Category Archives: Museums

The Restaurant at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with Beef Goulash and a Side of Bruegel

Since my last posting in November, I’ve been in Vienna, except for one quick sidetrip to Budapest. I’m back in DC now, and I’ll be posting some travel pictures over the next few weeks. Not too many, though, because my last visits to both cities were fairly recent—I spent a couple of weeks in Vienna back in 2014, and some time in Budapest just last year. You can find those earlier posts in the archives. Rather than rehash my notes on museums and galleries, I’ll probably write more about restaurants and street scenes.

One of the reasons I returned to Vienna so soon was that the Kunsthistorisches Museum was commemorating the 450th anniversary of the death Pieter Bruegel the Elder by hosting a massive Bruegel exhibition. Over the past few years, I’ve developed something of an obsession with Bruegel—with all the Bruegels, really, and there are about half a dozen notable artists in that one extended family.

But for the reasons I posted above, I’m not going to post new images from the exhibition.  I’ve already posted a selection of Breugel paintings, which you can see at these links from my last visit to Kunsthistorisches Museum and from my trip to Brussels last Spring. Instead, I’m going to focus on something almost as important.


The Café-Restaurant at the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Image found on the Web.

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
—Attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; great minds discuss restaurants.”
—Attributed to Fran Lebowitz.

With some notable exceptions, “museum food” doesn’t have a great reputation. My meal at the Kunsthistorisches was not one of those exceptions. The drink and the beef goulash were forgettable at best, but I wasn’t there for the food.

I was there for the room.

The magnificent Café at the Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the Great Rooms, the kind of place that reminds you that you’re in one of the old imperial cities of Europe.

Image found on the Web.

Image found on the Web.

Pictures don’t begin to convey the breathtakingly beauty of this room.


Oh, yeah. One other thing…

I almost forgot to mention: The Bruegel exhibition?  Oh, It was glorious!

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Return to ARTECHOUSE (with Much Better Video)

I had a delightful visit from my Left Coast brother and sister-in-law this week, which included another trip to ARTECHOUSE, to see touch experience the current “New Nature” installation.

I’ve never been able to come close to capturing the HD quality of ARTECHOUSE’s visual displays with my IPad, but I’ve found some online samples from the shows.

In “New Nature”, a side room contains “The Menagerie”, a collection of large monitors displaying fluid abstract designs. The “creatures” on screen respond to the hand movements of the person watching the monitor.

Like this:


Here’s an overview of the current installation. The main room, at the start of the video, is 24 feet high*, and the installation covers 270°.

Love this place! ARTECHOUSE has become one of my favourite hangouts in Washington.


*To put that in perspective, imagine four six-foot-tall people, standing on each other’s heads. Or imagine six four-foot-tall people, standing on each other’s heads, if that works better for you. The point is, it’s big.

Burning Man at the Renwick (2)

My earlier post about Burning Man at the Renwick took a look at the first floor of the museum and focused on artifacts. That part of the exhibition has now closed. The second floor, which will be open until 21 January 2019, is about environments.

These, uh, “things” are identified as “steel polyhedral sculptures” that “generate tension between hard geometric surfaces and soft interior illumination, promoting a sense of contemplation and awe of the inherent beauty of universal forms.”

(I made a note of the name and the description, because that’s the kind of stuff that comes up a lot in casual conversations.)

What fascinated me was the use of light and the everchanging colours. One of the “steel polyhedral sculptures” was large enough to hold several people inside.


The Grand Salon

The largest room in the Renwick is called the Grand Salon, and until the building’s most recent renovation, that was a perfectly descriptive name—it was heavy on the damask, and the walls were full of (mainly) 19th- and early 20th-century paintings by American artists.

That’s all gone now. For the Burning Man exhibition, the space was given over to David Best, the designer of many of the Burning Man “temples”.

The structure in the above picture hangs from the room’s ceiling. The photograph below, from the Renwick’s website, is a look at the full room.

At Burning Man in Nevada, these temples are among the things burned at the end of the festival.  That won’t happen to this one. The Renwick says it will be “on view indefinitely.”

David Best Temple, 2018, Rernwick Gallery, photo by Ron Blunt

David Best Temple, 2018, Renwick Gallery, photo by Ron Blunt


The Mushroom Room

Oh, this was fun!

The giant “mushrooms” changed colour and seemed to breathe and grow when someone activated them by standing of the red-circled control panel on the floor.


The “Before I Die” Room


Last stop before the exit.

The Renwick set up a room, painted black and stocked with of coloured chalk, at the end of the Burning Man exhibition. Visitors were invited to write or draw a message about what they hope to see or do before they die.

Love, travel, drugs, self-fulfillment, and the future of Donald Trump were frequently mentioned.


