Bronze sculpture by Richard Lippold hanging in the Four Seasons Restaurant Grill Room
In the book The Four Seasons: A History of America’s Premier Restaurant, authors John Mariani and Alex von Bidder write that there is a “composure about The Four Seasons found nowhere in the city.” Despite the high ceilings, French walnut walls, and high profile guests clinking glasses over lunch, visitors are often struck by just how quiet the place is, notes Mariani and von Bidder. We’re talking about the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, more recently in the news due to the preservation battle over Le Tricorne, the Picasso tapestry that hangs inside.
The Picasso tapestry Le Tricorne
When you first walk into the entrance lobby of the restaurant, you feel like you’re stepping into a Mad Men-era office building. That’s because the Seagram Building wasn’t originally designed to have a restaurant. Architect Philip Johnson had a challenging time adapting the space into a restaurant, recalling “I was just trying to fill the space somehow, stay true to Mies (van der Rohe’s) designs for the building, and keep the commission. There’s a lot of wasted space there, you know. But there is in a great cathedral, too, isn’t there?”
The bronze Richard Lippold sculpture in the Grill Room (also known as the Bar Room) was commissioned to balance out the twenty-foot ceilings of the room, as lowering the ceiling itself would ruin the harmony of the exterior windows. Made of metal tubes, the sculpture was installed by Lippold himself.
The Pool Room, a separate room from the Grill Room, features a white Carrara marble in the middle with trees that changed in tandem with the four seasons.
The Pool Room of the Four Seasons
Between the Pool Room and the Grill Room is the Picasso tapestry in question. The Bronfmans (Sam Bronfman owned Seagrams) made it a part of the restaurant deal that work of modern artists would be displayed. Picasso was asked to do a piece for the Pool Room but turned down the commission citing lack of time. He offered instead the Le Tricorne tapestry, which was originally commissioned for the 1920 ballet production of Manuel de Falla’s Le Tricorne in Paris. It was slated to go to the Museum of Modern Art but was too big for the space there.
There are many other wonderful finds in the Four Seasons that you shouldn’t miss, including Robert Indiana paintings when the upper level of the Pool Room is opened:
A curvy bench made of nickels in the Grill Room:
Also don’t miss the original bathrooms or the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs in the entrance lobby. Many of the waiters at the Four Seasons have been with the Four Seasons for decades, and ours talked to us at length about architecture, pre-fabricated housing and interior decor of the skyscrapers along 57th Street. And if it’s a special occasion, they just might surprise you with a cotton candy dessert and some Moet champagne, just because they can.
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.