- - Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pick of the Pack

Film: ‘Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present’

Marina Abramovic, the “grandmother of performance art,” has fearlessly used her body as a canvas for political and cultural commentary for nearly four decades. By making the performer (as well as the audience) both physically and mentally uncomfortable, Ms. Abramovic’s works have sparked discussions about the limitations of the human body, human consciousness, human relationships and, of course, the value of performance art. Ms. Abramovic’s shining career moment was a 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, which was seen by more than a half-million visitors and chronicled in Matthew Akers’ acclaimed documentary. While many of Ms. Abramovic’s pieces are unorthodox, if not disturbing, the film focuses on her life outside her work, her relationship with fellow performance artist Ulay, and her preparations for an intense three-month performance piece, during which the public interacts very closely with her. The public’s reaction, and the artist herself, is astonishing – and worth a view, especially if you are skeptical of the value of performance art. If you missed the film during the American Film Institute’s Silverdocs documentary festival in June, the National Gallery of Art will host two free screenings this weekend.

Saturday and Sunday at the National Gallery of Art East Building Concourse Auditorium, Fourth and Constitution avenues Northwest.

Phone: 202/737-4215.

Web: www.nga.gov.

Culture: Beaujolais & Beyond

If any wine were to win the “most popular” superlative, it might be Beaujolais Noveau, a young and sweet variation that’s available for a limited time after the harvest and honored with festive celebrations. The fruity, purple-hued wine is made from Gamay grapes in France’s Beaujolais region, located south of Burgundy. The taste is distinct, as the low-tannin grapes have been fermented just six to eight weeks before the wineries are permitted to sell it on the third Thursday of November, as mandated by the winemakers’ association. The wineries race to get the bottles on the shelves and in bistros by midnight on this date, at which point the corks are popped in celebration of its arrival. On Friday, the French-American Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance Francaise will host an evening fete in honor of the wine, featuring the celebrated Beaujolais Noveau by Georges Duboeuf, the winery credited with popularizing it. The party also will feature tastings of a variety of wines from France, California and Spain, as well as French fare, dancing, and a silent auction.

Friday at the Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road NW.

Phone: 202/640-1806.

Web: www.faccwdc.org.

Exhibit: ‘Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’

In the year 622, the Prophet Muhammad left Mecca for Medina, what is now a modern city in western Saudi Arabia, commencing the spread of Islam throughout the world. Until recently, little was known about the ancient history and culture of the Arabian Peninsula, and indeed, the region and Islam itself still are misunderstood by many Westerners. On Saturday, the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, which are devoted to Asian art and culture, will open an exhibit showcasing recently discovered insight into the ancient Islamic world and more than 300 artifacts from Saudi Arabia’s vast history that haven’t been seen in the United States. In particular, the exhibit will highlight the Arabian Peninsula’s important role in trade and the spread of culture throughout the world. Saturday’s opening festivities will include tours and discussions with archaeologists and other experts, storytelling and performances of centuries-old traditional Saudi Arabian music, as well as copious amounts of Arabic coffee, tea and sweets. Through Feb. 24 at the Freer & Sackler Galleries, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Phone: 202/633-1000. Web: www.roadsofarabia.com.

Exhibit: ‘Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000’

In a few days, we’ll set our tables for one of America’s favorite holidays. Whether you most look forward to a multicourse feast on the good china, or savoring leftovers after the relatives have gone home, the Thanksgiving table remains for many families a welcome traditional meal in our era of busy schedules and fast food. Although your Thanksgiving recipes may be the same as your grandmother’s, the food’s origins are quite different. On Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will open an exhibit exploring these changes in production, preparation and consumption of food in postwar America. After previewing the exhibit earlier this year with a showcase of cooking icon Julia Child’s impressive home kitchen, the museum has vastly expanded it to feature a look at the rise of trends such as large-scale agriculture, convenience food, and local, fresh, and organic food, as well as the introduction of new global flavors and how shifting family structures affect Americans’ eating habits.

Tuesday through Dec. 12, 2014, at the National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest.

Phone: 202/633-1000.

Web: www.americanhistory.si.edu.

Holidays: Downtown Holiday Market

This week, many people look forward to waking up before dawn the day after Thanksgiving to wait in line for discounted DVD players even more than they enjoy leftover stuffing and pumpkin pie. In fact, some of the big-box stores are even opening on Thanksgiving, with some controversy, for those who want to get a head-start on holiday shopping. If the Black Friday sales don’t excite you – or if you simply want to find more personal presents than generic scarves and electronics – the Eighth Annual Downtown Holiday Market may be more your speed. With more than 180 local and regional vendors, the outdoor market takes over several blocks in Penn Quarter starting Tuesday, with wares ranging from holiday crafts to handmade jewelry and accessories to gift-appropriate foods. The market also will feature musical entertainment and food and beverages to help you get in the holiday spirit.

Through Dec. 23 at Eighth and F streets Northwest.

Phone: 202/215-6993.

Web: www.downtownholidaymarket.com.