Midtown Manhattan Hypes Holiday Exhibits

During the hectic Christmas season, Manhattan becomes a shopper's paradise.

While strolling near Tiffany and Saks , art collectors of Art Kabinett social network can find plenty of fine art exhibitions in the heart of Midtown.

Mary Boone Gallery is temporary home to 2,500 river crabs.

The gray-and-red, handmade porcelain creatures are part of Ai Weiwei’s 2010 installation “He Xie,” which alludes to an episode from the artist’s past.

In 2010, the Chinese government decreed that Ai’s newly constructed Shanghai workshop was illegal.

In response, the artist invited devotees to the Shanghai studio for a dinner of 10,000 river crabs and was promptly arrested.

The exhibition recounts the dinner as a sardonic nod to its imminent destruction by the authorities, who prevented Ai from attending, although 800 others did. {See today's homepage Featured Video}

The dinner consisted of piles of river crabs, partly because they are a seasonal delicacy, and partly because the Chinese word for them, he xie, also means “harmony,” the maintaining of which is frequently the official reason, and by now also a code word, for state censorship.

The workshop was torn down early last year.

At Mary Boone, the crabs are gathered around a white column at the center of the main room. Unrecognizable at first, they soon reveal lifelike features and appear to be crawling on top of one another.

Also on view is “The Crab House,” a video about the studio, as well as documentary photographs.

Prices range from $125,000 to $775,000 for “He Xie.” “Forge,” at 745 Fifth Ave. through Dec. 21, continues at the gallery’s Chelsea location. Information: +1-212-752-2929; http://www.maryboonegallery.com.

Red Grooms

Half a block west on 57th Street, Richard Prince is surrounded by two attractive nurses and Rene Magritte sports a woman’s legs.

“Red Grooms/Torn From the Pages,” at Marlborough Gallery, features Grooms’s mixed-media creations that place artists in their own works.

Henri Matisse completes one of his paintings with palette in hand. Louise Bourgeois looks at her sculpture “Lair” from a “Lair”-shaped hole on a white canvas. Andy Warhol snaps photographs while being observed by his own Elvis, Marilyn and Mao.

In the adjacent room are some of Fernando Botero’s oversized creations. They’re smaller than his well-known monumental sculptures, with heights between 12 inches and 50 inches, but still imposing.

There are couples dancing, human figures lying, standing or attempting graceful ballet poses, and many animals. The one I would take home is a cute, chubby bird. Almost all of the works are in bronze.

The gallery won’t disclose prices. The shows are at 40 W. 57th St. through Dec. 1; +1-212-541-4900; http://www.marlboroughgallery.com.

Morell’s Play

Cuban-born Abelardo Morell plays with the basics of photography to give his images special effects.

For the works on view in the show “Rock Paper Scissors,” at Bonni Benrubi Gallery, the Boston-based artist uses a lightproof tent with a periscope as a camera obscura, capturing a view from outside the tent and blending it with the ground inside.

So his Golden Gate Bridge magically rests on what looks like a gray sky with green clouds but is actually arid ground with grassy patches.

“Depending on the quality of the surface terrain, these views can take on a variety of painterly effects,” Morell writes in the press release.

In the 2012 “Paper Self,” the artist shapes a pile of paper to form his face in profile. In “Cutout, Piranesi: Metropolis,” building images cut from a Piranesi book are arranged into a fabulous Babel-like structure.

Prices range from $5,000 to $24,000. The show is at 41 E. 57th St. through Dec. 22; +1-212-888-6007; http://www.bonnibenrubi.com.