Thursday, December 29, 2011

NYC Holiday Windows 2011

34th St. - Empire State Building and the entrance to Macy's. From here, I got one of the Chanukah faces of the Empire State Building (East and West were blue & white, North & South red and green).

It was a little bit late, but how could I skip my annual post about my annual trip to see the holiday windows with my friend Mandy? We started doing this in '09, and it's really starting to feel like a holiday tradition. I'd been doing a holiday walk through the Rockefeller Center area for a long time, but it's more fun to go with a friend. I'm posting a few pictures here - if you enjoy my "New Yorky" posts, you can go see more on Flickr.

We usually start with dinner at an Italian restaurant up in the east 60's; it's a favorite of Mandy's but being that far north, it's outside of the area we'd usually consider when choosing a dinner spot -- but with our favorite windows (Bergdorf's and Tiffany's) starting near 57th street, it works pretty well. This year, since I was on vacation & she's looking for work, we decided to experiment with reversing the order of the day - we started at Macy's and went north, finishing with dinner. That was nice in that it put those 2 favorites at the end of the route, but we'll be going back to the old routine next year because hooo, the crowds were insane! Macy's did have some special windows - magic marionettes on a magic star making ornaments out of wishes and rhinestones, but mostly rhinestones. I think we would've liked them but there were masses of people & no crowd control & we left pretty quickly because it just wasn't fun, you couldn't get to the windows without indulging in behavior more suited to the gridiron. We've seen crowds but never that bad.

The mobs may have had something to do with the very pleasant weather (windy for boating, but perfect for touristication), but we also think that maybe starting with dinner around 6 helped to put our sightseeing time back to an hour when at least parents of the smallest children would have already headed for home.

Fleeing Macy's, we headed on over to 5th Avenue. Our next stop was Lord & Taylors - we always like this one, they always do classic NYC holiday scenes with animated figures, like this park scene:

Winter wonderland -

They had a fun twist this year in that they'd found a piece of advertising artwork, circa 1941, in their archives - it was entitled "What Is Christmas Made Of?" and showed a St. Nick with all sorts of holiday scenes incorporated in his suit:
Next stop - Lord & Taylor's

They posed that same question to a number of children's organizations and asked the kids to do their own illustrations, and they took those pictures and framed them and used those to frame the windows - and in some cases even blew up some of the images and incorporated them.
Christmas Tree Ride -

I still remember how cool I thought it was when I won a prize (a gift certificate, and I still have the little beanbag elephant I got with it!) in a coloring contest when I was in 4th grade and had my picture go up the wall in the Mare Island Navy Exchange for a little while - I can't imagine how much these kids must have enjoyed seeing their artwork being admired by millions of people.

Rock Center Angel
Next stop was Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Center
Once again, hordes of people.

Sak's Light Show
We paused to watch the Sak's Fifth Avenue Light Show. They used the entire front of the building for a projection screen showing a dance of bubbles & snowflakes. We noticed quite a bit of clockwork imagery in various displays this year - wonder if it was the Hugo Cabret effect? Later on we crossed the street to go look at the windows. Sak's used to be another favorite; they'd pick one of the season's crop of holiday picture books and they'd build animated scenes from it in their windows, but then last year they threw that concept out the window and just went kind of weird:

Sort of the same general idea as the Bergdorf's windows that I always like so much, but without as much commitment to taking whatever the theme is to the absolute nth degree of crazed, lavish opulence (hey, let's take this polar bear taxidermy form and completely cover it it with six hundred miles of upholstery fringe!). Meh. This year's were a little better, in fact they were tied in with the bubble-machine theme of the light show, the idea was that the bubbles were being produced by elaborately dressed mannequins operating machinery...interesting, but still didn't grab us. We moseyed, sidled, and elbowed our way on.

But before that...we had a mission to complete in Rockefeller Center.

