Books Music Video Enter keywords...
Museums and Exhibitions in New York City and Vicinity
| Home | | Museum Guide | | International | | Architecture & Design | | Theater |


Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
[01] Prestel Verlag & Its Art Books
[02] America in 19th Century Painting
[03] Ideas of the COSMOS
[04] Maria Merian's Nuremberg Flowers
[05] Libeskind's Berlin Jewish Museum
[06] EXPO 2000's Hall 13
[07] Arcimboldo's Fruity Faces
[08] Gustav Klimt & His Women
[09] Edward Hopper's America
[10] Chagall's Arabian Nights
[11] Georgia O'Keeffe at Ghost Ranch
[12] Trendy New York & London MAX City Guides

You can use your browser's "find" function to skip to articles on any of these topics instead of scrolling down. Click the "FIND" button or drop down the "EDIT" menu and choose "FIND."
Copyright © 1999 Glenn Loney.

For a selection of Glenn Loney's previous columns, click here.

Special Subjects from Prestel Verlag—

Among the major publishers of art-books and museum-catalogues, the Munich-based firm of Prestel Verlag is outstanding in both the quality of its reproductions and the excellence of its accompanying texts.

Its volumes are always handsomely designed, printed on the best papers, and strongly bound for long life and frequent use. Because it was initially oriented toward European tastes and interests, its backlist includes some fascinating subjects, themes, artists, and movements little represented in American arts publishing.

Some readers may be concerned that comparable—even competitive—books of other publishers are not reviewed here. That is only because other publishers do not make their lists available for review to New York Museums/Curator's Choice.

AMERICA: The New World in 19th-Century Painting, edited by Stephen Koja. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 296 pp., with 227 full-color and 100 black-and-white illustrations.

The large format and excellent color reproductions of major—and some minor—American paintings make this a most handsome and inviting volume for display, study, research, and uncomplicated visual enjoyment.

But if you merely put it out on the coffee-table to impress friends—or leaf through it to admire the unique native genius of many American painters—you will be missing something very special about the selection of images and the thought-provoking essays—which seek to explicate paintings and painters in a new light.

This book didn't just happen. It isn't another survey-compendium of 19th Century American Art History.

It is effectively the catalogue of an impressive recent Austrian—not American—exhibition in Vienna. Sharing the title of this book, the wide-ranging show was hung in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere.

Actually, the show spanned more than a century, from the close of the 18th Century to World War I. The premise of show and book is that a distinctively American form of art was emerging over the last century.

This is well documented, illustrated, and examined in the book. Despite the psychic and intellectual debts many American artists owed to their travels in Europe, training in such centers as Rome, Munich, and London, or consciously imitating European painters, subjects, and styles, a great many of them used their talents and training to explore the American Experience.

In genre paintings, portraits, and landscapes, various distinctively American themes, subjects, and scenes were recreated in oils and suggestively interpreted visually.

The special ways in which American artists looked at a farming-scene, the majesty of Yosemite Valley, raftsmen on a river, a solitary sunset, or "Noble Savages" made their own comment on aspects of Americans, their lives, their attitudes, and their land.

Often, people—especially experts—removed from an object, event, or place can evaluate it from reports or representations in quite different ways than those who are too close. Perhaps some American art-historians and even American art-lovers are too close to, or too familiar with, this subject to see it from a modern European perspective.

Even as America fought free from Britain, even as Daniel Boone and other pioneers helped open the West, the mystery of the American Wilderness and the Myth of the West fascinated Europeans. As it still does, in some measure, today, when it seems as romanticized as some of the great 19th century American paintings celebrating this untamed land and spirit.

With the rise of industry and great commercial cities—often at the expense of nature, agriculture, and a simpler way of life—new myths and values arose which are also celebrated in vintage American paintings. These modern ideas, constructs, and images were also of great interest to Europeans because America was replacing Europe as a model.

