The Neue Galerie is one of those museums that I've walked by several times and didn't even know how to pronounce it correctly (it's German so "noy-yah" instead of "new" as I was saying). After being alerted to the museum's First Fridays program, when the museum opens up to the public for free from 6-8 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, I decided to give it a go and start my weekend off with some culture.
Another awesome thing about smaller art museums in the city is that they all seem to inhabit remarkably interesting buildings. The Neue Galerie is housed in a Beaux-Arts style mansion built in 1914 and last inhabited by Grace Wilson Vanderbilt in the 1950s. After serving as the offices of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, it was purchased by Serge Sabarsky, an art dealer, and Ronald Lauder, of Estee Lauder, in 1994 and restored to its original state. Celebrating its ten year anniversary this year, the museum opened as a center for German and Austrian art in 2001. Walking into the building, I like to imagine myself living in a mansion like that and what it must have been like. The architects who restored the Neue Galerie took great pains to keep everything original, even converting the dining room into a fully-functioning restaurant, Cafe Sabarsky, that packed quite the crowd on Friday night.
Sadly, after arriving and checking my coat, I learned that the museum was in installation and only had two rooms open for viewing of their permanent collection. However, I thankfully arrived right when a curator-led tour began and I learned a lot of interesting factoids. The main artists featured are from the early 1900's Germany and Austria -- including Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimpt and Oskar Kokoschka. Schiele has this thing for bony fingers which is quite disturbing, but did some really interesting landscapes. Klimpt's infamous painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (infamous because it was stolen by the Nazi's, restituted to it's proper heirs, but then sold to the museum in 2006), is beautiful and on display with sculptures it was presented alongside with a hundred years ago. The gallery also displays three gorgeous clocks made with precious materials and intricate decoration.
After leaving the museum, my friends and I decided to make it a theme night and had dinner at Heidelberg on 2nd Avenue. Between the bratwurst, sauerkraut, spaetzle and mug of beer, dinner was delicious and a definite new experience. I would highly recommend combining the two activities for a date-night or casual friends outing.
The schedule of First Fridays is on the Neue Galerie website. For March, the museum will be fully open and attendees will get to tour the latest exhibition Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900. I plan to go back and see what the rest of the museum has to offer. Have you been to the Neue Galerie? What do you think?