Michael Kimmelman is a longtime critic for The New York Times. A version of his essay in this issue will appear in the collection City Squares: Eighteen Writers on the Spirit and Significance of Squares Around the World, edited by Catie Marron and published in April by Harper.
 (April 2016)

Follow Michael Kimmelman on Twitter: @kimmelman.


The Craving for Public Squares

Ludwigkirchplatz, Berlin, 1997
The art of architecture requires not just making attractive buildings but providing citizens with generous, creative, open, inviting public spaces. And one of the basic truths of urban life turns out to be that there’s a nearly insatiable demand for such places.

Van Gogh: The Courage & the Cunning

Vincent van Gogh: Self-Portrait, summer 1887

Van Gogh: A Power Seething

by Julian Bell
“Don’t be cross with me that I’ve come all of a sudden,” Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother. He instructed Theo to meet him under the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. It was late February 1886. Vincent was about to turn thirty-three. He arrived in Paris to complete an artistic education that had so far yielded no financial returns for his long-suffering sibling paymaster; nor did Vincent’s career promise the slightest profit in future.

The Art Hitler Hated

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Self-Portrait, 1934/1937

Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937

an exhibition at the Neue Galerie, New York City, March 13–September 1, 2014
What was Nazi art? It was, from the start, whatever Hitler felt at the moment. For a while there was a chance it was going to be a kind of Nordic Expressionism, until the Führer decided it wasn’t. Beckmann, Kirchner, and Oskar Schlemmer imagined working with the state as late as June 1937, when Hitler ordered thousands of their works and others impounded from German collections. The Bauhaus had had hopes, too, until it didn’t.


Henri Matisse (center) and Hans Purrmann (right) dining with Michael, Sarah, and Allan Stein at their apartment at 58 rue Madame, Paris, circa 1908. The paintings in the background, all by Matisse, are The Young Sailor I (far left); Pink Onions and Male Nude (left column); Fruit Trees in Blossom, Woman in a Kimono, Nude Reclining Woman, and Nude before a Screen (center column); Madame Matisse in the Olive Grove, a sketch for Le Bonheur de Vivre, and Madame Matisse (The Green Line) (right column).

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde

an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 21–September 6, 2011; The Grand Palais, Paris, October 3, 2011–January 16, 2012; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, February 28–June 3, 2012

Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Fäy, and the Vichy Dilemma

by Barbara Will
Gertrude Stein endures. More than a hundred books about her have been written during the past decade or so and lately she made an appearance in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. She remains a figure of fascination for scholars of queer studies, a saint in the broader gay community, exalted as a pioneer of poetics and sexual liberation, and as the librettist of wry, cryptic texts set to Virgil Thomson’s crazy-quilt music in Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All, both recently revived to warm reviews.

A Very Wily Believer

Leo Castelli and Andy Warhol at Robert Rauschenberg’s studio, New York City, 1965

Leo and His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli

by Annie Cohen-Solal, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti with the author
You could almost picture Leo Castelli smiling from beyond the grave a few weeks ago, that small, canny smile of his. First an Andy Warhol, Men in Her Life, from 1962, sold for $63.3 million at a Phillips auction in New York. Then at Christie’s a work by Roy Lichtenstein, …


Andre Agassi and Roger Federer at the 2005 US Open, just after Federer defeated Agassi in the men’s final

Open: An Autobiography

by Andre Agassi

A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played

by Marshall Jon Fisher
Andre Agassi’s Open: An Autobiography is a remarkable and quite unexpected volume, one that sails well past its homiletic genre into the realm of literature, a memoir whose success clearly owes not a little to a reader’s surprise in discovering that a celebrity one may have presumed to know on the basis of a few television commercials hawking cameras via the slogan “image is everything” emerges as a man of parts—self-aware, black-humored, eloquent.


Becoming van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh: Miners in the Snow at Dawn, 1880

“Countless freeloaders, lost teenagers, parents of lost teenagers, and disappointed artists have found consolation in Vincent van Gogh’s misfortune,” writes Michael Kimmelman in the Review’s February 5, 2015 issue. “His story is the ultimate ‘I told you so’: a troubled, not obviously talented oddball, who through determination and sheer chutzpah is finally, albeit mostly posthumously, recognized as a genius.” Here we present a series of van Gogh’s sketches and paintings, with commentary drawn from Kimmelman’s piece.