The essays in this volume will surely provide some new ideas about famous canvases and what they reveal. As well as food for thought about famed painters such as the Peales, Asher Durand, Frederic Church, George Catlin, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, George Inness, and Childe Hassam.

For balance, the essayist-experts come from both sides of the Atlantic. And there is a form of Time-Line in the back of the book, relating developments in industry, politics, society, and science to the arts in both America and Europe. This will help serious readers and students to put the artworks and their creators in a societal context.

Of special interest—and not to be found easily in many American reference-works—are four historical maps of the United States. One shows early European colonies or territories. Others show its territorial expansion, usually at the expense of Native Americans.

COSMOS: From Romanticism to the Avant-garde, edited by Jean Clair. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 396 pp., with numerous full-color and black-and-white illustrations.

This huge—and hugely interesting—volume is so heavy that you won't want to curl up and read it in bed or in a window-nook. It needs a good solid desk or table to support it, so you can spread open its often colorful and certainly fantastic pages.

You will surely want to study its fairly sparse texts, as well as study its paintings, photos, and designs intently. The texts draw all the diverse visuals together. They help explain how and why the illustrations were chosen by the curators of what was initially a grand exhibition on the idea of the Cosmos.

So the book is the catalogue of the show of the same name. This was recently on view in Montreal, at the Museum of Fine Arts.

If you read this report after 23 November—and before 20 February 2000—you still have time to see the actual exhibition. It will be on view in Barcelona, at the Center of Contemporary Culture.

Jean Claire's provocative essay, "From Humboldt to Hubble," opens the volume. It's also the subtitle of the exhibition and its catalogue, which explore the idea of the Cosmos.

And of an expanding human sense and imagination of the Universe, beginning, interestingly enough, with the discovery and exploration of the American Wilderness. That this is also a major feature of the book noted above is not mere accident.

The Romantic vision of the Americas, from a European perspective, was rather like exploring the Unknown. An Unknown on our own planet, true, but still a mysterious territory, a kind of cosmos-in-miniature about which artists could dream and scientists speculate.

But with the fantasies of 19th century French novelists—as well as the discoveries of modern astronomers and the projections of Italian Futurists and Soviet Suprematists—visions of worlds beyond our own began to proliferate.

Some were obviously and wondrously grandiose artistic imaginings: Surreal Cities and Airborne Architectures. Others were initially scientific speculation, later expanded and verified by telescopic explorations and space-travel.

It's all here in one book. And in Montreal and Barcelona, all in one show—borrowed from collections and collectors in many nations and from scores of museums and galleries.

The 19th century paintings, sketches, and photos of the earth's then remaining wildernesses—mountains, valleys, redwood giants, lava-flows, icebergs, glaciers, and similar natural wonders provide a strong contrast to the later images of an expanded Cosmos, one extending outward into infinite space.

This is a book for almost everyone: for questioning kids and nostalgic seniors, for Art-lovers, Scientists, Surrealists, Futurists, Star-Trekies, and UFO Conspiracy Theorists.

MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN: New Book of Flowers. Epilogue by Thomas Bürger. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 96 pp., with 36 facsimile color illustrations.

This handsome book reproduces Maria Merian's original three hand-colored volumes of flowers, published in Nuremberg from 1675 to 1680. They are—and were in their own time—remarkable for the artful way Merian arranged her closely-observed and carefully detailed images of popular garden flowers.

Instead of rigid and exact representations of botanical specimens, as was the rule among scientists and illustrators, Merian depicted her blooms more sensuously. Often, she added interest to roses, peonies, or lilies with a butterfly, caterpillar, or dragonfly.

A stem of pansies even features a cobweb and spider. Her great garden-poppy is set off by some bellflowers and a nosy bullfinch, poking his beak into the poppy-pod.

In an age when women artists were almost unknown—and it was difficult even for a male artist to make a living—Maria Sibylla Merian survived, raised her daughters, prospered, and even became famed as an artist and scientist in her own time.