Angel chocolate box

On past the tree and the rink again - glad I stopped to take pictures and watch the skaters the day before I went to Michigan because there was no way that was happening this time. I did get one nice shot - the little fold-out viewfinder screen on the back of the Lumix is wonderful for this sort of periscopic photography!

The rink & the tree

After that & the quick look at the Sak's windows, we had 2 more stops before dinner - both favorites, but Tiffany's totally blew us away this year. Their display windows are designed to showcase jewelry, and their holiday window designers always create beautiful little sets within that limited space. This year, though, they outdid themselves with a carousel theme - with the little jewel-case windows framed with carousel-art facings, complete with lights!


They'd framed out the windows even further with beveled & etched mirrors, and inside of those...well, I know it's the wrong season, but it was like looking into the most wonderful sugar egg ever made. Look - that's a little teeny Tiffany's in there -

Looking up the street -

You can't see it in that shot, but if you move over a little bit - look, just around the corner at the end of the street - there's a tiny carousel -

A tiny carousel comes into view

And in the rest of the windows, the carousel animals break loose and canter through a miniature New York (that is a scale model of the Gothic Bridge in Central Park.

The runaway carousel creatures dance across Central Park's Gothic Bridge

I loved that one, but possibly the coolest from a miniature-scenic-design perspective was this lovely exercise in forced perspective - a close call between a tiny sleigh and a flyaway carousel horse high above Central Park. Again, you can't really see it, but there's a tiny carousel that comes into view - and as you move towards the edge of the frame, the Hudson River and the far shore come into view. Amazing!

High above Central Park -

Turning away from the last window (and I did leave a couple unshown), there's the snowflake that hangs at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 57th street...

and, one last shot from Tiffany's.

which I learned, literally moments before adding that picture, is actually the Unicef Snowflake. I never knew that before, but when I went to post the picture I thought "What is the story on that snowflake, anyways - I know it's famous, but why?", and now I know!

We finished off the sightseeing part of the evening with a visit to the strange but beautiful worlds of the Bergdorf Goodman windows. This year's theme was "The Carnival of the Animals". For looking at, my favorite was the "Testing the Waves" windows, crowded with mosaic fish (insert terrible pun about tilefish here ______)

Carnival of the Animals - Testing the Waves

And for oohing and aaahing over the sheer painstaking labor of creation, this one:
Carnival of the Animals -
with the animal figures crafted of cut paper.

Porcupaper? Paperpine? Whatever, isn't he lovely?

Hope you enjoyed this little slice of "New Yorky"! And again, if you want to see the other half of the pictures, they're all right here.


JP said...

Have you seen this rather nice video of NY at Christmas?

Not sure I can face the crowds of London to see the store fronts of the likes of Selfridges and Fortnam and Masons which are meant to be similarly seasonal.

O Docker said...

Great photos. This was almost like being there, only without the cold toes.

With all the neat stuff created by those window designers, I thought the most imaginative was the artwork of the grade school kids.

We seem to lose some of the fearlessness we have as kids as we get old and crusty and conscious that others are watching and judging what we do.

bonnie said...

Very nice video, thanks Capt. JP!

As I mentioned, we are definitely going back to dinner first; also we might look for a slightly less perfect day weather-wise - we go in spite of the crowds, but I think this is the first time we've actually found them intimidating (especially at Macy's and in the plaza area at Rockefeller Center).

O-Docker, you remind me of that fantastic stop-motion animation workshop I did last year. One of the really fun things about that was watching a bunch of successful-professional-type adults remembering how to play with clay. There was actually a lot of deer-in-the-headlights response as people walked into the room and saw the colorful piles of clay, and they'd hesitantly pick up a piece, and start working it with their fingers, and even if the adult brains were a little flummoxed at first, the feel of the clay brought it all back. By the end of the evening, we were all making things like kids make things - for the sheer fun. It was awesome.

Stan Mac Kenzie said...

Beautiful shots.