Starbucks is a pauvre excuse for a reading room. Writer Nancy Lazarus visits a splendid new place to curl up with a good livre.
(Photo: Jess Nash)
The replica of Michelangelo‘s Young Archer in the entry rotunda of the French Embassy in New York is about to attract a bookish new cohort of admirers: visitors to Albertine, a bookstore, reading room, and event space that opened Saturday in the Stanford White-designed Beaux Arts mansion. It’s located a few blocks south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the original Young Archer has resided (on loan through 2019), after it was moved from the embassy five years ago.
“The goal for Albertine was to open the space to the public and make French culture more accessible to Americans,” said Antonin Baudry, the French Embassy’s cultural counselor and creator of the project, during a recent interview. Visitors will mingle with authors and browse a selection of 14,000 contemporary and classic books from 30 French-speaking countries. Most are English translations, with some titles in French. “We also plan to host two events per week, so it will be a lively place,” he added.
“Albertine will be unique and not have an institutional look,” Baudry said. The space originally served as a grand private library, the same goal as for the redesign. “The spirit of the place was already here,” he noted. “We selected French designer Jacques Garcia since he can manipulate classical forms with contemporary ambience, to give the place its original charm and purpose.” Atelier Premiere, a Brooklyn-based firm of French craftsmen, painted and detailed both floors.