She inherited a famous name—and surely his talent—for her father was Matthäus Merian the Elder. His many engravings of views of noted European cities and towns were the only images many people had of these distant places.

Authentic Matthäus Merian city-view engravings are prized collectors' items today. I collected some myself in the mid-1950s.

But Maria Sibylla Merian's bound volumes of flower and insect engravings are a distinct rarity.

Her insect images, published in her Book of Insects, after she returned from three years in the Dutch South American Colony of Surinam, impressed men of science for her accuracy, detail, and artful representations of new kinds of insects.

It was also impressive that she dared to cross the Atlantic and conduct her research on the then edge of civilization.

In addition to the excellent reproductions, Thomas Bürger's epilogue is both an informative and eloquent portrait of this greatly talented and courageous woman and artist.

It's worth noting that the flower plates were primarily intended as models for her classes of female painting students. Or as ladies' needlepoint patterns. Their success as artworks and scientific illustrations was an almost unexpected bonus.

DANIEL LIBESKIND: Jewish Museum Berlin—Between the Lines. Text by Bernhard Schneider. With a preface by Libeskind & photos by Stefan Müller. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 64 pp., with many color photos and selected architectural drawings.

Daniel Libeskind's new Jewish Museum in Berlin's Kreuzberg district is an architectural sculpture that does not want anything inside it.

Except its own futurist voids and the unseen, unheard desperate memories of Berlin's vanished Jews.

But it is not just another Holocaust Memorial. It is much more than that—though the dark shadows of Holocaust memories take on imposing physical form.

For Libeskind, the museum looks backward into the Jewish Past in Berlin, while also conscious of the Jewish Present, and the undefinable, unpredictable Future.

German-Jews have long had an important role in the economic, social, and cultural life of the nation's capital. That continuity is recalled metaphorically in the unconventional design of the gleaming new building.

This most unusual design—in its way as revolutionary as the architectures of Frank Ghery—was chosen in competition just as the two long-divided halves of Berlin were reunited. It is an apt symbol of New Beginnings.

All over Berlin—which will soon become the economic capital of the European Union—impressive Post-Modernist and post-Post-Modernist buildings are sprouting out of once barren ground.

But Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum sets a standard of innovation and ingenuity in its external volumes and internal voids which will be difficult to match or exceed.

Perhaps the most arresting feature of its multi-faceted zigzag exterior walls is the striking fenestration: Long thin window-slits—slanting or slashing across the zinc-clad walls—deliberately avoid horizontal or vertical orientations.

Other larger window ensembles resemble the oddest of geometric figures—many with very sharp angles, for they don't ultimately have to add up to 360°.

Inside the as yet empty halls and passages, these windows create bold, abstract geometric sculptures of glass and light. As shown in the photos in this volume, their power—and that of the cubic volumes they illuminate and adorn—would be greatly diminished, even destroyed, by hanging as much as one canvas or siting one free-standing sculpture.

But the shaping of the inner spaces—with floors, walls, and ceilings—also creates strange unconventional volumes. The splendid photographs may suggest visual effects that will not be experienced by others. Or by anyone, once exhibits are in place.

Last summer, when I was in Berlin, I wanted to photograph at least the exteriors. But I was told that the building was not ready.

Seeing this book, I now regret that I didn't at least try for some shots with my telephoto lens. I decided I'd wait until the exhibits were in place. Now I'm planning to combine a trip to EXPO 2000 in Hanover with a journey to the Libeskind Museum in Berlin.

It's interesting that the ultra-modern museum adjoins the historic baroque Collegienhaus and is near another great monument of Modern Architecture, Erich Mendelssohn's German Metalworkers' Union Building.

The rest of Kreuzberg—now a Turkish enclave—has little of note. The Museum is sure to make it a major Berlin Destination, and not only for Jewish Survivors and their descendants.

