Sunday, March 12, 2017

Purim 2017 - 14 Adar 5777: #BeLikeEsther

Rembrandt van Rijn, Esther Accusing Haman Before Ahasuarus, 1660

Today is Purim, the Feast of Esther, the day to party, get drunk and release our inhibitions behind masks of all kinds.  By now, most people accept that the Book of Esther in the Bible is not true.  We read the story to explain the reason we celebrate Purim and to re-inspire our capacity to do good in the face of powerful forces that seem impossible to defeat.   Queen Esther, you may recall, was asked to be the whistle-blower in order to save the Jews, "her people," by informing her husband that his prime minister, his appointee, scheduled the annihilation of the Jews (herself included) on the 14 day of Adar.  She was fully aware that accusing Haman of wrongdoing might displease the king and his wrath might end her life. Yet in the face of possibly losing her crown and/or her head, she courageously pursued her clever plan. Rather than go straight for the indictment during her first audience with the king, she played it cool and invited him to her private apartment in the palace for an intimate banquet - not once, but twice. Then, like Judith, Esther pleasured her man with food and drink before striking the decisive blow. This fairy tale plot seems based on both archetypal tropes and real experience. Begun as an oral history (possibly linked to the Persian New Year), ir was added to the Hebrew Bible as yet another Wisdom Tale that instructs the Jews about life among those who see them as unwelcome Others.  

Who indeed are the Others in our society today now threatened by government actions? Consider the cost of actions to combat injustice (time, inconvenience, social ostracism). Imagine how difficult it was to #BeLikeEsther and fight for the underdog. Imagine how heroic it is to try.

Here is an old blog post that tells the story of Esther and Purim: 

And here is an excellent article in The Jewish Magazine about Rembrandt and Purim, written by Helen Webberley. 

Chag Sameach - Happy Holiday - Happy Purim 2017/5777,

Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and Owner
New York Arts Exchange
A division of New York Arts Etc., LLC

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Celebrate International Women's Day! Support Women Artists!

Kathleen Gilje, Self-Portrait after Bouguereau's The Assault, 2012

It has been an honor and a joy to select four extremely gifted women artists for our Art Above the Sofa: Next Generation jury: Kathleen Gilje, Wilhelmina Grant, Ruby Silvious and Marjorie van Cura. Today, in honor of International Women's Day, we celebrate these four women with examples of their work on our blog:

Ruby Silvious, from 363 Days of Tea, 2015

Wilhelmina GrantTime into Eternity

Marjorie van Cura, Untitled, 2016

We also invited a male artist into the jury: Sasha Meret   Please visit his show at Rafael Gallery, 235 East 59th St., through March 31st.   

Each juror will be highlighted on our Art Above the Sofa page on Facebook.  Please look for us there.

Happy International Women's Day!  


Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and owner
New York Arts Etc. LLC

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Year, New Us: New York Arts Exchange is now a division of New York Arts Etc., LLC -


It's a New Year and a New Name:   New York Arts Exchange is now New York Ats Etc., LLC, retaining the moniker "New York Arts Exchange" as a division of our arts education service. Today, I am pleased to announce our latest project: Art Above the Sofa: Next Generation, which is a juried show for art students in accredited programs (AA, BFA, MFA, Ph.D. and art academies of all kinds, including schools abroad).  We are eager to exhibit emerging artists whose visual vocabulary addresses the concerns, hopes, dreams and aspirations of their generation.  Millennials, lead on!

What is Art Above the Sofa?  It is an irreverent poke at a much maligned phantom category of art that is often mentioned but never truly defined.  Who seriously makes art exclusively for an installation above a sofa?  Who wouldn't mind selling a work that winds up placed above the sofa, admired by its owners and shared with their guests?  Art above the sofa is often a beloved source of frequent contemplation. For most of us who buy art, we look for a work to cherish, study often and find endless surprises in what becomes a familiar companion.  An artwork above a sofa, in the intimacy of one's home, might turned into a steady, unquestioning love affair.

Therefore our concept of "Art Above the Sofa" is slightly ironic and hopefully disruptive. We are not suggesting that the artists match the furniture in a client's home or produce pleasantly "decorative" canvases.  Rather we seek excellent art that might be edgy, confrontational, uncomfortable, or decidedly spiritual in a complicated way. And we also seek humor that demonstrates intelligent wit and innuendo.

Consider the role of the sofa in Jacques-Louis' famous portrait of Madame Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier, decorously arranged on an Directoire Style lounge.  Legend has it that the sitter hated this cold interpretation of her personality and commissioned the early Romantic François Pascal SimoGérard, who did indeed capture her sensual charms. But when it came to choices, René Magritte went right to David's sofa, transforming Madame R into a seated casket that seems to ridicule the Academy's moribund state of affairs.  Let's find our inner Magritte and have fun while we say something bold and exceptionally new!  Art Above the Sofa challenges us to invent a new kind of art, a Post-Post-Modernism or something totally off the category charts.

Jacques-Lous David, Madame Récamier, 1800, Louvre, Paris

François Pascal Simon, Baron Gérard, Madame Récamier, 1802
Musée Carnavalet  

René Magritte, Perspective: Madame Récamier, by David, 1951
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Dear friends of the New York Arts Exchange, now New York Arts Etc., LLC - - please support emerging artists by sharing information about our art competition and exhibition in April. Send a link to our website - and come celebrate with us in person.

The exhibition Art Above the Sofa: Next Generation  will take place at 171 Elizabeth Street, between Spring and Kenmare, from  April 27 to 30, 2017.   Opening celebration: April 27th.

As for the New York Arts Exchange tours and lectures for 2017  - we will post our schedule separately.  In the meantime, please visit our website: New York Arts Exchange to see details about our current exhibition  "Sasha Meret: Selected Works" at Rafael Gallery, 235 East 59th Street, NYC, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.  We will schedule a day with Sasha at the show in March.  The show was extended to March 31st.  

This week, please join me at JCC Greenwich for a lecture on Queen Esther in Art.  Tickets and information can be found at New York Arts Exchange or on the JCC Greenwich website.

Best wishes,

Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and owner
New York Arts Etc., LLC