Renée Price, the director of Neue Galerie ‘We didn’t take the route of t-shirts and iPhone cases, which can be fun, but we wanted to offer an experience’
To casual visitors, York’s Neue Galerie, the museum devoted to Austrian and German art, might be primarily known for the items of their permanent collections such as the famed portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer by Gustav Klimt (1907) which sees the subject decked in gold, and for exhibitions that combine arresting visuals with in-depth historical insights: personal favorites include Berlin Metropolis, showing how Berlin was the cultural epicenter in the interwar era; “The Self Portrait, from Schiele to Beckmann,” which examines how German and Austrian painters brought innovation to the genre; and “Focus, Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry,” which focused, quite predictably, on jewelry, which was considered wearable works of art.
Yet, the Neue Galerie experience does not end once visitors are done touring the various galleries: on the contrary, the gallery also houses a design shop, a book store, and a café, which are nowhere near the generic counterparts you can find in other museums of comparable scopes: rather, they promote an elevated version of Austrian and German culture, combining timeless traditions with modern-day collaborations. “The direction for the Book Store and Design Shop started from the very beginning, when we founded the museum in 2001,” Renée Price, the director of Neue Galerie, told us. “The shops are an important extension of the mission of the museum: to present the best of German and Austrian art and design from the early 20th century.”
The shop also “wanted to evoke beautiful boutique jewelry stores situated off the lobby of a grand hotel,” she continued. “This was our concept; it was to be luxurious, yet accessible to anyone who enters the museum. And everything in the shop is part of the message of the museum: we are a small, fine institution, we stand for quality, and we have a focus.”
In the shop, you can find jewels by A. E. Köchert, the former jewelers of the imperial court of Austria (see the Eternity Ring) and a line called “The Masterpiece Collection” by First Edition, which repurposes the most historically important jewelry designs created by the artists of the Wiener Werkstätte, using the materials originally meant for those design: the collection comprises designs by Josef Hoffmann such as a Malachite brooch surrounded by a foliage pattern, and a pair of cufflinks encrusted with blue opal, green agate, red agate, lapis lazuli, jade, or tiger’s eye, originally designed for Gustav Klimt.
Klimt, in general, serves as the ultimate muse for jewelry designs, as even haute-bohemian jerwlry designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac created a series of evil eye pieces for Neue Galerie inspired by our famous Gustav Klimt painting, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I. For the most recent exhibition about the Viennese photographer Madame d’Ora, they collaborated with the famed milliner Stephen Jones to create a series of couture hats inspired by the glamour d’Ora got to photograph between 1907, when she started, to the mid-1950s. Of course, Austrian and German art did not exist in a vacuum, especially when it came to artistic influences worldwide. Thus, the shop also promotes collaborations with Asian designers such as Munnu Kasliwal’s cuffs with a spiral motif inspired by the Klimt painting “Adele Bloch Bauer I” and Han Feng’s kimonos, which come in Art Nouveau patterns designed in the early 1900s (such as the Grünfink textile designed in 1910). For those attracted to retro fitness, Neue Galerie also has a line of fitness equipment , such as hand-stitched leather weights and ajump rope with oiled walnut handles.
Not everything is high-end, at least price wise. A personal favorite line is a range of lipsticks developed in collaboration with Aerin Lauder, which are thematically tied to major exhibitions or individual artworks. “The lipstick was an idea that I had right before we opened the Otto Dix exhibition in 2010,” said Price. “We had the fantastic painting, “Portrait of the Dancer Anita Berber” (1925), on loan in the exhibition: she looks like she’s going up in flames. Her dress is red, the background is red. She was the ultimate woman in red from Berlin in the 1920s. We got a lipstick shade and called it Berlin Red, and were able to do this with Estée Lauder. The case was shaped like a bullet, since Otto Dix was a soldier in World War I.
The lipsticks sold out immediately.” Adele’s Kiss, a shade inspired by our Woman in Gold’s beautiful lips: other hues include Neue Red, a crimson, sheer-matte inspired by the women portrayed by Madame d’Ora, and Geranium, whose shade is—you guessed it—a geranium red, and draws its inspiration from the garden portrayed in Klimt’s Forester’s House in Weissenbach II. “The lipsticks are a way for the purchaser to take a piece of the art they see here at the museum with them, to wear the era,” concluded Price. For those more eager to experience a sense of place, a good purchase could be “Alpine Dream,” the herbal-tea blend made in collaboration with Bellocq. It contains wild ginger, balsam fir, sweet fern, green alder and arctic rose, as well as organic chamomile, mint, ginger and currant. It evokes the Alpine meadows of Tyrol.
The bookstore is one of the few remaining specialized bookstores in the New York, specializing in Austrian and German fiction, non-fiction, and art history “There are so many great writers from this historical moment. Franz Kafka, Rainer Maria Rilke… it’s endless,” said Price. “We take pride in being one of the last remaining traditional, focused bookstores. Our staff is prepared to help find the perfect book, and that human element is irreplaceable.” Need an impromptu reading recommendation? Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, which was first published in German in 1932. “The English translation flew off our shelves,” she said. “The book chronicles a privileged family in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the outbreak of World War I. It paints a portrait of civilization in decline.”
After an immersion in design and literature, one can conclude their Austro-German experience by visiting the Café Sabarsky, which offers a mittel-European menu in a room outfitted with a Bösendorfer grand piano, lighting fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, furniture by Adolf Loos, and banquettes that are upholstered with a 1912 Otto Wagner fabric. Their desserts are very solid, with a daily selection of cakes, such as the Sacher torte, the Schwarzwälder-kirsch torte (Chocolate cake with cream and cherries), and the Linzer torte (hazelnut tart with fresh raspberry confiture), all rigorously served with whipped cream, the ideal mid-afternoon snack.
“We didn’t take the route of t-shirts and iPhone cases, which can be fun, but we wanted to offer an experience,” Price concluded. “For each guest visiting the Neue Galerie, we encourage a fully rounded experience, using all the senses. See the art, taste the Sachertorte in Café Sabarsky, immerse yourself in the shops. And it is this experience, in its entirety, for which our supporters return time and time again.”