Berliners will need to make regular pilgrimages here, to remember not only the Holocaust, but also what German-Jews have meant to their city, their nation, and to German Culture in general.

It's an interesting footnote that both Libeskind and Mendelssohn were Professors of Architecture at UC/Berkeley. [As the Science Editor on The Daily Californian, I interviewed Mendelssohn back in 1947.]

Once a virtuoso musician, Libeskind turned to architecture, earning his degree in New York City at Cooper Union. He has taught at Harvard, Yale, UCLA, Chicago, Cranbrook, and of course in Europe.

His prose is as orphic and metaphoric as his architecture. So it is very good that the photographs show so clearly what Libeskind's quotes veil and mystify.

Sample Quotation: "The Jewish Museum is based on the invisible figures whose traces constitute the geometry of the building. The ground on which this building stands is not only the apparent one in Kreuzberg, but that other one which is both above and beneath it."

Or: "The Jewish Museum has a multivalent relation to its context. It acts as a lens magnifying the vectors of history in order to make the continuity of spaces visible."

Clearly, Daniel Libeskind—both as an innovative architect of metaphors and a moral philosopher—is not a talent to be taken lightly.

HALLE 13 EXPO HALL/Ackermann und Partner, edited by Peter Ackermann. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 64 pp., with many color photos and selected architectural drawings.

In a few months, EXPO 2000 will open in Hanover. As the first World's Fair of the New Millennium, it is expected to offer wide-ranging visions of the world of this socially uncertain but technically advanced Future.

Unlike such great expositions as those in Chicago—the Columbian of 1893, Saint Louis in 1904, and San Francisco in 1915, Hanover won't flaunt any grandiose lath-and-plaster palaces. Those evanescent wonders of Victorian and 20th Century World's Fairs melted rapidly away in harsh winters and scalding sun.

Recent World's Fairs, like those in Seville and Lisbon, seek to dazzle with the latest ideas in building-design and the most advanced technology in construction and operation.

Excepting the deliberately symbolic—and even bizarre—National Pavilions, most fair-architecture is now expected to long outlast the exposition and accommodate varied needs afterward.

Hanover fairground architecture is no exception, especially as some of the more interesting buildings are already in use as part of the annual Hanover Trade Fair.

This slickly-styled book documents the design and construction of Ackermann & Partner's winning entry in the competition to create a Hall 13, connecting to the existing Hall 12 on the grounds of the Hannover Deutsche Messe.

The theme of EXPO 2000 is "MAN-NATURE-TECHNOLOGY."

The Ackermann plan was found to meet all those vague criteria. With its immense expanse of window-walls, flooding the vast space with natural light, plus its climate-controls, Man can feel at ease in the great area.

Whether the event is a booth-filled floor at a Trade Fair or an international tennis-match—not to overlook the arena-seating set-ups for concerts and performing-arts—Man will be comfortable.

There are no "obstructed views," for the thoroughly trussed ceiling rests on only eight points on peripheral cores.

Because the building has been designed with a view to using Passive Solar Energy—among other environmentally-friendly adjustments—Nature will be served, as well as Man.

And Technology, EXPO's Third Mantra, is everywhere evident in Ackermann's plans and the finished structure.

An internal restaurant has a system of modestly decorative, glare-reducing wooden-shutters. These are made of horizontal wooden rods, through which one can see and light can pass. The shutter-panels can be raised and jack-knifed to form a canopy over tables outside the restaurant.

With such a vast expanse of glass-cladding on the building exterior, a different system of aerodynamic horizontal blinds has been designed to control natural light during the day.

As with so many modern German buildings, these are on the outside—not the inside—of the building. This looks very stylish. But…

Given the levels of air-pollution in most German cities, however, the surfaces of such blind-blades—whether suspended vertically or horizontally—soon become filthy and almost impossible to clean.

