This week: On art fairs, St. Ambrose, Paul Resika, Ricky Ian Gordon & more. 

Paul Resika, Allegory (San Nicola di Bari) #1, 2018 Oil on canvas. Now on view at the New York Studio School.


The Art Fair Story: A Rollercoaster Ride, by Melanie Gerlis (Lund Humphries): Melanie Gerlis, the art-market columnist for the Financial Times, admits that the “history of art fairs has been littered with as many missteps and failures as success stories.” Those stories make up the meat of Gerlis’s book, at once anecdotal and analytical. Who knew that TEFAF, the mega-fair in Maastricht, had the good luck to advertise on CNN on the same day that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait? Instructive and enjoyable, The Art Fair Story should find an audience even beyond the art-world clique. —BR


Trace & Aura: The Recurring Lives of St. Ambrose of Milan, by Patrick Boucheron, translated by Lara Vergnaud and Willard Wood (Other Press): Legend has it that shortly after his birth, the infant St. Ambrose of Milan was graced by a swarm of bees crowding on his lips—apparent proof that this Doctor of the Church was destined to speak with a honey-sweet tongue. In Trace & Aura, the French historian Patrick Boucheron undertakes a historiographical study of Ambrose, tracing out the filaments that connect the man behind such legends with the individuals and communities that sought to remember him thereby, beginning with the Christian community he left behind in Milan at his death in 397 A.D. In the English translation by Lara Vergnaud and Willard Wood, you can hear at once the voice of Ambrose and the eager buzzing of his followers. —RE


Paul Resika, Self-Portrait, 30 December #1, 1987, Charcoal on paper. Now on view at Bookstein Projects, New York

“Paul Resika: Self-Portraits, 1946–2021” at Bookstein Projects (through February 25) & “Paul Resika: Allegory (San Nicola di Bari)” at the New York Studio School (through March 6): If the classical artist begins with the past, taking lessons from the Old Masters to advance to a modern style, the modern artist might as well go the other way. This has certainly been the case for Paul Resika. The nonagenarian painter began his training with the modern master Hans Hofmann and has been advancing to more classical styles in the eight decades since. This month, Resika’s remarkable range, talent, and self-reflection are on full display with exhibitions spread across two venues. At Bookstein Projects, “Paul Resika: Self-Portraits, 1946–2021” brings together self-portraits painted between the ages of eighteen and ninety-three. Here the confluence of styles seems to span the centuries in a time-traveler’s compendium of work. At the gallery of the New York Studio School, “Allegory (San Nicola di Bari)” presents new work “derived from an obscure engraving made of a panel from an altarpiece predella (ca. 1437) by Fra Angelico.” Whether painting the quattrocento or the venticento, Resika reflects a timeless sensibility that always seems to be of the moment. —JP


The Garden of the Finzi-Continis at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, New York. Photo: Alan Chin

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, co-produced by New York City Opera and the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (through February 6): In a co-production with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, New York City Opera is presenting a limited, eight-date engagement of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, a new opera by the composer Ricky Ian Gordon and the librettist Michael Korie. The opera takes place in Italy on the eve of World War II and tells the story of a Jewish-Italian noble family who carry on their lives behind the comfort of a garden wall, believing they are immune to the harrowing changes taking place just beyond. The plot, based on the 1962 novel of the same name by the Italian writer Giorgio Bassani (a student of the noted art historian Roberto Longhi, as it happens), bears some echoes of another great Italian novel, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo(The Leopard), an elegiac tale of the twilight of the Sicilian petty nobility during the time of the Risorgimento. Fitting, then, that it was Bassani in his capacity as an editor who ensured Il Gattopardo’s posthumous publication in 1957. —IS


Artists of the New York City Ballet in Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Photo: New York City Ballet.

“Masters at Work: Balanchine & Robbins” by New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center (February 5, 8, and 10): The final act of Gounod’s opera Faust (1859) contains an often-omitted ballet sequence set during Walpurgis Night on the eve of May Day, when, according to German folklore, the souls of the dead are temporarily released to wander among the living. George Balanchine was called upon to choreograph several productions of Faust in Monte Carlo (1925), New York (1935), and Mexico (1945), but his final 1975 version for the Théâtre National de l’Opéra, danced by the Paris Opéra Ballet, has become a New York City Ballet staple since the company premiered it as an independent work in 1980. Unlike Leonid Lavrovsky’s earthy, Bacchanalian version for the Bolshoi (1941),  Balanchine’s  Walpurgisnacht Ballet, choreographed for twenty-four female dancers and a single male, is utterly feminine. The purple-clad ensemble spins and soars to Gounod’s romantic music with increasing abandon, until the dancers let their hair down (literally) in a thrilling finale. See NYCB dance Walpurgisnacht and three other pieces by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins in the “Masters at Work” program on February 5, 8, and 10.  —JC

By the Editors:

“Nanny bait.” On Mrs. Doubtfire at Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
Robert Erickson, The Spectator World Edition

New podcast:

“Music for a While #58: ‘I hate music’?” Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.

From the archives:

“Roberto Longhi remembered,” by Marco Grassi (December 2008). On the Italian art critic and scholar.


“Barber, Stoppard & more” by Nathan C. Stewart. On a recital by Renée Fleming, the Emerson String Quartet, Simone Dinnerstein, and Uma Thurman at Carnegie Hall.

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