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Turning Road at Montgeroult
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/Paul CezanneTurning Road at Montgeroult

The 12 coolest things not currently on display in NYC museums

Written by
John Marshall

One of the biggest advantages of living in (or visiting) this city is access to the art museums. And it’s certainly a gift to be able to see master works in the best museum exhibitions—but what happens to the city’s best paintings when they’re taken off the wall? Sometimes they go into storage, sometimes they move to a different country and sometimes they disappear forever—find out where our favorite art formerly on display in New York has gone (and hope it comes back soon).  

1. Three Flags, Jasper Johns, at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Jasper Johns is most famous for his 1954 painting Flag, a rustic depiction of the Star-Spangled Banner that he said came to him in a dream. Three years later, he created Three Flags, a further mimesis on the same subject—one that deconstructs the American flag as a symbol and accentuates its aesthetic merits in a single artistic gesture.

2. Turning Road at Montgeroult, Paul Cézanne, at the Museum of Modern Art

When we think of Paul Cézanne, we often think of apples greeting our eyes—he’s probably best known for his fruity still-life paintings. But this piece doesn’t fit that bill: In contrast, it’s a moody rendering of a house on a hill. This was the last painting Cézanne made while in the small French village of Montgeroult before he returned to his hometown of Aix-en-Provence, where he would reside until his death in 1906.

3. Mummy of Nesiamun, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ancient Egypt produced remarkable pieces of art with remarkable consistency; their rigidly standardized style persisted for several millennia with very few changes. Their ornate ritual burials were no exception, and the Mummy of Nesiamun (712–525 B.C.) is a continuation of thousands of years of tradition. As this sarcophagi and its mummy were crafted during the Late Period, the Ancient Romans would have been riding around in chariots, touring the pyramids of Giza—which were already impressively old then—at the same time.

4. Frenetic Gossamer, Martin Soto Climent, at Frieze Art Fair

For a project called Frenetic Gossamer, Martin Soto Climent transformed tights (yes, like for legs) into a dreamy design resembling a spider-web. The Frieze Art Fair comes to New York each summer on Randal’s Island, but it only spans a few days. Martin Soto Climent most recently presented a piece at Art Basel in Miami.

5. Green, Yellow and Orange, Georgia O'Keeffe, at the Brooklyn Museum

In this, one of Georgia O'Keeffe’s earliest works, she melds landscape and abstraction together. Whether you see a ribbon, a winding river or just a warm blend of meandering colors is up to you. The universal effect seems to be one of absorption—it’s hard not to be taken in by this painting’s evocative mood.  

6. Madonna and Child, Andrea di Bartolo, at The Frick Collection

Andrea di Bartolo, the son and student of big-name painter Bartolo di Fredi, created paintings and stained glass with mostly religious themes during the late 14th century in Siena, Italy. The medium of Madonna and Child was tempera, also known as egg tempera, a kind paint that relies on egg whites as a main ingredient. Who’d have thought your omelet would have so much in common with religious iconography from the early Italian Renaissance?

7. Icarus, plate VIII from Jazz, Henri Matisse, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The lively dynamism of Matisse’s cutouts is instantly recognizable, and this playful silhouette, part of his book and series Jazz, is no exception. While the mythical Icarus provides a cautionary tale about flying too close to the sun, this piece portrays the obvious merits of dancing beneath the stars.

8. A Strange New Beauty, Edgar Degas, at the Museum of Modern Art

Edgar Degas is best known as an experimental painter and a dedicated chronicler of ballet. Degas’ paintings, sketches, and prints captured the spirit of urban life at the end of the 19th century (and the beginning of Impressionism).

9. Dielectrix I: Division Electrophorus, Max Hooper, at Team Gallery

Max Hooper’s installation Dielectrix I: Division Electrophorus includes lighting that is controlled by the jolty whims of electric eels on display in a specially modified tank. This piece was on display in Chelsea at the Team Gallery during October of 2016, but has since closed. Hooper, who is based in LA, plans to roll out another two parts for his Dielectrix Series, which are slated to include ghost fish and electric catfish.

10. Graffiti is a Crime, Banksy, at 18 Allen Street

It’s in the nature of street art to be temporal; Graffiti is a Crime has now been painted over either by the building’s owners or the city. But if you want to see one of Banksy’s works immortalized in New York, head to the UWS and check out the mural that Saul Zabar elected to permanently protect behind laminate (right across from Zabar’s). 

11. Agnes Martin Retrospective, at the Guggenheim

Martin’s serene paintings rely on abstract images (mostly grids and stripes) to evoke abstract ideas—things like love, beauty and freedom. Until January 11, her work dominated the atmosphere at the Guggenheim. (Martin’s works are now on display at the Tate Modern in London.)

12. Manifesto, Julian Rosefeldt, at Park Avenue Armory

This multimedia was a mashup made from snippets of manifestoes by aesthetic rebels. Thirteen large, luminous screens displayed images that complimented the language, which was read by Cate Blanchett. Next, Rosefeldt is scheduled to install works at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam in June 2017. 

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