On those buildings which are outfitted outside their windows with conventional metal venetian-blinds in metal frames, wind, rain, snow, ice, and sun often wreck the blinds. Or make them incapable of being raised and lowered.

Obviously, most of these trendy architects have never had to maintain and service the structures they design. Or work in the office-spaces they have created and deal with the exterior blinds.

They certainly haven't had to clean all those tiny windows which are now so popular in Germany in Post-Modernist office-blocks. These are specified instead of great windows of superstrong glass—which are much easier to clean.

Ackermann & Partner's innovations and adaptations of existing technologies will be of special interest to Engineers, Architects, Designers, Developers, Construction-Foremen, CEOs, and even Cultural Historians.

The general reader—while he or she should be impressed with the photos of this great hall in construction and in use—will probably find the technical discussions too complicated to sustain interest.

But even a glance at the book should arouse interest in going to Hanover to see Hall 13 and the rest of EXPO 2000!

HELLO, FRUIT FACE! The Paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, by Claudia Strand. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 28 pp., with more than a score of color reproductions.

This is another in Prestel's charming children's series of Adventures in Art. But even grown-ups can appreciate the quality of the large reproductions of some of Arcimboldo's curious masterpieces.

Painted for three generations of the Habsburg Court, Arcimboldo's unusual facial portraits are made up of fruits, vegetables, flowers, animals, and natural materials. In this colorful book, his Four Seasons and Four Elements are featured.

Under Maximilian II in Vienna and, later, under the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II—who moved the Imperial Court to the medieval fortress-castle of the Hradschin in Prague—Arcimboldo was not only Court Painter, but also the master of festivals and entertainments. [The offices of Czech President Vaclav Havel are now in the great Hrad.]

This background information is briefly reprised among lively questions and helpful comments about the artworks, directly addressed to young readers. These not only do much to explain an art form, an age, and a society in very few words, but the fine quality of the illustrations introduce young reader-viewers to artworks most handsomely.

GUSTAV KLIMT: Painter of Women, by Susanna Partsch. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 120 pp., with many full-color reproductions, sketches, and black-and-white illustrations.

Fin-de-siècle Vienna has already had its centenary. It has been spread over the past decade—in impressive exhibitions, seminars, programs, films, and books in Austria and America. Not to overlook nations in between.

One of the most comprehensive and strikingly designed of the shows was Traum und Wirklichkeit—Dream and Reality—in Vienna. Elements of this handsome exhibition were later shown in Edinburgh, London, and New York.

In almost every show, seminar, and publication—along with such greats as Otto Wagner, Kolo Moser, and Josef Olbrich—the name and work of Gustav Klimt have had a well deserved and prominent position.

His jewel-like portraits of fashionable Viennese ladies and his sinuously erotic paintings, awash in fields of gold, have made him widely popular. Klimt calendars—featuring such images as The Kiss, Judith, and Fulfillment, or the portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer and Fritza Reidler—are now an annual event, eagerly collected.

So there's always interest in another book with reproductions of Klimt's works. But this volume is much more than that—although it does offer an impressive selection, including sketches and photos, in its relatively small format.

If you've ever seen one of those photos with Klimt—and his great good friend Emilie Flöge—in long smocks or caftans, you might have wanted to know more about the painter of such erotic images and of such haughty and beautiful women.

If you knew he never married and lived at home with his mother, that might make you even more curious. To discover that his lifelong attachment to Emilie was probably platonic—but that he fathered, acknowledged, and supported children by other women—could increase your interest.

Susanna Partsch aptly suggests that Klimt was one of the Hippies of his era.

He, Emilie, and others of their circle wanted to break free of the stifling bourgeoise conventions of Turn-of-the-Century Viennese society. Those social, intellectual, and emotional restraints that had put the psychoanalyses of Dr. Sigmund Freud on the international cultural and medical map.

For Klimt—as for artists, designers, and architects of the Vienna Secession—this meant a break with past Academic traditions and conventions in the arts. It meant new life-styles, new marital arrangements, and even new freer clothing—such as smocks!

