It’s the comeback of the year. Pardon my exaggeration, but the National Academy Museum has always held a fond place in my heart since I first visited in the mid 1990s. A block or so north of the Guggenheim, it’s one of those unsung jewels that, because of its size, tends to get overlooked on Museum Mile. Its recent past is a touch ignoble: a few years ago the museum was censured by the Association of Museum Directors when it sold two paintings from the Hudson River School to assuage its financial difficulties.
The dark days are over. The museum now reemerges after renovations; this weekend the public will be admitted free to celebrate. They’ll be greeted by a new lobby (gone is the cluttered gift shop), a reconfiguration of both the permanent collection and the physical layout of its art school, and a freshening of architectural detail that honors its elegant past while firmly solidifying its place as a now destination for those interested in the history of American art. The opening exhibition is Will Barnet at 100 and it’s a honey. But go for seminal works by Thomas Cole, Richard Estes and other masters of American painting and sculpture. And did I mention that this weekend it’s free?
Speaking of Americans, the Alexander Hamilton House is re-opening on 141st Street for the first time in five years. What a beautiful day in my neighborhood: some may recall that in 2008, this landmark was moved from its original site on a flatbed truck to its present location. At noon today visitors can go inside and wander its pastoral lawn, making Hamilton Grange a lovely companion to the Jumel Mansion 20 blocks to its north. Take the C local to 135th Street and walk a few blocks north for a glimpse of history.