Cocktails with a Curator: The Frick Pairs Weekly Art History Lectures with Cocktail Recipes

Once upon a time, not so long ago, First Fri­days at the Frick were a gra­cious way for New York­ers to kick off the week­end. Admis­sion was waived, par­tic­i­pants could take part in open sketch­ing ses­sions or enjoy live per­for­mance, and cura­tors were on hand to give mini lec­tures on the sig­nif­i­cance and his­tor­i­cal con­text of cer­tain prized paint­ings in the col­lec­tion.

Rather than pull the plug entire­ly when the muse­um closed due to the pan­dem­ic, the Frick sought to pre­serve the spir­it of this long­stand­ing tra­di­tion with week­ly episodes of Cock­tails with a Cura­tor, match­ing each selec­tion with recipes for make-at-home themed drinks, with or with­out alco­hol.

Much as we miss these com­mu­nal live events, there’s some­thing to be said for enjoy­ing these wild­ly enter­tain­ing, edu­ca­tion­al mini-lec­tures from the com­fort of one’s own couch, drink in hand, no need to crane past oth­er vis­i­tors for a view, or wor­ry that one might keel over from lock­ing one’s knees too long.

Deputy Direc­tor and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Cura­tor Xavier F. Salomon makes for an espe­cial­ly engag­ing host. His cov­er­age of James McNeill Whistler’s Sym­pho­ny in Flesh Col­or and Pink: Por­trait of Mrs. Frances Ley­land, above, touch­es on the artist’s affin­i­ty for but­ter­flies, music, Japan­ese themes and build­ing his own frames.

But the great­est delight is Salomon’s tal­ent for imbu­ing 19th-cen­tu­ry art world gos­sip with a sense of imme­di­a­cy.

Sip a sake high­ball (or a vir­gin san­gria-style refresh­er of plum juice and mint) and chew on the true nature of the artist’s rela­tion­ship with his ship­ping mag­nate patron’s wife.

Sake High­ball
sake (of your choice)
club soda (as much/little as need­ed)
lots of ice

Alter­na­tive Mock­tail
plum juice

cut orange, lemon and apple (san­gria style)
mint leaves
sug­ar (as need­ed)

Salomon returns to con­sid­er one of the Frick’s most icon­ic hold­ings, François Bouch­er’s roco­co Four Sea­sons.

Com­mis­sioned in 1755 to serve as over-door dec­o­ra­tions for King Louis XV’s mis­tress Madame de Pom­padour, they now reside in the Frick’s ornate Bouch­er Room.

Salomon draws com­par­isons to anoth­er swoon­ing Frick favorite, Jean-Hon­oré Frag­o­nard’s series Progress of Love. While the roman­tic nature of these works is hard­ly a secret, Salomon is able to speak to the erot­ic sig­nif­i­cance of dol­phins, grapes, and tiny 18th-cen­tu­ry shep­herdess bon­nets.

Those who are respect­ing COVID pro­to­cols by court­ing out­doors this win­ter will wel­come Salomon’s thoughts on Winter’s cen­tral fig­ure, a coquette rid­ing in a sleigh dri­ven by a well-bun­dled man in Tar­tar dress:

Her hands may be warmed by a muff, but her upper body is com­plete­ly exposed. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of lux­u­ry and seduc­tion typ­i­cal of Bouch­er, all treat­ed in a fan­ci­ful, even humor­ous man­ner.

Also, is it just us, or is Cura­tor Salomon tak­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to enjoy his Proust-inspired Time Regained cock­tail in a kimono? (A perk of the vir­tu­al office…)

Time Regained
2 oz. Scotch whisky
0.75 oz. Dry ver­mouth
0.5 oz. Pis­co
0.25 oz. Jas­mine tea syrup (equal parts of jas­mine tea and sug­ar)

Alter­na­tive Mock­tail
Cold jas­mine tea
One spoon­ful of gold­en syrup
Top with ton­ic water

Salomon hands host­ing duties to col­league Aimee Ng for Ver­meer’s Mis­tress and Maid, one of three works by the Dutch Mas­ter in the Frick­’s col­lec­tion.

Here the dra­ma is less explic­it­ly informed by the boudoir, though there’s a big reveal around the 10 minute mark, thanks to recent advances in infrared reflec­tog­ra­phy and some well-coor­di­nat­ed art sleuthing.

As to the con­tents of the mes­sage the maid prof­fers her ermine trimmed mis­tress, we’ll nev­er know, although those of us with ready access to the Dutch spir­it gen­ev­er can have fun spec­u­lat­ing over a glass of Gen­ev­er Brûlée.

Gen­ev­er Brûlée
2 oz gen­ev­er
1 tea­spoon brown sug­ar
A few dash­es of clas­sic bit­ters
A dash of orange bit­ters
A splash of sparkling water
Gar­nished with a caramelized orange slice

Alter­na­tive Mock­tail

Juice of half an orange
2 dash­es orange blos­som water
A splash of sparkling water
Gar­nished with a caramelized orange slice

To explore a playlist of every Cock­tails with a Cura­tor episode, cov­er­ing such notable works as Velázquez’s King Philip IV of SpainClaude Monet’s Vétheuil in Win­ter, and Hans Holbein’s Sir Thomas More, click here.

To read more in-depth cov­er­age of each episode’s fea­tured art­work, along with its cock­tail and mock­tail recipes, click here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vis­it 2+ Mil­lion Free Works of Art from 20 World-Class Muse­ums Free Online

14 Paris Muse­ums Put 300,000 Works of Art Online: Down­load Clas­sics by Mon­et, Cézanne & More

Where to Find Free Art Images & Books from Great Muse­ums, and Free Books from Uni­ver­si­ty Press­es

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She most recent­ly appeared as a French Cana­di­an bear who trav­els to New York City in search of food and mean­ing in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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