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A Morning at the Cloisters

BY Lisa Lindblad

October 25, 2013

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15 minutes from the UES where I live is a world remote in time and place, a world of great beauty and sincerity.  The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, is set on a hilltop with commanding views of the Hudson River.  John D. Rockefeller Jr. provided for the building, the setting in Fort Tryon Park and the acquisition of the nucleus of the collection which includes sculpture, stained glass, tapestries, paintings and more.  The cloister gardens, featuring medieval plantings, breathe life into this corner above the Hudson, and bring The Cloisters, literally, down to earth.

Something remarkable is on offer at The Cloisters at this moment.  As if the Unicorn tapestries and the Merode Altarpiece were not sufficiently transporting, The Cloisters is presenting its first contemporary art exhibition ever.  The Forty Part Motet, the 16th century masterpiece by Thomas Tallis, is looping continuously as an 11-minute remake in the spare and lovely Fuentiduena Chapel.  The NY Times describes its impact best in a piece by Jim Dwyer:

 “The Forty Part Motet” (is) an 11-minute immersion in a tapestry of voice, each thread as vivid as the whole fabric. A sacred composition of Renaissance England is rendered by the multimedia artist Janet Cardiff through 40 speakers — one for each voice in the Salisbury Cathedral Choir, which performed the piece in 2000. What started as one microphone per singer is now a choir of black high-fidelity speakers arrayed in an oval, eight groupings of soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass.”

The experience is transcendent.

Through December  8

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The Whitby Hotel – New York’s Latest