The Burning Man exhibition has been wildly popular. Great show!

Burning Man at the Renwick (1)

The Renwick Gallery, the branch of the Smithsonian Institution dedicated to American crafts and decorative arts, is currently presenting a knockout of an exhibition called “No Spectators: The Art Of Burning Man”.

Finally made my first visit a few weeks ago.

Entrance

“Abandon All Inhibitions, Ye Who Enter Here.”

Admission to the Renwick is free. Tickets for this year’s Burning Man Festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, ranged from $190 to $1,200.


Burning Man Haute Couture


Last year, a group called Catharsis on the Mall asked for approval to install a 45-foot-tall sculpture of a nude woman on the National Mall, near the Washington Monument. For some reason, the National Park Service rejected the application.

What we did get was this artifact at the Renwick. She’s not 45-feet-tall, but she gradually changes colour.


The Dragonmobile


The Inevitability of VR


No contemporary art installation is complete without a sampling of Virtual Reality. The monitor at the top of the picture shows a flat-screen version of what the user is experiencing in VR.

We’ve been hearing that the big VR breakthrough is just around the corner since—Let’s see now, Neal Stephenson published Snow Crash in 1992, and 2018 minus 1992 equals 26—more than a quarter-century ago. Gotta say, Oculus Rift is looking really tempting these days.

The Bayeux Westeros Tapestry

Many of the scenes from Game of Thrones are shot in Northern Ireland, where rabid fans try to anticipate the show’s upcoming storylines by charting the arrival of cast members in Belfast. (“Saw Kit Harington at St. George’s Market. That means Jon Snow is still alive!”) That has not gone unnoticed by Tourism Ireland, which has made a major effort to attract tourists in search of a taste of Westeros.

Tourism Ireland, in collaboration with HBO, has commissioned the Game of Thrones Tapestry, inspired, of course, by the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the Norman conquest. In the new, Irish version, each panel of the tapestry captures one scene from one episode of Game of Thrones. The tapestry is already 66 meters (217 feet) long. When it’s finished in 2019, after panels have been added for the episodes of GoT‘s final season, it will be longer than its prototype, at 77 meters (253 feet).

Until recently, the tapestry was on exhibition at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. It has been temporarily removed, but will be back on view when the most popular series in the world returns to HBO in April 2019.

Meanwhile, you can view the entire (so far) tapestry at this beautifully designed website.


A Sample from The Game of Thrones Tapestry

On the left, the scene in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” (S02E05) in which Catelyn and Brienne of Tarth witness Renly Baratheon’s murder at the hands of his brother Stannis’s shadowy assassin.

On the right, from “The Old Gods and the New” (S02E06), King Joffrey incites a riot at King’s Landing, in which he and Sansa are nearly killed.


A Sample from That Other Tapestry

Museum Day Is Saturday


Smithsonian Magazine’s annual Museum Day is Saturday, 22 September 2018. More than 1,600 museums, galleries, and historic sites across the country will celebrate it by offering free admission with a downloaded voucher, which you can get here. The website includes an easy-to-use search engine that lets you to quickly discover the participating museums in your area.

Lunch at Del Frisco’s — 13 August 2018

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House

The Washington branch of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse is in CityCenterDC, a couple of blocks from Gallery Place. CityCenterDC, a $950,000,000 pedestrianized complex of condominiums, apartments, upscale retail, and office buildings, is another one of those mixed-use areas that have blossomed in DC since the turn of the century.

The city really does seem to get prettier and more livable every day.

CityCenterDC

CityCenterDC

Del Frisco’s offers a contemporary take on the classic American steakhouse. The menu looked good, so I made this my first stop during the official part of 2018 Summer Restaurant Week.

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

With that “classic American steakhouse” description in mind, my choices for each course reflected the steakhouse tradition, and there’s no starter more traditional than Lobster Bisque, a marriage of poached lobster, crème fraîche, and a dash of sherry.

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon, of course. Chef delivered it herself, and invited me to cut into the steak to make sure it was cooked the way I wanted it—medium rare. It was perfect. The side was a  rich and generous serving of Château Mashed Potatoes, a Del Frisco’s specialty.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Again, what else? A steakhouse dessert had to be cheesecake. This version, with strawberry sauce and a pecan crust, was lighter than I expected it to be.

This was an excellent way to start the week.



After lunch, I resisted the strong urge to head right home and take a long nap. Instead, I walked over to the National Portrait Gallery to check out the new portrait of President Obama.

President Obama

President Obama

It’s a good portrait, but it made me a little sad.

Maybe someday we’ll once again have a President as decent, thoughtful, honest, intelligent, and sane as Mr. Obama.