Eternally popular with audiences, less so with some superior music critics, the melodically rich, harmonically lush music of Sergei Rachmaninoff is currently receiving an unusual amount of attention, even though no special anniversary is at hand. Lincoln Center's Great Performers series led off on September 13 with the first part of a three-part series exploring Rachmaninoff's life and works: 13 events featuring orchestral, choral, instrumental, and vocal concerts by London's Philharmonia Orchestra, conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist Mikhail Pletnev, and many other notable musicians. Several rare documentary films about the composer and his great interpreters from the past will also be shown. In December, Carnegie Hall launches its own Focus on Rachmaninoff series, with a pair of concerts by the Kirov Orchestra under the aforementioned Mr. Gergiev. All the attention is bound to put a fresh perspective on this reluctant Russian émigré and enigmatic composer-pianist.

Solo recitals by the world's top musicians are, as always, in plentiful supply. Keyboard aficionados will not want to miss Maurizio Pollini (October 7), Evgeny Kissin (October 31), and Ivan Moravec (November 27) in Carnegie Hall; or Mikhail Pletnev (September 23), Peter Serkin (November 4), and Emanuel Ax (November 18) at Lincoln Center. Two eagerly anticipated vocal recitals are slated for Carnegie Hall: baritone Thomas Hampson (October 10) and soprano Renée Fleming (November 17).

For the truly adventurous: On October 28 from 2 to 8 p.m., the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival hosts a marathon by the new-music collective Bang on a Can—six hours of funky music by a global mix of composers from England to Burma.

— Peter G. Davis


Dance

New York is the glittering, provocative dance capital of the world, home to more dance theaters, performances, and innovators than any other city. One of those theaters is City Center, a major midtown dance center with must-see engagements by the Dance Theatre of Harlem (September 25-October 7), American Ballet Theatre (October 23-November 4), and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (November 28-December 31).

The Harlem company, the nation's oldest black ballet troupe (though it's long been racially diverse), makes a bold statement by opening with premieres by four homegrown choreographers, one of them the immensely gifted Robert Garland. The company will also perform Equus, based on the Broadway hit, and a version of Firebird, a Tsarist classic transplanted to a tropical forest.

The American Ballet Theatre has enlisted modern-dance choreographers to fill the repertory in recent years. Modern master Paul Taylor will be represented by Black Tuesday, a typically ironic look at the Depression. Mark Morris has contributed Gong, a mysterious, effervescent Balinese-flavored treat. Agnes de Mille's Rodeo, the much-loved story of a tomboy transformed by love, will also be performed. (The day after Thanksgiving, the New York City Ballet slips into its annual Nutcracker marathon at Lincoln Center.)

Black choreographers have arrived at last in mainstream modern dance. The charismatic Ailey dancers will perform a premiere by Ronald K. Brown and a revival by Donald Byrd. Company director Judith Jamison will celebrate the athlete Florence Griffith Joyner in another new piece.

Sooner or later, everyone dances in New York. Australian and French Canadian companies, for example, will star in mini-festivals this fall. Some of the works will be presented in two downtown theaters that also present an extraordinary variety of American ballet and modern and ethnic dance. One is the cozy, welcoming Joyce Theater; the other is the luminous little Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, one of many small, hardy crucibles that have made New York the world destination for dance.

— Jennifer Dunning

UKinNY, a fortnight of British art exhibitions, dance and theater performances, and teas at the Waldorf-Astoria, kicks off October 14. The centerpiece is Great Expectations, an interactive design show in Grand Central Terminal. www.ukinny.com.


Theater

The British aren't coming, the British aren't coming! At least, not enough of them to rule the Tonys the way they have for the last half-decade, when just about any British show that got up the steam to make it across the pond ended up a critical darling or an outright crowd-pleaser. Americans just loved imported goods, it seemed.

Judging from the fall season, though (and from Mel Brooks' Tony landslide this year with The Producers), American-made is back in style. In upcoming dramas, a new staging of Strindberg's expressionistic examination of marriage as hell, Dance of Death, will star Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren and be directed by Sean Mathias—Brits all, but in a stateside production (opens October 11 at the Broadhurst). Another 19th-century domestic downer, Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, opens October 4 at the Ambassador. Kate Burton's regional performance as the scheming title character, in this adaptation by Jon Robin Baitz, has had the kind of word of mouth that sells tickets and portends awards. When it comes to living dramatists you can't get any more American than Sam Shepard, whose most recent play, The Late Henry Moss, is now at the Signature Theatre and stars Ethan Hawke as one of two battling brothers trying to come to terms with their loner father's violent death.

On diva duty, the legendary gravel-voiced Broadway star Elaine Stritch, together with The New Yorker's venerable theater critic John Lahr, has put together a one-woman show, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, in which she'll look back on her life in the theater (from Pal Joey to Showboat to Company), tell tales, and sing like nobody else. (Begins previews at the Public Theater on October 19.)

In musicals, the long-awaited revival of Assassins, Sondheim's canny cult classic about the strange lives of such murderous characters as John Wilkes Booth, Squeaky Fromme, John Hinckley, and Lee Harvey Oswald, will open on Broadway for the first time (it was originally staged at Off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons) on November 29 at the Music Box Theater. The most daring new musical is Thou Shalt Not, based on Emile Zola's 1867 novel about infidelity, murder, madness, and suicide. It's set in New Orleans just after World War II, and though the music is by Harry Connick Jr. and it stars Craig Bierko, Kate Levering, and Debra Monk, the thing that really gives it legs is Broadway's most sought-after director, Susan Stroman. Opens October 25 at the Plymouth.