This handsome book puts Klimt and his works in context, and it provides a portrait in words of a man who is still something of a mystery.

Though he trifled with poor models, did he dare to have an affair with his wealthy client, Adele Bloch-Bauer? Was she his model for Judith?

Did he try to seduce Alma Mahler-Werfel? If so, did he succeed?

As the satiric lyricist Tom Lehrer has pointed out in song, the amazing Alma managed to snare Walter Gropius, Oscar Kokoshka, and Alexander Zemlinsky, as well as husbands Gustav Mahler and Franz Werfel.

What was her secret?

You won't find that out in Susanna Partsch's book, but you will discover a great deal about Klimt, his art, his theories, and his women.

EDWARD HOPPER: Portraits of America, by Wieland Schmied. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 128 pp., with many full-color illustrations.

This is a wonderful paperbound volume in Prestel's Pegasus Library Series. As in almost all Prestel art books, it's worth having for the color plates alone.

The works chosen are selective, but also definitive, thanks to Wieland Schmied's insights into each landscape or scene. And to his general understanding of Hopper as a painter and interpreter.

It's to be expected that a foreign critic—Schmied is a Munich curator and art-expert—would be able to show Americans their own artists and their art-works in a new light. Distance, it's often said, lends enchantment.

In this case, however, Schmied's understanding—as he explicates surfaces and subtexts in each canvas—is impressively "American" in its insights.

He doesn't treat Hopper's lonely, almost empty, landscapes—or his forlorn and often desperate people—as exotic or alien. As something quite apart from European experience and convention.

One of the reasons for this—although he may know America very well first-hand—is that his consideration of Hopper is as primarily an extremely talented painter. Rather than as merely a recorder or interpreter of an American Scene which was already fading in World War II.

Hopper's friend and colleague Charles Burchfield—quoted by Schmied—insisted that only in America could such paintings have come into being. But Burchfield saw a more Universal quality in Hopper's work.

Though rooted in, and inspired by, distinctly American scenes and conditions, the essential interest in the Human Condition enabled Hopper's paintings to speak to an international audience.

Schmied notes the difficulty of defining Hopper's Americanness and his Uniqueness. For Schmied, there is a timeless quality in Hopper's works, even though they are inspired by an American experience which is no more.

Schmied's fascinating analyses of individual paintings—which also reveal much about Hopper's working-methods, subjects, and interests—make very clear that Hopper was not just a Realist. Nor an American Regionalist. And certainly not one of the WPA Art Deco Post Office Mural gang.

He aptly quotes from Burchfield's tribute to Hopper—which emphasizes that Hopper was first and foremost a painter, not only an interpreter: "He is the pure painter, interested in his material for its own sake, and in the exploitation of his idea of form, color, and space division…"

MARC CHAGALL: Arabian Nights—Four Tales from A Thousand and One Nights, with an introduction by Norbert Nobis. Munich/New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999. 163 pp., with many full-color reproductions and some black-and-white illustrations.

Many readers will immediately recognize some of the dazzling color lithographs in this handsome book. Even for those who do not—but who are familiar with Marc Chagall's distinctive imagery—here are fowls, fish, and fiddlers galore.

For those who know these illustrations only as individual artworks, seeing them again—but this time in the context of the four tales from The Arabian Nights which inspired them—should make them even more resonant and meaningful.

The translations are the classic ones of Sir Richard Burton, floating along on waves of thees, thous, thines, quoths, betooks, and atoyings.

Rereading the tales is a great joy—especially with the accompaniment of the glowing jewel-like colors of Chagall's plates. It's a bit like reading Shakespeare and the King James Version in service of some alien oriental fantasy.

This volume would make a fine gift for lovers of both art and literature. For those with very subtle intellects and deft understandings, it might even help explain Intifada.

