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NYC: The {off-the-grid} Guide

Contributed with love by Miguel Batel – Mexican nomad fascinated with Japanese culture, currently based in New York City. Once upon a time he was the cultural attaché for Mexico in Canada; today, he’s focusing on personal photography projects, and works as a Producer and Lighting Director making some of the world’s most beautiful women even more beautiful. As much as possible, he loves going to Japan for the pure pleasure of getting traditionally tattooed and finding rare photo books.


The best way to start the day – 

There is a small place called Okonomi in Brooklyn that serves traditional Japanese set meals for breakfast and lunch. All the fish and vegetables are sourced locally and served in beautiful pottery. They take walk-ins only, but if there is a wait, it’s well worth it.

A public artwork I like to go see –

The Bust of Sylvette (1967), a monumental sculpture by Picasso that was recreated using sandblast cement by Carl Nesjar and Sigurd Frager, that is near NYU is incredible. It sits quietly amidst three Brutalist buildings by the great I.M. Pei. It’s a quiet pocket in the middle of one of the busiest areas of Manhattan, and the cityscape facing SoHo is beautiful from there.

Favorite off-the-grid art ‘musts’ – 

The Noguchi Museum in Queens and The Cloisters are some of my favorite places to visit. These spaces have the right energy; the collections are great, perfect size and there’s never too many people there, so it just feels right. It also feels like a day-trip whenever I go there.

The Rubin Museum is another favorite of mine. It focuses on art from the Himalayas and neighboring areas. They usually have very good photography shows.  The Japan Society is another of the places that I like visit due to the themes explored in their exhibitions and its size, again, is just perfect.

As for commercial galleries, Throckmorton has a fantastic collection of Latin American photography and he’s published a few catalogues. The Ronin Gallery has the largest collection of ukiyo-e for sale in the US.

Lunch – 

I like to go to Kajitsu where they serve shojin vegan cuisine in a quiet and beautiful space. It’s one of those places where you won’t see people taking photos of their food!

The best non-hidden, hidden book stores –

DashwoodMast and the third floor at Strand are some of the places I usually go to. They are not hidden, but they have a great selection. They feel like places of discovery to me, they have rare editions, and Strand has a bargain section of photography and art books where you can find some real gems.

A Foundation that makes my heart skip a beat

The Judd foundation. You need to buy tickets in advance and it’s only open a couple days a week for visitors, but it’s a special place for sure.

If I must go treasure hunting –

Shibui in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and Nalata Nalata in the East Village for home stuff.

My favorite thing about New York City –

I love how stimulating this city is in every possible aspect. I also love the sense of anonymity that you get here in NYC.

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