The confirmed London transfer everyone is talking about is Mamma Mia! (opens October 18 at the Winter Garden), a musical about a wedding on a mythical Greek island, built around the songs of the '70s Swedish pop group Abba. Sounds dodgy, but it's been wildly popular in the U.K.

Clare Booth Luce's 1936 satire, The Women, about a dangerous bit of gossip tossed around by a group of society ladies, kicks off the season's roster of lighter fare (on November 8, in a Roundabout Theatre staging) with a dream cast that includes Kristin Johnston, Rue McClanahan, Cynthia Nixon, Amy Ryan, Jennifer Tilly, and Mary Louise Wilson. But comedy this fall seems to belong to the family of man. The elder statesman Neil Simon has banged out another one, 45 Seconds from Broadway, set in the Polish Tea Room at the Hotel Edison, the infamous hangout for serious Broadway insiders (opening November 11 at the Richard Rodgers). Lincoln Center Theater is staging the latest from the fortysomething seriocomic playwright Richard Greenberg (who also adapted Dance of Death, above). Everett Beekin (opens November 4), starring the terrific Bebe Neuwirth, follows an American family from New York's Lower East Side in the '40s to Southern California in the '90s. The youngster playwright of the bunch, the 31-year-old David Lindsay-Abaire, has his second antically black comedy, Wonder of the World, staged by Manhattan Theatre Club, opening November 1. It stars Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker as a woman who flies the coop for adventure at Niagara Falls when she discovers that her husband has an unsavory secret. Don't ask.

— Emily Nunn


Auctions

This season, the auction houses have lined up literally star-studded paintings and sculptures, and the sales are bound to break previous price records. (Last year, the fall sales of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art by Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips racked up a stunning $492.7 million.) Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg, which long languished in a distant third place in sales, is making fast strides, and it kicks off with the sale (November 5) of the $140 million collection of the late Nathan and Marion Smooke, which is packed with iconic 20th-century French and German paintings and sculptures. Topping the list is Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele's intense 1917 Suburban House with Washing, which is expected to fetch well over $10 million. On November 6, Christie's is touting the $40 million René Gaffé Collection of modern masters by the likes of Picasso, Léger, and Miró. The house will also have exceptional Orientalist paintings on the block (October 31), including a magnificent John Frederick Lewis 1872 rendering of a Cairo bazaar, which is estimated at $2 to $3 million.

On October 10 Sotheby's is offering the collection of Frederick W. Hughes, Andy Warhol's impresario, business manager, and executor. The Warhols are ubiquitous, of course: A total of 42, including a portrait of Prince Charles and a handpainted wooden shoe, will be under the hammer. "But Hughes was the quintessential eclectic collector," says Elaine Whitmire, Sotheby's specialist. The lots include a Roy Lichtenstein portrait of George Washington, Cecil Beaton and Helmut Newton photographs, and Audubon prints. Finally, Sotheby's November 14 sale ranks as a blockbuster: the collection of Dynasty producer Douglas A. Cramer, filled with pivotal examples of modern art by Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, and Brice Marden. The 31 works are expected to fetch up to $22 million.

— Brook S. Mason


Photography

Fashion and society dominate the start of the fall photography season. The long-overdue retrospective of Helmut Newton—full of his outré fashion pictures, celebrities, and confrontational nudes—finally arrives at the International Center of Photography (through December 30). A welcome complement is the first solo fashion exhibition of Guy Bourdin (1928-91), Newton's French counterpart, who in his own French Vogue spreads explored even darker, more Surrealistic facets of sex, power, and obscure objects of desire (Pace/MacGill, 32 East 57th Street; through October 20). In Chelsea, a rare opportunity to see Larry Fink's series Social Graces (first shown at MoMA in 1978) runs through October 13 at Yancey Richardson (535 West 22nd Street). At once dramatic and banal, these black-and-white pictures of upper-class Manhattanites at play and a working-class rural Pennsylvania family still startle with their flashes of recognition.

A second motif, one that is perennially strong in New York galleries, is investigation of the landscape. At Howard Greenberg, Kenro Izu shows his platinum prints documenting sacred places, from Easter Island to the rock city of Petra to Angkor Wat (120 Wooster Street; through October 20). Lynn Davis, who has photographed her share of totemic monuments, returns to the sensual splendor of the icebergs of Greenland (Edwynn Houk, 745 Fifth Avenue; through November 3). Joel Meyerowitz, master colorist of the Cape Cod sea and sky, shows, for the first time, his work from the '70s depicting the infinite variety of light and weather conditions over lower Manhattan, as seen from his Chelsea studio (Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery, 580 Broadway; November 3-December 15).

— Andrew Long


Jazz

John Pizzarelli, the son of jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli, grew up under the critical eye of "the guy who could dock your allowance if you played the wrong chords." Soon he had absorbed the songs of Nat "King" Cole and his father's guitar repertoire. When he was 20, Bucky brought him onstage; by 1993, father and son were opening tour dates for Frank Sinatra. The Chairman of the Board took one look at the rail-thin junior Pizzarelli and bellowed: "Eat something—you look bad!"

In l998, Pizzarelli married Jessica Molaskey, a Broadway actress and singer he met when they were costarring in Dream, the Johnny Mercer musical. She didn't fatten him up—his diet continues to be American classic songs, sung with dry wit and an appreciation for their original singers, backed by his seven-string guitar, his brother on bass, and a pianist. Drums? No thanks. "Without drums, each player is so exposed," he explains. "Your time has to be 'on top' and you cannot relent." But when a song requires him to beef up the band, he adds his wife: "It's like Lucy Ricardo sneaking down to the Tropicana." Pizzarelli plays Birdland November 7-10.

— Jesse Kornbluth