From te Neues Publishing:

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE AT GHOST RANCH: A Photo-Essay, by John Loengard. New York: te Neues, 1999. 79 pp., with numerous black-and-white photos.

This is a very small book about two larger-than-life subjects: the distinguished but reclusive American painter, Georgia O'Keeffe, and the desert land of New Mexico which she loved so much.

Loengard's stark and strongly-contrasted photos—taken over three days, on assignment for LIFE magazine years ago—are ordered as a day in O'Keeffe's life, from sunrise to sunset.

He has subtly captured both the beauty of the desert and of the aged O'Keeffe herself. Even glimpses of the artist's guarded warmth and brooding mystery.

These simple but evocative compositions remind once again of how much more powerful black-and-white images can be than photographs in color.

Brief quotations from O'Keeffe illuminate her feelings about her homes at Ghost Ranch, about the desert and its bleached bones, but very little about art. Loengard's brief comments on his time with O'Keeffe is also illuminating.

Someone at te Neues should have proof-read the introductory page. There are a few computer-glitches. Of the kind that you may also find in this column, when it's late for deadline.

NEW YORK: A Max City Guide. New York: te Neues, 1999. 99 pp., with 500+ color photos & graphics, plus folded map inside cover. Paper—$10.95.

LONDON: A Max City Guide. New York: te Neues, 1999. 99 pp., with 500+ color photos & graphics, plus folded map inside cover. Paper—$10.95.

These lively & colorful pocket-guides are great for trendy young travelers who want to be Where It's At while it's happening. Sparely edited to some 400 entries—many of them illustrated—the guides are ideal for the first-time tourist with only a week or a weekend for exploring the cities.

Standard sections in the series include Intros to the cities, Shopping, Night Life, Food, Culture, Sports, Sightseeing, and Living—with lodgings from Rooms at the Top to the YMCA.

The accent is on Celebrity Culture, with many zippy comments on the places the stars & youth-heroes gather to feed, rampage, and be seen. The graphic design is striking, highlighting what's really important. There are great photos of the young & famous—and also of the kind of people you can expect to meet in the streets, shops, and clubs.

Even middle-class Middle-Agers and Seniors—who think they already know these cities—are going to be surprised at what they've missed. When they leaf through the guides, they'll surely wake up and smell the coffee!

Paris and London Max City Guides have been added to the series. Other major cities are sure to follow because the listings are so easy to use, so concise, so attractive, and so carefully selected.

Les Guides Michelins, it's true, are now the most comprehensive. But they are also the most bulky, hard-to-use, long-winded, and conservative. These guides are best for those older & more serious tourists who are going to be in a city or an area for some weeks and plan to explore every nook and cranny.

Instead of Michelins, I now prefer the Dorling-Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guides. These are crammed with color photos—usually over 700 of them, maps showing major routes & sites, diagrams of castles & natural wonders, festivals, pubs, museums, hotel-listings, historic & current attractions, restaurants, and you-name-it.

The Eyewitness series often list, depict, and describe important natural features or monuments which are not to be found in their Michelin counterparts. I recently toured Ireland with both guides and found Eyewitness far superior in range, content, organization, and presentation.

The Eyewitness motto is: "The Guides that show you what others only tell you." The publishers have a web-site:

The disadvantage for the young and impatient is that they are perhaps too comprehensive. They tell you more than you may want to know.

And—although they look like they could fit into a pocket—it would have to be a very big and sturdy one. Because they are printed on fine coated paper—unlike the Michelins—my Eyewitness Ireland is heavier than the Michelin. But I carry it in my camera-bag, not in my pocket.

The Max City Guides have the advantage over the competition in their compactness, selectivity, trendiness, and brief but interesting entries. Even seasoned New Yorkers will discover new places to go in their own city! [Loney]

Copyright © Glenn Loney 1999. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, Curator's Choice." Reproduction rights please contact:

Return to Curator's Choice Table of Contents