“For most of my American life—I came here from Florence about twenty years ago—I have lived in the East Village. I arrived in New York when I was a young man, and though I’m not so young any longer, the East Village makes me feel that way. It’s always bustling no matter what the hour. There is something so fresh and alive about the place, and while it has changed a great deal and new generations have moved in over the years, the spirit remains the same.
“One corner in the Village is unlucky for some reason: it’s on the northwestern side of Twelfth Street and Second Avenue. The spot has been the site of several restaurants and businesses, including the Kosher Tea Room, and now it’s a nail parlor. So many storefronts have changed hands. But if you’ve been living there, you can still feel what came before. Places are gone—but not gone.
“A number of years ago, trendy art galleries opened in the East Village and they just didn’t stick. It was as if the community rejected the scene. Industrial parts of Manhattan like SoHo and Chelsea are full of empty warehouses, so it was easy for the art world to move in. That doesn’t happen in the East Village. People make the rules. It’s a living, breathing neighborhood.”
Bonami is the curator of the 75th Whitney Biennial, which runs through May 30 at the Whitney Museum of American Art (admission $18). Bonami is also artistic director of Florence’s Pitti Discovery Foundation for art, architecture, and fashion and the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation for Contemporary Art in Turin.
Tokyo Close to Home
“I love to shop at Sunrise Mart (29 Third Ave.; 212/598-3040). The market carries strange Japanese products, plus green tea, sushi, and mochi ice cream.”
East Village Hideout
“At Tarallucci e Vino (163 First Ave.; 212/388-1190; lunch for two $30) I sit at a small table, order a ciabatta panino, and no one bothers me.”
“The coffee at Sant Ambroeus (1000 Madison Ave.; 212/570-2211; coffee for two $12) near the Whitney is very good, but you almost need a mortgage to buy yourself an espresso.”
“I’m often en route to Florence and Turin, so the Lufthansa (lufthansa.com) business-class lounge in Frankfurt feels like home. I read the international newspapers and take warm pretzels from the buffet.”
2010 Travel Plans
“I am going to Beirut to see some artists, including Walid Raad, and to stay at Le Gray (Martyrs’ Square; 961-1/971-111; legray.com; doubles from $495), but that’s really just an excuse to go and experience the city.”